vertical jump training

Vertical Jump Training Frequency Part 2

Written by Jack Woodrup for VerticalJumping.com

In part 1 of our training frequency articles I discussed how the key driver for how often you can train is your ability to recover and how certain attributes specific to the athlete affect their recovery rates. In part 2, I will examine how the variables associated with the different vertical jump training techniques can also impact recovery time. The main variables I will discuss are load, volume, intensity, and exercise selection.

Load

How load impacts training frequency is pretty straight forward. When training with weights, the heavier you go the longer it is going to take to recover. For example if you loaded the bar with 50% of your singe rep maximum and did a single squat, you could quite comfortably rest 30 seconds and do another one. At only 50% of your 1RM you could go on like that for quite some time and in all likelihood you would stop not because you could no longer lift the weight, but because you were bored.
trap bar deadlift

Figure 1: Very Heavy Lifting - Don't expect to do this everyday!

If on the other hand you put 90% of your 1 rep max on the bar, you would struggle for even a couple of minutes to do single reps with 30 seconds rest. Why? The heavier weight used recruits more muscle units, involves greater CNS activation and as such requires longer periods to sufficiently recover.

This relationship between load and recovery time doesn't just apply to how long you need to rest between sets, but also applies to how long you need to recover between workouts. Again using our example of 50% versus 90% you could comfortably do 10 reps of at 50% of your 1RM every single day if you so chose. You probably wouldn't even need to warm up.

But, crank that weight up to 90% of your 1RM and try doing 10 reps per day and you will soon find that you just can't recover in time. You will start to accumulate excessive fatigue and when this happens you will soon see yourself going backwards, or worse, injuring yourself.

Basically, using heavier weights require a decrease in training frequency. of course there is a catch. The catch is that building a high level strength base REQUIRES the use of heavy weights. Which brings me nicely to the next variable - volume.

Volume

Volume is another no brainer variable of training frequency. If you increase the volume of work you do it is going to take longer to recover from. Basically volume refers to how many sets and reps you do per workout.

The most taxing vertical jumping exercises are probably depth jumps and altitude landings. These two exercises are hard on the body, hard on the joints, and hard on the CNS. Generally speaking you cannot use these exercises too often because, well, they are just too hard on your body.

Despite this, if you did nothing else, and if you chose a sensible height you could comfortably do a single depth jump and a single altitude landing on a daily basis. If you upped that number to 100 reps every day, well that is a different story. That is an injury waiting to happen.

As a side note I would never actually get anyone to do 100 depths jumps and 100 altitude landings in a single day. EVER (see Intensity and Exercise Selection below)! This was just used for the purposes of the example.

The bottom line – as you increase volume you need to decrease frequency. However you also need to find a balance between too much and too little. Too much can lead to decreases in performance and injury, too little can lead to no improvement. Plus you also better not forget to think about intensity either!

Intensity

The relationship between intensity and training frequency is also the same as load and volume in that the greater the intensity of your workouts, the longer it will take you to recover, and therefore, the less frequently you should train.

In weight training intensity is essentially the load which we have already covered (see aboveparagraphs). However for jumping exercises intensity is defined by the degree of impact on the body. Jumping rope which involves only small jumps is low intensity. Depth Jumps which involve much higher forces at landing impact are high intensity.

As you increase the intensity of your jumping exercises you will accumulate more fatigue using the same number of reps than you would for a lower intensity exercise. The factors that can make jumping exercises more or less intense are:

  • Single leg versus double leg (single leg exercises are generally higher intensity as the landing forces are required to be braced by the muscles in only one leg, not two)
  • Jump height - for depth jumps and altitude landings. The higher the box the higher the landing forces
  • Training surface - an exercise performed on sand is less intense than when it is performed on concrete

As a result training intensity also needs to be managed. The best results come from high intensity work but they also lead to the quickest levels of burnout.

Exercise Selection

Exercise selection has a massive impact on training frequency and as such is something that should be thought about extensively when creating your workout program. The three biggest factors of exercise selection that will affect training frequency are the number of muscle groups recruited, the level of eccentric loading, and intensity (which we have just covered).

All other things being equal a full body (compound) exercise such as a squat or deadlift will require longer rest periods and lower training frequency than an isolation exercises such as bicep curls.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that the nature of the compound exercises allows for greater loads to be used. Just looking at the squat for example there are people who are squatting over 1000 pounds. The squat involves the quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, core, shoulders, hips and many more.

Compare that to a knee extension. There is no one using a leg extension machine with 1000 pounds on it. Why not? Well obviously a leg extension machine recruits mostly just the quads. Currently even freakishly genetically gifted humans are not capable of leg extending 1000 pounds using their quads alone, and quite frankly, I doubt there ever will be.

The second reason training frequency is reduced for compound exercises is that if you are using a heavy weight and are recruiting a large number of muscle groups, you are also inevitably placing a larger stress on your body that it will need to recover from.

Looking again to the squat versus leg extension example, if all your body had to recover after a workout was the quads, it would be able to do so much more rapidly than having to repair all the muscles listed in use for a squat. It is for this reason we recommend minimizing exercises in your jumping program that tax non-jumping related muscles (bench press and most arm exercises are good examples of a useless jumping exercise).

The next area of exercise selection and how it relates to training frequency is eccentric loading. What is eccentric loading you ask? In simple terms the eccentric or negative portion of a lift occurs when you are lowering a weight. For a deadlift the concentric is the actual lifting of the bar, the eccentric is the part where you are lowering it back to the floor.

For jumping exercises the eccentric part is either the downward force as you bend your knees into the first phase of the jump, or the downward force as you land. The concentric part of a jump is the upward jumping motion.

Box jumps are low eccentric.

box jump

What has this got to do with training frequency? Well a lot actually. You see the more emphasis an exercise has on the eccentric, the greater stress and damage it places on the muscle. This is particularly true for weighted exercises. As you can imagine the more stress the longer it is going to take to recover.

You can reduce the amount of eccentric work done by jumping up onto boxes or jumping into soft surfaces such as sand. This decrease in eccentric force allows more frequent and higher volumes to be used of these exercises.

In the gym you can reduce the eccentric portion by focusing on concentric movements (these are movements that start with the concentric action). These include all versions of dead lifts and squats where you rest the weight on the safety pins and start the lift at the bottom.

Once you are at the top of the lift for a dead lift you can either drop the weight (not a popular option – especially in commercial gyms) or just reduce the amount of effort you use to lower the weight (i.e. don't try and lower it slowly). For concentric versions of squats you can either do singles and rack it, remove some weight and lower it back to the pins again, or get a couple of spotters to take much of the load on the eccentric portion.

Before you eliminate the eccentric work from your program though it should be noted that there is growing argument that it is in fact eccentric strength that is the biggest contributor to reactive strength and not the efficient use of the stretch shorten cycle as has long been theorized. Whilst this is still yet to be proven the arguments are pretty compelling so it is unwise to removethe eccentric portion of your exercises too much.

Other Considerations

I have discussed the variables that impact how often you can train and also mentioned that increasing frequency is a desirable outcome. However it should be remembered that increasing training frequency is of a lesser importance than actual performance improvement.

You should never lose site of the big picture, particularly at the expense of the details such as how often you are training. Yes being able to do something more often generally results in better, faster gains, but not always.

High intensity plyometrics and heavy weights do build strength and explosiveness better than lower weights and intensities but the fact is that they also take longer to recover from. At some point you will need to strike a balance between these variables in order to maximize your vertical jump.

Conclusion

These articles on training frequency were not written to suggest one way of training over another, but merely to help enlighten you as to how certain training techniques and other factors need to be considered when designing your program. Increasing your training frequency will often yield excellent gains in your vertical jump. After all practice does indeed make perfect!

However, more often than not high frequency training sessions are unsustainable. The key to maximizing your vertical jumping gains is working out when to go hard to stimulate the changes you want, and when to back off a little and allow your body to adapt. Hopefully these articles will make you think about this further and help open up some new ideas into your own workouts.

Related Articles

Training Frequency - How often should you be training to increase your vertical jump?

Training Intensity - A look at what training intensity is and how it can effect your jump program.

Strength Training Part 1 - Getting strong is vital for jumping high. Part 1 of our 2 part look at strength training covers the various theories behind strength training.





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