Vert Code Elite – Full Review

In 2020 I completed 8 phases of Vert Code Elite and had access to the final four phases. In this article I’ll detail my impression of each phase and the progress I made on my vertical jump.

Background

Vert Code Elite is a program designed by Paul J Fabritz, a strength and conditioning coach who works with NBA players. You only need to listen to Paul on his PJF podcast to appreciate how deep his knowledge goes.

Vert Code Elite creator Paul Fabritz, pictured training James Harden

The Program

The program itself consists of 12, four week phases with up to 6 training sessions per week. Even if you pay for the full program, you will only be granted access to one phase at a time. This is because Paul feels it’s vitally important you don’t skip steps and miss out on the foundational training. Each exercise comes with sets, reps, rest and its own dedicated video tutorial. He also has a walkthrough guide at the start of each session to let you know which exercises you can skip if you’re short on time.

Phase 1 – Building a Base

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 1 Vert: 68cm / 26.8 inches

As the name suggests, phase 1 is about foundational exercises on which to build. Days 1 and 5 are strength training, days 2 and 4 are mobility and core and day 3 is a technical jumping day. Typical strength exercises include Bulgarian split squats (see below) and oscillating squats.

There is a lot of content to cover before each session, and I’d spend 30 minutes reviewing videos and making notes. I’d then inevitably forget an exercise and have to rewatch it in the gym during the workout. The other thing that struck me early on was how much equipment was required. He offered alternatives, but I could have benefitted from access to a local swimming pool for one session.

What I really liked about phase 1 was the attention to detail Paul offers. I had never come across a program with dedicated foot conditioning drills but these were integral to days 2 and 4. Only one other program (Jump Science 2.0) has included a technical jumping day but again it’s a core requirement here. There were also activation exercises to help develop the mind-muscle connection and that’s something I previously hadn’t appreciated.

In the PJF Podcast Paul reflected on how surprised he was that people (including me) reported vertical gains in phase 1. This is likely down to people improving on their weak links and allowing them to tap further into their potential. After phase 1 of Vert Code Elite I had gained a total of 3cm (1.2 inches).

Phase 2 – Load/Redirect

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 2 Vert: 68cm / 26.8 inches

In phase 2 the volume and intensity of strength training ramps up. This means that it’s fully expected for you to not jump any higher in this phase due to the cumulative fatigue. The technical jumping day (day 3) includes plyometrics and sprinting, while the other four days keep the same focus as phase 1.

The exercises are mixed up on the core and mobility days (2 and 4) with some additional focus on balance. The strength days (1 and 5) are quite intense and the session is close to 2 hours long. There’s an introduction to “overcoming isometrics”, as well as supersets that are a form of complex training. You can see an example below.

My squat rack isn’t bolted to the floor so I wasn’t able to pull on a static bar. Instead I loaded up with a heavy weight and held it for the required time. Later on I improved this exercise by switching to a single leg variation meaning I needed less total weight. This was a very tiring phase but I could tell I was stronger and hopefully well prepared for future phases.

Phase 3 – Explode

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 3 Vert: 74cm / 29.1 inches

The work put in during phase 2 is realised in phase 3, the Explode phase. The focus of phase 1 was isometrics (static holds), phase 2 eccentrics (slow lowering) and in phase 3 you do concentrics (fast up). This is a similar structure to other advanced jump programs and one that’s very effective.

The strength days (1 and 5) have more emphasis on speed, a classic example being the velocity squat. The goal is to get out of the bottom position and up in around 0.5 seconds or less. I’ve since read up on velocity based training and believe it’s key to speed development. Below I’m using 70kg and managing about 0.6 seconds from first true movement.

Velocity Based Training

As a brief tangent, I learned a lot from reading Super Training by Mel Siff and Yuri Verkhoshansky. You might think it’s better for jump height to be able to squat 200kg than to do 80kg fast. The key is the time window you actually have in which to apply force in the real life situation. If you’re jumping explosively, you don’t have 2 to 3 seconds to exert force on the ground – in under a second your feet have already left the floor. So it’s about starting strength and accelerating strength, the force you can produce in those first moments, that drives jump height.

Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this phase. Anything that delivers a 6cm (2.4 inch) improvement to my vertical jump is worth my time. Here’s one of my best jumps in phase 3 with a slow motion replay.

Phase 4 – Spring

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 4 Vert: 74cm / 29.1 inches

Following on from the success of phase 3 it was very frustrating to end up injuring myself in phase 4. There was a continued focus on explosive movements and the introduction of more plyometric exercises. Considering the name of the phase it was surprising to still come across exercises like Romanian Deadlifts here.

The negatives were that the core exercises seemed to go downhill, and there was no longer any emphasis made on ankle conditioning or stretching. He does encourage you to use the program as a template and tailor it as you see fit, so there is always the option of adding things back in. The exercises that preceded the jump practice were quite tiring and so didn’t leave me fresh enough to extend my personal best.

It was during some progressive bounds that I managed to pull my adductor. In fairness I was trying really hard and it was my last session of the phase so I was at peak muscle fatigue. Looking back in my training log it was injured on 25th May and I was back within 1cm of my personal best by 7th June.

Phase 5Block Step

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 5 Vert: 74cm / 29.1 inches

When I started the program I vowed to stop when it didn’t feel like the $29 monthly fee was value for money. I reached that point at the end of phase 4 but continued on purely out of curiosity. It should be said that I failed to improve on my personal best in phases 5-8 but still jumped consistently near it.

Days 1 and 5 were more explosive and Day 3 was the technical jumping day. The focus was predominantly on the block step, so I’ve given phase 5 an unofficial name. The concept of shin angle was introduced and as someone without a background in basketball it was entirely new to me.

I’ve shared my favourite exercise below. The momentum from the band means you need a good block step to avoid flying through the rack!

I had niggling injuries in this phase and it didn’t have any jump practice so I only tested my vert in the final week. My best was 71cm (28 inches), I was implementing my new block step so it may be that still needed refined.

Phase 6

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 6 Vert: 74cm / 29.1 inches

I needed two attempts to start phase 6 due to some adductor soreness. One of the first exercises involves Hex Bar deadlifts and it gave me so much DOMS in my adductors I needed extra days off.

This was the first phase I really noticed some exercises being repeated. It was actually refreshing to not be given new exercises to learn every time so I was relieved. There were 60 yard sprints which appeared in phase 2, my fastest hand time back then was 8.26 and in phase 6 I was 0.3 to 0.4 seconds faster. As someone with a sprinting background I could tell there was a legitimate difference in speed, and one I can only attribute to the jump training.

On reflection, I was probably under-recovering from the volume of training asked of me, and should have reduced it. He does offer a “Minimum effective dose” in each phase, outlining the key exercises if you can’t do them all. I’m quite stubborn so I tried to put myself through the whole session, likely to my detriment.

Here are some speed hops, another exercise I enjoyed in Phase 6.

Phases 7-12

  • Starting Vert: 65cm / 25.6 inches
  • After Phase 8 Vert: 74cm / 29.1 inches

After phase 3 I never jumped higher than 74cm, and despite completing phases 7 and 8 I’m lumping them all together in the final six phases. The program switches from a five day to a six day a week, with sessions on days 1 to 3 repeated on days 4 to 6. The core exercises only took 25 minutes but offered a good amount of intensity.

Sprinting continued, which I wasn’t pleased with from a vertical jump perspective due to my training history. At University I ran track, getting to 7.43 in 60m and 11.70 in 100m. Despite having decent speed, I was only able to jump around 56cm (22 inches) when tested. What that tells me is that sprinting alone is not going to produce an impressive vertical jump.

What I was pleased with was to finally see some depth jump variations. The research consistently points to it being one of the best exercises for jumping higher. It’s so convincing I even made a video dedicated entirely to depth jumps.

The other lower body exercises in phase 7 were geared towards pure strength while phase 8 was more about power. This was mainly indicated by the lower rep ranges, moving from 4-6 to 3-5, but also exercise selection. There was an Olympic lift variation and some faster weighted jumps.

There was nothing revolutionary about phases 9-12, and reading through them was enough to convince me to stop training after phase 8. What I did instead was create my own custom program with even more emphasis on technical jumping practice.

Conclusion

It’s easiest to conclude by sharing the overall review I created for the entire Vert Code Elite program.

The main points I drew about the program as a whole were that:

  • It’s marketed as a jumping program, but there’s so much more depth to it. The agility and quickness exercises would greatly benefit young players in their all round athleticism.
  • The attention to detail is second to none. While you do have to sit through lots of tutorial videos, being given foot and ankle conditioning drills and so much exercise variation is really impressive.
  • The first four phases could stand alone as their own 16 week program. Phases 5-12 are just variations on weights and plyometrics.
  • You need a lot of equipment. There is a Vert Code Bodyweight which you can do if you really have nothing, but I often found myself having to adapt exercises where I didn’t have the right equipment.
  • Use the Minimum Effective Dose (MED). The program comes with exercises you could potentially skip if necessary. Even if you have the time, if you’re either struggling with the volume or doing other training as well as Vert Code Elite, consider removing the non-essential exercises.
  • My technique needed a lot of work. The improvements I made across the program (9cm, 3.5 inches) may well have all come from jump technique. Unless you are supremely confident in your technique I would suggest saving your money (for now) and using free resources to really refine your technique. Only once you’ve exhausted the gains to be made there should you consider purchasing a program like this. When you do, don’t be afraid to just buy phases 1 to 4. Even phase 1 alone is likely to deliver the best value for money.
About Fraser_9to5 202 Articles
Site owner. I'm a graduate in Sports Science and have an MSc in Sports Biomechanics. I set up 9to5strength in 2015 as a resource for people interested in strength training, nutrition and fitness. I consider myself a fitness blogger and enjoy creating YouTube videos and trying out workout programs.