Vertical Jump Training For The Older Athlete: Is It Too Late?

Jumping higher and getting more athletic doesn’t have to stop after high school or college! People tend to think of their athletic prime as “back in high school” or maybe mid/late 20’s for those who stayed active.

What if I told you that you could keep getting more athletic well past the “prime” years. How do I know? Well for starters I’ve done it myself. In my late 30’s now I am still far more athletic than I was in my early 20’s or especially high school.

When you hear “pro dunker” or hall of fame basketball player, you probably don’t picture a guy that was one of only 2 guys on his senior year varsity high school team that couldn’t dunk. When you think of a “pro dunker” you definitely don’t think of a guy who didn’t make a windmill dunk until he was 25!!

These are all true, yet I managed to eventually work any way to a 48” vertical jump and a spot on all of the biggest slam dunk stages against all of the worlds best competition. This isn’t just about what I did though, for some it’s been about hitting their first dunk in their 40’s or dunking for the first time in decades now that they are in their 50’s. Ive seen both of these goals come true with our training.

Time Constraints

It’s not as simple for the more seasoned and matured among us, for sure. With younger athletes sometimes it’s as simple as getting in more jumps and getting stronger. As we get to the 30’s and beyond there are lots of other factors to consider. For starters the big one is that we often don’t heal up from activity like we used to, believe me I can feel that one now. We also often have way more demands on our time and attention than just getting better at our sport. A lot of us will have kids, spouses, jobs, maybe even a business to run. The amount of time and mental bandwidth we can give to a passion like jumping higher has to take a backseat understandably. Being a family man and dad to 2, with multiple jobs and businesses to juggle I feel this pain! We may not have as much time, but by making better use of it we can still get great results.

Starting Over Again

One other huge consideration is our “history” of jumping and dynamic activity as we age. I recognize that I am rare as an older athlete in that I never really stopped competing and training. My “history”, while presenting challenges that come with high usage, is also very much present and recent. I can get pretty aggressive with training right away, since I don’t have to build back up from all of the time away.

For those who may have taken long periods away from sports as they focused on being great parents or on their careers, the challenge presents differently. We will not only be training to build the body up to jump better, but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t go to far too fast. The easiest way to fall flat of your goals other than not starting, is to do too much too soon. By coming out of the gates too soon with high intensity plyo’s and 5 days per week lifting, we will be breaking the body down too quickly before it’s properly prepared. This combination will lead to pains and aches or even injury. Instead with a more mature population, we need to “slow cook”. By that I mean we don’t need to rush it, we spend more time making sure we address general preparedness and existing movement inefficiency before getting into jumps. Then, even when ready to jump, we will start with lower volumes and build up in a more controlled manner. We have to pay more attention to spacing out intensive workouts. We are using the workouts to stimulate and demand the body to adapt and change, while not annihilating the body. With time constraints, we will have to rely on workout density and better movement selections.

The Right Plan and Coach

A well thought out plan, which considers variety of movement patterns and planes of motion as well as scaleable exercise selections is crucial. It’s very likely that over the years we would have developed some weakness in common moments that we don’t use in non sports environments, a plan should be mindful of these concerns.

But even the best laid plan is only effective if you do it. Working with a coach who understands your life demands, and who has experience helping mature athletes excel with help put you on a path for success. We believe that it’s always a great time to train like an athlete. I plan on being able to play competitively with my kids and hopefully still dunk when playing ball for many many more years. With that said, both Tyler and myself love to work with older athletes to help them achieve and surpass their new athletic goals. It’s never too late to improve, so let’s get to work.

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