You may have seen images of Cristiano Ronaldo powering a header into the net, all the while his knees being level with the opposing defenders head. This ability to leap to a height of 8 and a half foot is pretty unique in the modern game, but the ability is responsible for many of the great man’s goals. Incredibly, his jump is higher than the average NBA player, a sport that is definitely more associated with jumping high than football is. But he’s not the only footballer who can jump high.
As footballers have become more athletic, it is common to see them leaping over players for headers, and it has become a vital skill for both defenders and attackers. However, footballers have so many other skills that they need to perfect; ball control, skills, tactics, pace and balance. Not many players focus so much on jumping high, however Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely an exception, and has an entire training regime dedicated to jumping high.
How can Players like Cristiano Ronaldo Jump so High?
Firstly, DNA plays a big part. Of course, training is required, but the first step is having certain genetics which allow superior athletic ability. The DNA aspect comes from having ‘fast-twitch muscles’. Most people who can jump so high are born with a high percentage of fast-twitch muscles, which gives them explosive speed and power. Most footballers are gifted in this respect, however being able to jump high also requires consistent training.
The training regime starts from a young age. Youth players start plyometric training in their early teens, which is jumping while carrying a weight bar. They also do lunges and squats to develop their leg muscles. Other gym exercises like box jumps are used and combined with hurdle exercises. Key muscles need to be strong to allow footballers to jump so high and stay in the air. Footballers also need to train and maintain important muscles regularly throughout their career too. This includes the calf muscles, hamstrings, quads and glutes. Footballers train these regularly in the gym, usually using heavy heights for short sets to strengthen the muscles. The type of exercises that footballers would do for this are single leg squats, step ups with dumbbells, and weighted sled drags, which is where players sprint while attached to a heavy weight behind them.
As well as this, core muscles must be developed. Strong stomach muscles allow footballers to move their back, shoulder and neck muscles to jump and head a ball higher. One of Ronaldo’s favourite exercises is the pull-up burpee, which is burpees that incorporate a pull up as part of the exercise. Ronaldo also has the extraordinary ability to hang in the air. If you have seen some of his goals, especially in slow motion, it looks as if Ronaldo can not only jump over the defender but stay airborne for so long to power his header into the net. He does this by, at the peak of the jump, tucking in his legs giving him a boost which slows down his descent. That is why it looks like he is hanging in the air.
Diet & Lifestyle
However, it is not just genetics and a training regime that is required to be a truly elite athlete. Ronaldo is the perfect example of a footballer who dedicates his whole lifestyle to football, and it has allowed him to become an incredible player who uses his athleticism to jump higher than anyone else in the game. Ronaldo revealed the sacrifices he makes to perfect his ability. Firstly, his diet. Ronaldo doesn’t drink alcohol at all, and he sticks to a high protein diet consisting of wholegrain carbs, fruit and vegetables. He revealed that it is actually his mother who makes making many of his healthy dishes. Ronaldo avoids sugary foods and drinks, but perhaps most unusually, he doesn’t eat any large meals. Ronaldo has 6 smaller dishes a day so he can refuel and feel reenergised for each training session that he has throughout the day.
After games, instead of relaxing like many footballers would, he goes straight to the swimming pool to work on his leg and arm muscles, which works out the muscles as well as providing gentle recovery for the muscles which have been under high strain during a match. These include muscles around joints and in the legs. Ronaldo, among many other players in the modern game, has his own £50,000 Cryotherapy chamber at home. This allows his body to be exposed to temperatures between minus 160-200°C, which reduces pain and inflammation. The feeling of aching after hard sessions and matches must be a very unfamiliar feeling in the modern game. Importantly, Ronaldo also ensure he gets plenty of sleep, at least 8 hours per night.
Where is Jumping Important in Football?
Footballers jump high no matter their position and role on the pitch. Below is a breakdown of how players can benefit from jumping high
It’s essential for goalkeepers to be able to jump high when claiming balls in the air from corners, free-kicks and crosses. It’s valuable for a team to have a goalkeeper who can take the pressure off the defence by jumping higher than the attackers and catching the ball from aerial balls into the box. Even though keepers are generally the tallest players on the pitch, its essential they can outjump even the tallest strikers.
Full backs are often not the tallest players on the pitch. However, as defenders, they are in and around the box when aerial balls come into the box. You often see strikers lurk at the back post to exploit the full back in the air as they are traditionally shorter than centre backs. This is why it’s essential full backs can jump high to be able to defend against strikers and win headers
Centre back is possibly the most important position for jumping ability. Centre backs head the ball significantly more than any other players on the pitch, and have to deal with the most aerial duals. It is expected that centre backs win headers defensively, but also provide a threat in the opposition box for corners. The ability to jump high gives centre backs an advantage over strikers and also means they can score a few goals a season from set piece situations
Central Midfielders & Wingers
In terms of importance of jumping high, these positions are probably the least. Central midfielders would have to deal with a few aerial duals from goal kicks, but overall, they won’t need to win headers often. Wingers are usually smaller than most players, and focus more on pace and supplying balls into the box. However, there are examples of wingers with brilliant jumping ability who score plenty of headed goals. Sadio Mane is an example of a winger with a great leap and almost 10% of his premier league goals have been headers. As mentioned, Cristiano Ronaldo has an unbelievable ability to jump high and often plays on the wing. This can be a valuable asset for a team to have wingers with pace, and ability to score great goals from the floor as well as being a huge threat in the air
Jumping high is a valuable asset for a striker. Of course, out-jumping defenders and scoring headers is a huge advantage, but also, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have shown, they can use this skill for bicycle kicks and scissor kicks. Being able to jump high and have agility has allowed Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo to score some fantastic goals over the years. Also, an honourable mention must go to Robin van Persie, who’s volley against Charlton in 2006 wouldn’t have been possible without his ability to leap high off the ground.
Overall, footballers benefit from jumping high, but also there are added benefits of improved athleticism and power in general. Football is becoming a sport that is focused around pace, power and pure athleticism, highlighted by today’s greatest players, Ronaldo, De Bruyne, Mane, van Djik, Pogba, Adama Traore and Salah. Of course, there are still fantastic players that excel in technical ability and tactical awareness without the athletic ability of those players mentioned, but there are far less of these players at the top level than in previous decades.