The lightened method of weight training is one of the cleverest ways an athlete looking to improve their vertical jump can train. In this article I will discuss what exactly it is and why it is so useful for vertical jump improvement.
The lightened method is simply using bands to reduce the load at the bottom of a lift. The idea is that as you move higher through the lift, the assistance provided by the bands reduces and you have to use your own strength to complete the rep. The trick to this is that as you progress higher into the lift, your leverages improve, and you can actually move more weight. This is why you can half squat much more than you can full squat.
Using the lightened method differs to the more common use of bands due to the way they are attached not at the bottom, but the top of the power rack. With regular band lifts the more you stand up, the greater the level of resistance provided by the bands themselves. With the lightened method where you reverse the bands, the resistance comes more from the weight on the bar due to the assistance of the bands decreasing.
In the video shown I am demonstrating a lightened concentric squat. This involves resting the bar on the safety pins between reps and starting the lift from the bottom. This combination of starting the concentric portion from a dead stop and the assistance from the bands makes this a terrific explosive vertical jump exercise. It is however not the only way to use the lightened method. You can also incorporate it into regular squats, split squats, and deadlifts with similar benefits.
The fastest way to increase your vertical jump is to focus your training on your weaknesses. Most athletes don't know how to determine their individual weaknesses though and end up doing things that are just wasting their time.
So what can you do about it? Well we offer a vertical jump coaching service where we prepare 100% customized jump training programs for athletes which are designed with the individual's specific needs addressed. In doing so the athlete gets better results in less time. In short you end up training smarter, not harder, and your vertical jump improves more quickly.
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There are a number of advantages to using the lightened method (and other forms of accommodating resistance for that matter). The first is that it helps you bridge the gap between specific and general strength training. specific strength training involves the use of a similar range of motion and a similar velocity to the actual event being trained for, whilst general strength training is more about developing the strength of the muscles used regardless of ROM and speed.
This variable loading of the lightened method means that you are less restricted in your strength training to using a weight that can be lifted only at the weakest part of the lift (i.e. the bottom). It is this feature that makes is so beneficial to jumping athletes.
A vertical jump takes place over a range of motion (ROM) that is much closer to that of a partial, or half squat. You can lift much more weight in this range of motion than you can a full squat. However, you don't want to just train over that ROM as it can lead to muscle imbalances, which can ultimately lead to reduced performance and increased likelihood of injury.
So what can you do? You can use the lightened method. Doing so means you can load more weight onto the bar than you would normally be able to do for a full squat. At the bottom the bands will help you lift the extra weight, and at the top, the bands influence will decrease meaning your muscles will be forced to do the extra work.
The other big benefit to using the lightened method is that you are forced to explode out of the bottom quickly in order to generate sufficient momentum for when the bands assistance stops. This is terrific for developing RFD (explosive strength).
Even though you can use a greater weight in the ROM that is used in jumping, it is still not entirely a jumping specific strength exercise because you neither leave the ground, nor is it performed at the same velocity. So whilst it is a better way to develop jumping specific strength than regular weight training, you will still need to get out there and do plenty of actual jumping to maximize its benefits.
Another limitation is that the lightened method has a reduced eccentric emphasis. When the bands are attached to the bottom of the power rack their tension constantly applies great downward force thus making you work harder to control your descent. With the lightened method the bands are attached to the top of the rack and therefore they actually help you control your descent. Too much reduction in eccentric work can reduce your reactive strength.
When using the lightened method it is great to throw on more weight than what you would normally work with, but it is important to remember that the heavier loads are actually very taxing on your CNS. If you do do some lightened work you should be careful to not go overboard with the extra weight and maybe make a few other adjustments such as reducing your volume.
Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell, who is primarily responsible for making this technique popular, suggests using a load no greater than 10% more than your usual working weight. Depending on the strength of the band this may seem light. However for the development of jumping power it is better to go a bit lighter and move with increased speed than it is to just go heavy.
The lightened method is an effective way to increase your strength levels for vertical jump performance. If you have access to a power rack and some bands we would highly recommend giving this technique a go. Not only is it fun, but it works.
Band Training - Find out why you should be using bands to get the most out of your vertical jump training.
Conjugate Training - Westside Style Training for Jumping Athletes.
Lightened Method - An article by Louie Simmons explaining how to incorporate the lightened method into powerlifting training.