Most people don't readily associate sprint training with improving your vertical leap. After all, sprinting is done along the ground whilst jumping is about getting off it. However, anyone who has seen an elite sprinter explode out of the blocks and along the track would know about the incredible muscular power they generate.
Given this power that sprint training can produce it should also come as no surprise to know that incorporating some speed work into your vertical program can have a highly positive impact on not just your jumping, but your overall athletic performance.
The physiological demands of sprint training are actually very similar to that required for a maximum vertical leap. The main differences are that the 100 meter race runs for around 10 seconds on a horizontal plane, and a vertical leap lasts less than 1 second over the vertical plane. Whilst they may seem like pretty big differences, if you break it down further, they are not.
Both jumping and sprinting require great muscular power generated from the whole body. Both athletic activities are also very much full body activities. Both involve the anaerobic energy systems in that duration of each is only for very short, but high intensity bursts. Both require highly trained central nervous systems. Both activities are enhanced by lower body fat.
In fact, It probably wouldn't surprise too many vertical jumping athletes to know that if you examined the training protocols for a sprinter, and compared them to that of an athlete looking to jump higher, you would see an awful lot of similarities.
Looking at how sprinters train, they focus on short duration, high intensity, high velocity, explosive activities. In the weight room for example, you will find most sprinters are doing the exact same movements such as squats and dead lifts as vertical jumpers. They will also be doing them in the same explosive manner as vertical jumpers.
You will also find that most sprinters are incorporating a lot of plyometric jumping activities into their actual sprint training such as bounding and skipping, and even to a certain extent, exercises such as depth jumps. The reason they do this is because these types of exercises are the best for building explosive muscular power in the leg muscles.
A sprinters speed comes from two factors. The first is how quickly they can move their legs, and the second is how much force they can apply to the ground per stride. The weight training works on the force component of power development by building up the athletes relative strength, and the plyometrics works on the speed side of things by training the ability to quickly generate explosive muscular power and also absorb eccentric force (reactive strength).
This should be obvious to anyone who has seen a sprinter jump. Most sprinters also have terrific verticals (particularly running verticals). Think about the act of sprinting for a second. It entails primarily contracting your leg muscles with maximum speed and force to propel the body forward. Vertical leaping involves contracting primarily the leg muscles to propel the body upwards.
Each running stride transfers force to the ground to kick the athlete away and forward as quickly and as explosively as possible. When you plant yourself for a maximum vertical effort you are transferring force from your legs to the ground to propel yourself upwards as quickly and explosively as possible.
Due to the way sprint training encourages you to develop your leg speed and force transfer capabilities, it is therefore an excellent activity to incorporate into your vertical leap training. Also sprinting is a terrific way to burn body fat (particularly hill sprints). The less body fat you carry, the higher your power to weight ratio (fat doesn't produce any power but definitely adds weight). In other words, the less body fat you have, the higher you can jump.
Sprinting helps develop speed, power, AND burns body fat! What more could you ask for.
To incorporate sprint training into your vertical leap sessions you don't need to necessarily run 100 meters. Anywhere between 20 and 50 meters is ideal for developing your speed and power for jumping. It should take between 3-8 seconds to do one interval (One interval is one sprint. So, if you are doing 40 meter sprints, one interval is the act of sprinting for 40 meters).
The obvious and best way to perform interval sprints is to sprint over the desired distance, walk back to where you started from, turn around, and do another sprint. Repeat until desired number of intervals has been completed. You could start by doing 5 intervals and working your way up.
Always remember this rule though: The longer you sprint for, the fewer intervals you should do. Sprinting is great for improving your speed and power, but despite their similarities and mutual benefits, you are training to jump higher, not run faster
As with most forms of training there are also number of things you can do to improve the quality and intensity of your sprinting. Some of these methods include over-speed running and resisted running.
Overspeed sprint training involves performing your sprint training down a slightly sloped hill, or with wind assistance. The idea behind over-speed training is that it trains your body and brain to improve leg speed. If you run with a higher cadence down hill or with the wind, you will more easily adapt to moving your legs quicker and therefore running faster than you would otherwise been able to by training on a flat surface alone.
Sprinting, like vertical jumping, is an awesome expression of athletic power. Adding high quality intervals to your vertical jump training sessions will see you develop terrific muscular power in ways in which you might otherwise have missed out on. If you are playing a sport that requires both running and jumping, then sprint training is a brilliant choice for improving both these activities.
Plyometrics Part 1 - Part 1 of our 2 part plyometrics article covers some of the theory involved in this type of jump training.
Single Leg Jump Training - Want to improve your single leg jump? Well you need to do some single leg vertical jump training. Find out more.
Vertical Jump Coaching - Stop wasting time doing things that aren't helping you jump higher. Get your custom jump training program designed for you.
Speed and Quickness Training - Speed and quickness training goes hand in hand with vertical jump training. Find out how you can get fast AND jump higher.