My daughter is in the 8th grade and would like to increase her vertical jump. What exercise(s) and/or training do you recommend to increase a players vertical jump.
First of all I need to apologize for responding to Stuart's question so late, as this was sent to me such a long time ago - Sorry for being so tardy on this reply!
Ok - How to increase the jumping ability of your daughter:
1) Have good jumping ability yourself.
2) Make sure your daughter's mother has good hops.
3) Align the Moon and Mars directly above you on any jumping effort.
After you have secured those three items, then the real work begins.
In my attempt at humor, there is some truth. Much of possessing a good jump and developing a better vertical is genetics. Some kids have hops and others don't. Also, things need to be in alignment to jump high, and I am not talking about the celestial bodies, but rather the player's body.
It can be an interesting observation to look at two players of the same age, same height/weight/build equation, but one just flies and the other is average. Why? Just the way each of us is physically gifted. I had read some study about jumping ability being influenced by the length of your femur or shin bone; this just reflects that jumping ability is genetic.
Another big influence upon jumping ability is the body that is doing the jumping. While discussing body fat percentage is a danger zone subject with female athletes (and not one I recommend), the reality is the better your physical condition the higher you will jump and the more often you can jump high; the leg muscles have to lift less weight and lifting less while doing maximum repetitions equals jumping higher more often.
Keeping the body fresh and healthy through proper rest and recovery is also very important. You want to stay away from Dead Legs, the sensation which feels like you have no pop or spring in your jump. If your legs feel tired, mentally you are not prepared to jump as high. This is one thing which I believe all club players start to fight, Dead Legs, come April because of playing so much during the early months of the club season - Rather ironic if you think about it; come the Qualifiers, the most important events of the club season, and players are competing on tired legs.
Training for a better vertical jump:
1) First of all, I don't suggest starting too young with jump training. The body is still developing and maturing physically at its own DNA rate. I don't have any kinesiology data to support my instinct, but I just get nervous about doing anything specifically targeted towards jumping before high school and even then, not too much in early high school.
2) The simplest and least impactive training is to do squats and calf raises. There are many different ways to increase leg strength through squat/raises movements; traditional with a weight bar across the back shoulders, body weight, dumbbell in the hands, exercise ball held in the hands - Basically anything to increase the strength of the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles will add some increase in the jump.
3) Explosive movements - Simply just jumping a lot. I am very nervous when it comes to explosive jump training because it adds significant stress to the joints and if not done in the correct environment it can easily lead to repetitive stress injuries. Explosive movements can be a series of quick jumps, ladder footwork sequences, sprinting stairs, plyometric or box jumps, etc. I STRONGLY suggest that any explosive movement training be done on a padded surface to minimize the impact upon the joints.
4) Compete against players who jump higher or are more physical than you. Players tend to mimic those around them and also to 'play up' against better competition, so if you put yourself into a situation where you have to raise your physical abilities to compete, then you will increase your jump as a by-product.
5) Use your arms on your approach as a hitter - Attackers who incorporate a big arm drive and lifting motion during their approach movement jump higher. Much like a high jumper using their arms to drive up into the air, a hitter wants to do the same thing to drive themselves up in the air!
To jump higher, you need to build the leg muscles to increase overall strength. Each player will garner a certain increase in vertical jump based upon their genetic disposition, but they will jump higher. My #1 suggestion is to increase leg strength by static lifts (squats). Then, as a player matures, to develop some explosive movement routines which do not negatively impact the body.
Good luck and once again, I apologize for the delay in answering your question.