vertical jump training

Jump Training and Plyometrics:

A Brief How To Guide

Written by Jack Woodrup for VerticalJumping.com

To maximize your vertical jump, the principle of training specificity suggests that you should be getting out and doing some jumping, i.e. plyometrics. Unfortunately, to get maximum results isn't as simple as just going to the nearest park and jumping up and down. The act of jumping is very taxing on your joints, muscles and central nervous system and as such, you need to carefully plan and monitor this type of training accordingly.

Unfortunately many trainers and coaches haven't fully understood the impact plyometrics can have on an athlete and as a result this type of training has gathered a bad reputation. To help you avoid the negative results of incorrectly applying plyometrics to your training, and to get the positive results out of your time and effort, we have prepared a number of detailed articles that go over the key points that you need to know.

how to jump higher and increase your vertical jump



What Are Plyometrics?

There are a number of definitions for plyometrics floating around but my favorite is provided by Mel Siff in Supertraining:

"it consists of stimulating the muscles by means of a sudden stretch preceeding any voluntary effort"
Siff also likes to refer to Plyometrics as the 'Shock Method'. One of the key characteristics of plyometric exercises is that the time of the coupling phase of the jump must be very quick (<0.15 seconds)

Plyometrics is a reflexive form of training. It involves powerful muscular contractions in response to a rapid stretching of the muscles. The power of these contractions is generated by a combination of the strength of the muscles, and the efficiency of the central nervous system (CNS).

What Do Plyometrics Do?

Plyometrics provides the training stimulus for a number of vertical jump related benefits including:
  • The training of the CNS to send the required signals to the muscles to ensure they contract more explosively
  • The development of the muscles directly involved with vertical jumping
  • Development of the type II fast twitch muscle fibers associated with vertical jumping
  • The improved ability to transfer eccentric, or downward force, back into an upward or concentric movement

Any exercise that involves some sort of prior loading can technically be called a plyometric activity. Things like sprinting where each stride is taken one step after another have a plyometric element to it. Movements such as jumping up and down on the spot, or skipping, also have plyometric elements to them.

The depth jump which involves stepping off a raised box or platform and then as quickly as possible, jumping back up, highlights one of the most important elements to optimizing your plyometrics training.

Whenever you do a plyometric type jump, it is most important that you explode off the ground as quickly as you can. If you can reduce the time it takes you to land, stabilize, and then reverse back into the jump, i.e - get off the ground quicker, you will start to jump higher.

Another thing you can do to improvethe effectiveness of plyometric jumping is to minimize knee bend when you land. By concentrating on doing this you are training your body to more efficiently absorb and transfer force and helping develop an athletic quality known as stiffness. The better you are at doing this the more reactive and explosive you become, and ultimately, the higher you will jump.

There are many different plyometric type exercises that you can perform to help improve your vertical jump. For some good ideas as well as tips on how to perform them correctly check out the jumping exercise section of our video library.

The Bad Reputation of Plyometrics

Plyometrics has on occasion been perceived negatively by many sports coaches. The reasons for this are a combination of a lack of understanding by coaches about the impacts it has on an athlete, and the prescription of too much training volume.

When doing plyometrics, and in particular high impact plyometrics such as depth jumps it is important to not do anything stupid like 100's of reps, or adding heavy resistance through a vest, weight belt, or medicine ball. Doing so seriously increases the chances of injury.

As an extreme example, if you jump of a 15 story building, your legs will crumple underneath you and you will probably die. If you jump of a 2 foot box, you should be able to spring back up without too much trouble.

Alternatively, if you perform a set of jump squats wearing an X-Vest with 15 pounds you should be okay. If you do the same set of jump squats but with a 330 pound barbell over your shoulders you could be in a bit of trouble. Obviously these are extreme illustrations but you see the point.

Another danger to look out for is that plyometrics are taxing on the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls how your body performs. If it is overly taxed it starts preventing your muscles from contracting as forcefully as is required to jump high. You end up doing a lot of low power jumps and training for endurance, not maximum height. The CNS actually takes much longer to recover than your muscles and ligaments. So although you might think you are fully recovered because your muscles feel okay, it is highly possible that if you have done a big plyometric session your CNS may need more time to return to 100% functionality.

As advised regularly on this site, it is a good idea to monitor your training and see if you are still making progress. If you are not, you may need to actually cut back your work load. With plyometrics, because of the very high impact nature and the taxing of the CNS, not only is much better to err on the side of doing less, it is also a wise idea to occasionally take a complete break from plyometric work every now and then. Always remember with vertical jump training, it is quality, not quantity.

Further Theories About Plyometrics

There is a commonly espoused notion that athletes not engage in plyometrics unless they can squat at least 1.5 times their own body weight. This is a good rule of thumb assessment of an athlete's strength. There is a strong correlation between an athletes base strength levels and the amount of success they have with plyometric training. More strength generally results in more successful results from plyometrics (i.e. weaker athletes don't see the same level of gains as stronger ones).

That said, if you don't have access to a gym you will never know if you can squat that much, nor will you be able to train with weights until you can. But, you will still be able to perform plyometric activities and make improvements to your jumping ability. Just remember to start off with low volume, high quality work, and build from there.

One final thought you will also see mentioned on this site a lot is that plyometrics is only one part of the jump training puzzle. Used by itself it will produce improvements in your vertical jump. However, when used in conjunction with an appropriate weight training regime, it can produce even better gains.

Conclusion

Plyometrics has been proven time and time again to work at improving an athlete's vertical leap. Correct application of plyometric training principles will make you more efficient at energy transfer, more explosive in your muscle contractions via high rate coding, it will develop fast twitch muscle fibers, and when that is all said and done, you will have a much higher vertical jump.

If you are unsure how much plyometric exerise you need to do, or how to incorporate them sensibly into your training without injuring yourself, or over doing it, WE CAN HELP. Verticaljumping.com offers a VERY afforable vertical jump training coaching service. For more information visit Vertical Jump Training coaching.

For a more detailed discussion on the specifics of applying plyometrics to your jump training please read part 2 at the link below:

Plyometrics Part 2: Application of Plyometrics Principles To Jump Training


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