Near the end of Michael Jordan’s career with the Bulls, he agreed to allow a camera crew to follow him around for a documentary on his last season in Chicago.
Early one morning—it was still dark outside and Michael’s kids were still asleep—the crew came to his house for a rare glimpse into his private gym where I trained him.
The complete video has never been released, but I can tell you how it began:
The cameraman noticed a poster on the wall, a classic shot of MJ soaring through the air, with the caption “HOW DOES MICHAEL FLY?” He zoomed in on the poster, then turned the camera to Michael and asked him:
“How do you fly?”
Michael just laughed, shook his head, pointed across the gym at me, and said in that deep, commanding voice, “Ask him.”
No doubt Michael’s genetics gave him a physical advantage; he has those huge hands and long limbs and predominantly fast-twitch muscles that allow him to do extraordinary things. But contrary to popular legend, he is not a freak of nature. I know people mean it as a compliment when they talk about Michael as if he’s superhuman.
But I see it as an insult, because it suggests he didn’t have to work for his success, and believe me, no one ever worked harder.
In fact, there are plenty of athletes who share his physical abilities, and in some cases even exceed them. But Michael had the mental toughness to exceed anyone else’s physical abilities, along with the drive and commitment to work relentlessly on his skills, and that toughness is ultimately what separates merely great athletes from iconic superstars. That’s why Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, in their thirties, can outplay guys who are much younger; like Michael, they have the mentality and focus and work ethic to maximize their skills, push beyond injuries, and never stop driving to improve.
So there are undoubtedly a lot of factors that allowed Michael to fly. But when he pointed at me in his gym that morning, this is what he meant: We trained in a way that maximized his abilities and gifts and genetics, so he could reach his ultimate potential in every way, and still keep improving. We tweaked the standard training principles, because there was nothing standard about Michael’s game. While everyone else was still obsessed with vertical jumps, we focused instead on overall explosiveness. Not just one jump straight into the air, but multiple jumps in all directions, forward, backward, laterally, and maintaining that explosiveness throughout the entire game, from one end of the court to the other.
Everyone loves the showstopper dunk, but what happens right after that dunk? The game doesn’t stop; neither did he. We trained for longevity and overall athleticism that would allow him to stay healthy and powerful from the opening game of the season until he held the championship trophy in June, season after season.
And that training—the “secret” to Michael’s explosiveness and his ability to take flight—became the basis for Jump Attack.
The first version of this book was created in 1990, when Michael
was doing a lot of camps and clinics and everyone kept asking him, “How do you jump so high? How do you dunk like that? What can I do to increase my vertical jump?” Everyone wanted to “be like Mike,” so he asked me to put together something he could give to everyone who attended, a program they could do on their own that reflected the hard work he put into his own body, so everyone could see he didn’t just show up and look good—he worked relentlessly to be that good.
I developed the original Jump Attack program based on the workout I created for him, which was completely different from the way anyone else was training. At that time, no one else was doing resistance training for the legs during the season; the common belief was that playing basketball and running up and down the court were enough. In fact, it was just the opposite; playing a sport actually breaks down the muscle. So we went the other way and worked on building up the muscles that have a tendency to break down over the course of a long season.
We also began sequencing his exercises to get the most out of every muscle, every time. We focused on preexhausting the targeted muscle, loosening the joints, combining exercises to teach the muscles how to fire correctly, stretching the muscles and joints immediately after so they’d be ready for the next set.
While most programs were targeting the major muscle groups, we were also emphasizing the smaller muscles, the neutralizers and stabilizers, so everything was working together.
And we definitely got people talking when they heard MJ was lifting on game days, which was basically unheard of at that time but made perfect sense to us. Look at the schedule: If you take off every game day, that’s a whole lot of days you’re not working those muscles properly. For us, not acceptable. So we stayed with our workout schedule regardless of the game schedule. It became part of his game
preparation; just like you eat a certain way on game day, you train a certain way on game day.
Bottom line: You can’t get extraordinary results from an ordinary workout.
And if you’re thinking, “Sure, it worked for MJ, how hard can it be to make MJ look good?” think again. It was quite a challenge to take someone like Michael Jordan, who already had superior ability, and make him even more superior. My challenge: If he’s this explosive, if he can jump this high, how can I make him even more explosive? How can we get him to jump even higher?
When you’re dealing with the greats—and I’ve been fortunate to train many—the room for improvement is so small that we’re constantly looking for the slightest edge, the tiniest detail or adjustment that will give them the advantage. So Michael’s workout program was designed with that in mind: Build on his greatness and make him unstoppable.
Yet it was clear to me that even though the program was created for the best of the best, it would work for anyone, not just the greats. So I expanded the workout into a book, called it Jump Attack, and self-published it. Over the next few years, I sold hundreds of thousands of books through mail order, filling out address labels and carrying packages to the post office. When Michael retired, I figured that was that. We sold out, and I didn’t print more.
Then one day I got an email from a young basketball player saying he found the book on eBay for $1,000. That is not a typo. One thousand dollars. I started looking around, and found there were more like it, selling for hundreds of dollars all over the Internet. Before long I started getting emails and tweets from athletes and coaches and parents asking how they could get the book.
I realized that even though science and research and training
had evolved since we released the original Jump Attack more than twenty years ago, I was still using the same core concepts with my clients, and they were still getting the same explosive results and increased athleticism. The only difference was now we had ways of getting those results faster and more effectively. All these years later, the same training principles still form the foundation of what I do. From Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to Dwyane Wade and so many others, this works.
I also realized it was time for an entirely new book. Now we know so much more about elite training, how to train all the muscle groups so everything works together, how the body responds to rest and recovery, how nutrition affects performance, when to stretch and how to stretch. We know how to condition the central nervous system to create faster reflex action and faster explosive contractions, so you don’t have to think about what you’re supposed to do, your body just knows. By tweaking the exercises in small ways—something as simple as elevating your heels or changing the leg position of a lunge, for example—we can attack the small muscles that most programs completely ignore. I enhanced the program to work all the different muscular contractions—isometric, concentric, eccentric—as we work through every phase of developing explosiveness. I also added upper body and core work designed to make the entire body more explosive, not just the legs. I changed the exercises and schedule to keep it fresh and challenging. The result is an entirely new workout: the all-new Jump Attack.
The core concept of the book remains the same—we’re still using the exclusive sequences I use with every one of my pro athletes—but the entire program has been updated to give you state-of-the-art training for unprecedented results. If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of athletes who worked out with the original
Jump Attack, you will discover that this program contains entirely new exercises and challenges. If you’ve never tried this program at all, believe me, you are about to experience something completely unique, train like you’ve never trained before, and see improvements you probably thought were impossible.
Jump Attack is a total-body workout—lower body, upper body, and the entire core—that delivers measureable improvement. From the world’s greatest athletes to the kids just starting out, everyone has room to improve. In fact, the greats have to keep improving, because they know someone is always coming up behind them, trying to knock them off the top of the mountain. So it’s never an option to stay in the same place, feeling good about what they’ve done, content to be where they are. It should be no different for you; no matter what level you’re at, you can always go higher, and this program will take you there. It’s not easy. But if you want proof that this program works, just ask any of my clients; everyone who works with me trains with some version of this workout.
I’m going to ask of you the same thing I ask of all my clients: Do the program exactly as I’m giving it to you and give your maximum effort.
That’s it. If you can do those two things, here’s what you’ll get in return:
• Explosive athleticism for improved performance
• Increased vertical jump, muscle mass, power, speed, and agility
• A tighter, leaner physique
• Mental toughness and endurance
• Effective rest and recovery
• Nutritional guidelines for improved performance
• Injury prevention
• Improvement in your overall ability
Jump Attack works because it takes challenging moves, combines them in a specific order to maximize results, and tests your ability to push yourself to new levels. This is not a weight training program; the goal is not to see how much you can lift. The goal is to train your muscles for maximum explosive force. If you want a bodybuilding program for beach muscles, look elsewhere. You’ll definitely develop muscle tone, but we’re going for overall athleticism, not just great biceps. And it’s not a weight loss program: You might drop weight if you have weight to lose, but that’s a by-product of the workout, not the goal. I don’t want skinny athletes, I want strong, explosive athletes. You might actually put on weight as you put on muscle. I expect you to eat like an athlete so you can build the muscles you’re going to need to perform at your maximum ability in any sport or activity.
This is a program designed for athletes who are committed to seeing how high they can go, and are willing to make the commitment to find out. Are you ready to get serious about your body, and discover what you’re capable of achieving? Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? If you’re serious, if you’re ready to change your body and your game, if you’re committed to showing up and doing the work, you’re on a journey that will set you apart from the competition and take you places you never imagined.
It works. This is how my pros do it. If you want to become more explosive, stronger, and faster, if you want to jump higher and improve your overall athletic performance in any sport, this is exactly how we do it today: the difference between jumping and taking flight.
This is how the best get better—and you will too.