As many of you know I recently moved from Melbourne, Australia over to Nashville, USA. While I was very excited about coming to the USA the timing of it meant that I would not get to experience a summer for quite a long time.
This is a problem for me because while there are all types of different ways to plan your vertical jump training (block periodization, conjugate methods, EDT, and so on), I like to organize my training much more simply. I break it up into warm and cool seasons. During the winter months I tend to put more emphasis on strength work (i.e. inside in a nice warm gym), and in the warmer months I love getting outdoors and doing sprints, jumps, medicine ball throws and so on.
And you know what? This is for the most part pretty damn effective!
Taking this sort of approach to your training has a number of benefits.
So what does a seasonal training plan look like and how can you use this approach? Well as mentioned during the cooler months you focus mostly on increasing your strength in the weight room. This usually means 3-4x per week lifting weights, mixing up the loads and reps but always looking to progress your strength numbers.
But you can't completely ignore the reactive and explosive strength qualities that are also very important in maximizing your vertical jump either. With less space available inside as well as an increased demand for indoor facilities you will often find that you are limited to vertical jump training exercises that can be done within a confined space. Fortunately there are dozens of exercises to choose from here.
WINTER TRAINING: Not everyone is as tough as Rocky
Or as idiotic as this guy.....
Anything that utilizes short ground contact times will be suitable for maintaining your reactive strength. This includes drills such as the various forms of tuck jump, pogo jumps, cone hops, hurdle jumps, scissor jumps, as well as depth jumps and altitude drops/landings for something with a bit more intensity.
Another trick for increasing intensity is to use a Lifeline Power Jumper and get the benefits of overspeed eccentrics and accommodating resistance on those jumps. This will reduce jump height and so is a good option for people with lower ceilings.
Of course you shouldn't forget good old fashioned skipping rope work either. Skipping rope work can be as easy or hard as you want to make it. You can increase the reactive strength training stimulus by increasing the speed of the rope, doing double jumps, or switching to single leg skips. All will help maintain ankle strength and stiffness as well as reactive strength.
Another aspect of your training plan that I find is good to focus on during winter is rehab/prehab activities. With the reduced volume of high impact jumping drills, plus the general nature of wanting to sit around and do little when it gets cold I have found that this is the perfect time to spend more time focusing on stretching, foam rolling and generally ironing out any glaring mobility or muscle imbalance issues so that when the warm weather comes back around you are in pretty good shape to do the higher intensity work.
During the warmer months the obvious approach is to do the opposite. You focus your efforts into sprinting, jumping and explosive type activities and put the strength work into maintenance mode. I would typically try and get out onto the track or sporting field 3-4 times per week and would be happy with 1 or 2 short weight room workouts during this time (although if the strength facilities are convenient to the athletic training facilities there is no reason why you can't finish your jumping and then do some low volume, medium intensity strength work afterwards).
There is only one small problem with relying on the weather though and that is that it isn't that reliable. During winter you will get the odd really warm day where you look out the window and say to yourself - 'I would love to get outside today and run around'. Likewise in summer you will occasionally get a cold and rainy day and you just want to stay inside and lift some heavy weights.
When this happens my advice is to just go and do it. In fact I would suggest that on these out of the ordinary weather days you SHOULD go and do the alternative workouts. Unless your athletic profile is so slanted towards one particular end of the strength-speed continuum (i.e. you are either ridiculously strong but slow, or superfast and quite weak) it is actually a bad idea to overly neglect any area for too long even with the maintenance loads built in.
Personal example - It was sunny here earlier in the week and so I did my first pure sprints and plyometric workout in months. For the last few days I have barely been able to walk. The same result would have applied if the training modalities had been reversed (i.e. If I had been doing a lot of jumps but no weights I would still have ended up very sore).
The experience made me realise a couple of things. First, missing out on summer really sucks. And second, no matter what you have been doing in your training, you ALWAYS need to do some form of jumping. It was obvious that I had lost a lot of my elastic strength qualities.
Of course this approach isn't for everyone. While you can definitely still make gains using this approach it isn't as effective as simply identifying your weaknesses and focusing on them. It is however quite useful for non-competitive athletes who still like to make progress but not necessarily at all costs. It is also a simple approach for athletes who due to extreme weather changes and lack of facilities really don't have much choice about where and how they train in the winter months and as such have difficulty doing plyometric and jumping based workouts (and I get a surprisingly large number of emails from people who have this problem).
Nobody likes training in winter as much as they do in summer, and if you haven't got access to anywhere that you can train it only makes things worse. However if you are serious about increasing your vertical jump then you shouldn't let bad weather and lack of facilities be a road block. There are still plenty of things you can do even when the days are short, the weather is cold, and your training space is limited.
Pool Plyometrics - Pool plyometrics is a fun way to train that is not only easy on the joints, but also can provide some nice gains.
Sand Training for a Bigger Vertical Jump - Sand training is another fun way to develop your vertical jump without the jarring impact of traditional plyometrics.
Foam Rolling for Faster Gains - Like stretching, foam rolling should be an integral part of your vertical jump program.
Stretching and Jump Performance - Stretching is an important part of any athletic program. Here we take a quick look at what sort of stretching you should be doing for maximum hops.