vertical jump training

Low Impact Training

Written by Jack Woodrup for VerticalJumping.com

Low impact training is a great way to take some of the stress out of your vertical jump workouts. With a few subtle tweaks you can still have a highly specific and effective session. In this article we will discuss some of those changes you can make, how they work, and how you can incorporate them into your training.

Why Use Low Impact Training

The primary goal of low impact training is to reduce the shock and stress on your body that normal jumping and plyometrics causes. There are many reasons for wanting to do this. One of the most obvious ones is that a reduction in impact forces will reduce recovery times.

If you are an in season athlete and are determined to continue your vertical jump training (not something we necessarily recommend), this reduced impact session will allow you to still obtain some of the benefits of traditional plyometrics without the extensive recovery period. This means you are more free to play at full capacity and less likely to cause yourself an injury.

Another reason might be that you already have an injury. If you have a serious injury then obviously you shouldn't train, however, if you are starting to rehabilitate you can introduce these sessions as a way of easing back into a full workload.

Other reasons for performing low shock workouts might be related to timing of your other commitments eating into your recovery time. If for example you knew you had a social function and were not going to be able to get a full nights sleep you might want to do a low impact session to ensure your recovery system doesn't get too taxed.

As you can see there is a pattern forming here. The reduced recovery time and lower levels of impact can be a very useful tool to have in your training arsenal.

How To Make a Training Session Low Impact

There are many ways to change your workouts to reduce the level of impact on your body. The most obvious one is to not do any jumping at all but to lift weights instead. You can without ever leaving the ground, still train explosively to improve your muscular power and your vertical jump. This is essentially what many professional sports people do during the season. Their goal isn't so much to increase their verticals, but more to maintain the gains they made during the off season.

Other things you can do to lower the landing forces is to try an alternative training environment such as pool plyometrics. This sort of training has been proven to be particularly beneficial to aspiring athletes.

Another modification you can make to your program is to change your plyometrics to be all jumping onto raised platform type work. This is particularly handy as it allows you to get the full benefit of the actual jumping action, however, as you land on a raised platform, your impact forces are reduced by not having to come all the way down again.

Video 1: Box Jump with Weight Vest One of our favorite low impact training exercises!

This method in particular is one of our favorites here at the VerticalJumping.com. We like to jump onto high boxes wearing our X-vest and holding a medicine ball. Whilst the extra weight does reduce the benefits of the low impact training, the ability to perform a lot of highly specific resisted jumping really adds inches to your vertical.

Jumping onto boxes also has another benefit that is often overlooked in regular plyometrics in that you can use the box height to gauge your development. One of the problems of simply doing various jumping drills is that although you might be training with maximum intensity, it is still always better to jump for an actual target. Low impact jumping onto boxes allows you to set yourself measurable goals.

Whilst the mechanics of jumping onto a box are slightly different than a normal jump in that you have to bring your knees up to land, the fact remains that you still need the power to get up there in the first place. By gradually increasing the height of the box you are jumping onto you will improve your regular vertical jump.

Another method of achieving a low impact workout that is similar to raised platform jumping is stair training. This method was popularized by Virgil Aponte who put together the excellent Jump Experts series.

Stair training is basically doing your bounding, hopping, and jumping up stairs. Bounding up stairs in particular is a great way to improve your one legged jump as the elevated position of your front leg really brings into play the muscles in the hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes.

A final way to reduce the impact on your body is to apply the same logic as track and field events such as the long jump and the pole vault, by aiming to land in, or on, an extra soft surface. For example you could do some bounding that lands in a sand pit, or multiple box jumps that land on a mat. For some more ideas about this check out our article on sand training.

Incorporating Low Impact Training Into Your Program

How you incorporate low impact training into your program will depend very much on your unique situation. Life has a funny way of disrupting even the best laid plans. We recommend applying the low impact principles as you require them.

If for example you have been doing a lot of plyometric jump training it is often not a bad idea to just throw in a reduced impact session or two to give your body more time to recover. Often you will be very pleasantly surprised by the gains this reduced workload can bring. Your body after all can only take so much before it needs a break.

As a general rule we find that if you are performing plyometrics any more than 2 times per week, it is not a bad idea to do low impact workouts every fourth week, or even on a more macro basis by including one every fourth workout.

Realistically the only limit on how you use this sort of training is your imagination. You can do low impact workouts at a beach, in a pool, on boxes, on play equipment at parks, you can mix and match between high and low impact exercises, you can mix and match between high and low impact days. However you split it out, low impact training with its reduced recovery times and lower impact levels is a SMART way to train.

Conclusion

Having the ability to reduce the impact on your body from jump training is a great way to reduce your chances of injury and over training. Your body can only take so much before it breaks down. Low impact training gives you access to some of the many advantages of plyometric type workouts without the high level stresses to your joints, central nervous system and trained muscles. So if you are feeling a bit worn down, your knees or shins are a bit sore, try toning it down for a while with some with some low impact work. Your body will thank you for it with continued gains.




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