In Part 1 of our look at the Westside model of conjugate training and its application to vertical jump training I discussed the details that made up the system and also some of the things you should look out for if you were to adopt it into your own training.
In this article I am going to have a look at actually setting up a Westside style vertical jump program. There will be an element of assumed knowledge so if you are unfamiliar with some of the abbreviations please have a quick read through Westside Training Part 1.
A typical week using a Westside conjugate system consists of the following workouts:
MONDAY: ME Lower Body (ME = Max Effort)
WEDNESDAY: ME Upper Body
FRIDAY: DE Lower Body (DE = Dynamic Effort)
SUNDAY: DE Upper Body
Bearing in mind that Westside is set up for a powerlifter, and that you are training to increase your vertical jump I would make the following changes:
MONDAY: ME Lower Body
WEDNESDAY: Jumping practice
FRIDAY: DE Lower Body
SUNDAY: Upper Body Rotating between ME and DE
I have made two changes to the Westside powerlifting template. The first change is to add in a day of just jumping practice. The reason for this is that the Westside system is designed to make athletes good at squatting, deadlifting, and benching. Consequently the exercises selected in their program are based not only on their ability to develop the strength required, but also their capacity to improvetheir technique.
This is an often overlooked aspect of vertical jump training. You may be as strong as an ox and explosive as a cheetah, but unless you can co-ordinate yourself you won't ever reach your true potential. For this reason I have added in a day of pure jump practice.
The second change is that I have removed one of the upper body workouts. As I have written a number of times before, too much upper body training can be detrimental to your jump performance.
As always, I am definitely not saying the upper body isn't important, clearly it is. I am simply arguing that you should already be doing plenty of full body lifts such as squats and deadlifts, kettlebell swings and cleans, and as such you probably do not need to do much extra direct upper body training to maximize your hops.
In my vertical jumping based version I rotate an ME upper body day with a DE upper body day once a week, although in fairness, you could also rotate in a RE day (RE stands for repetitive effort. RE is using higher reps to help build extra muscle mass). So one week you will do ME work, the next week DE work, the following week either RE or ME work etc.
With the weekly schedule outlined it is time to look more closely at the individual days.
ME (Max Effort) day is basically about building maximum strength. This involves selecting your ME exercise and working your way up to an attempt of either a new personal record (PR). If you are feeling strong and motivated then you have a go at setting a new 1RM. If you aren't feeling that great on ME day you should stick with attempting a new 3RM.
In terms of exercise selection for your ME workout you would generally go with a squat or deadlift variation. Some of my favourite choices are trap bar deadlifts, regular and sumo deadlifts, safety bar squats, safety bar box squats, front squats, and of course, barbell squats. For extra variety and fun you can also use bands which are another useful way to change the nature of the lifts.
In terms of the actual ME work itself you should perform about 10 sets in total for the selected ME exercise. The earlier and lighter sets consist of 3-5 reps, whilst the last 3 or 4 sets generally only consist of singles or doubles (1 or 2 reps). These last 3 or 4 sets (3 at a minimum) are all performed using a weight that is greater than 90% of your 1RM.
A common mistake beginners make is to add weight too quickly when working up to the max attempt. Doing so means that often they aren't sufficiently prepared to attempt the maximum effort lift, but also they generally don't get enough volume to produce the full training response. Famed Westside lifter Dave Tate even suggests in his excellent Westside based e-book, the EFS Basic Training Guide, that a beginner could start their ME work with just the bar.
Following the ME lift you should then do some supplemental lifts. Westside describe supplemental lifts as those that are performed after the main lift of the day in order to help bring up the working muscles used in the powerlifting movements. A typical Westside workout day may involve the use of 2 supplemental exercises and an accessory exercise such as core work.
In terms of the first supplemental exercise after the ME lift I like the approach Joe DeFranco's takes with his athletes. He has the people he works with follow their ME lift with a unilateral (single leg) quad dominant exercise. The reason for this is that many of the ME lifts such as box squats, and all the deadlift variations are very posterior chain dominant exercises.
Whilst no one doubts the importance of training the posterior chain for athletic improvement, it is also important not neglect your anterior muscles as well. Some good choices for this are lunges, step ups and split squats.
Following that you should then perform a second supplemental exercise consisting a low impact jumping drill such as box jumps, single leg box jumps, or seated box jumps. Selecting the last exercise as a jump based movement follows the logic of using complex training (combining heavy work with lighter more explosive movements to teach your body how to generate more power). It is basically a nice way of reminding your CNS what it is that you ultimately want it to do which is jump high.
The low impact nature of the second supplementary exercise means that you are able to remain fresh for later in the week when you do some higher intensity jumping. Finally you would finish the workout up with some accessory work. For Westside, and for jumping athletes, this generally means core work, foam rolling and stretching.
As discussed in the intro, this day is all about improving your jumping technique. of course by incorporating some maximal jumping into your week you will also get a significant training effect too so don't hold back here.
Basically on this day you are going to do between 15 â€“ 30 maximum effort jumps. You will perform these jumps in the exact same manner in which you jump in your chosen sport. It is also a good idea to have tangible target to aim for so that you can gauge your improvement week to week.
Using a basketball player trying to dunk as an example, his/her jumping day is pretty obvious. Find a basketball ring and try and dunk. If you are still quite a way from being able to do that then start by trying to touch the net, then the ring, and finally getting your hand and forearm about the ring.
If you want to get the most out of this day it is important that the jump attempts are with maximum effort and intensity. This day might be the one that provides the most benefit to your jumping ability. Also important is that you take plenty of rest between attempts and stop when you start to see your jump heights dropping noticeably. Finish up with a light cool down, and some more foam rolling and stretching.
DE day at Westside is about building explosiveness and speed. To do this they like to use a lot of box squats against accommodating resistance such as bands. They use loads in the 50-70% region of the lifters 1RM max and perform 6-12 sets of 2 reps with about 45-60 seconds rest between sets.
Again, this is a powerlifting set up and may not be as applicable for a jumping athlete. For a jumper the construction of their DE day would depend on a few things and would be either a combination of jumping drills and explosive lifts such as light box squats (preferably against bands), Olympic lifts and kettlebell swings, or just the jumping drills by themselves.
If the athlete at hand cannot squat at least 1.5x their own bodyweight then they should focus on the combination of explosive lifts and lower intensity jumping drills. The reason for this is that due to their relatively weak strength levels they would benefit more from the extra weighted work. On the other hand if the athlete is already reasonably strong than they should be working more on jump specific activities.
A DE day for a sub 1.5x BW squatter would therefore look something like this:
Main DE Exercise: Box Squat with bands 8 sets x 2 reps @ 50% load. 45 secs rest between sets
Supplemental Exercise: Kettlebell swings 3 x 10 with 60 seconds rest between sets
Supplemental Exercise: Box jump or bounding varieties 4 x 6 with 60 seconds rest between sets
Accessory Exercise: Core work
Box Squats with bands are a Westside and VerticalJumping.com favorite.
For someone who is stronger their DE training day might look something like this:
Main DE Exercise: Depth Jumps 4 sets x 5 reps. 150 secs rest between sets
Supplemental Exercise: Bounding or skipping 4 x 6 with 60 seconds rest between sets
Supplemental Exercise: Box jump 4 x 6 with 60 seconds rest between sets
Accessory Exercise: Core work
As you can see the intensities of the jumping drills abovetaper as you progress through the workout. This is to ensure you complete the more intense drills in an non fatigued state.
I have also changed the set and rep protocols for a reasonably strong jumping athlete to reflect the differences between weighted exercises and unweighted ones. Some good choices for the various DE day exercises are:
MAIN DE EXERCISES: Box squats with bands, Olympic lift variations, heavy kettlebell swings, weighted jump squats, depth jumps, altitude landings, single leg jumping varieties.
SUPPLEMENTAL EXERCISES: Lighter kettlebell swings, medicine ball throws, bounding, skipping, box jumps, etc.
The accessory work will be the same as the ME day.
Upper body strength is clearly not as important for someone wanting to jump high as it is for someone wanting to have a huge bench press so obviously the training programs between a powerlifter and a jumping athlete are also going to be vastly different.
Where Westside use two upper body days per week broken down into De and ME work, I recommend rotating weekly between a heavy session and a lighter session. I have written previously about a simple but very effective push/pull based upper body program consisting of chin ups, dips, supine rows and push ups. It provides a fairly decent bang for your buck workout as trains basically all the muscles in upper body.
In the upper body program outlined you can choose to use only your bodyweight aiming for speed and reps, or you can go heavy using a weighted vest or dipping belt to add resistance, or alternatively by replacing push ups with bench press and supine rows with seated upright rows. My own preference is to use a weighted vest with a set of gymnastic rings as this combination is great for developing the stabilizer muscles around the joints as well as the core.
As a final note about the upper body workouts, you don't want them to be overly taxing. It is more important to be maximizing your recovery and focus for your lower body/jumping sessions. On the other hand you also don't want them to be so easy that they are a waste of time. The combination of heavy workouts and light workouts should help achieve that goal as well as offering room for steady progression.
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Before each workout do a thorough warm up! The goal with any warm up is to raise your core temperature, and to prepare the muscles, joints, and CNS for the type of work you intend to do.
Generally a warm up will have a general component and a more specific component. The general component is designed to raise core temperature and warm up the muscles and joints. This generally takes the from of a low impact type of cardio such as skipping or sled dragging that should last anywhere between 5-10 minutes with gradually increasing intensity.
You then follow the general warm up with some more specific work such as lighter sets of the exercise you are doing, or low intensity jumping if you are doing a jumping based day. This is aimed at readying the muscles for the exact nature of the work they will be doing. I am sure you have all heard it before but it is worth repeating. A good warm up not only helps improveperformance but also goes a LONG way to reducing the likelihood and incidence of injury.
After your workouts spend some time cooling down with various very low intensity movements (body weight step ups and lunges etc), followed by foam rolling and stretching to relax the muscles and to start working out any tightness.
Westside rotate their exercises, particularly on ME day, on a very regular basis (often weekly), to avoid burnout and stagnation. Westside has a lot of elite lifters. For the every day athlete I would suggest rotating exercises on a far less regular basis. If you are still getting stronger and are excited about your training, stick with them. If you are starting to stall and losing interest, switch them up. Simple really!
One final guideline is that if you are finding that you are not recovering sufficiently from the three lower body workouts during the week you can always drop one out for a week or two. If you are already strong replace ME with the jumping practice day. If you already have great jumping technique maybe give that one a miss. If you feel you are explosive already but lack co-ordination replace DE day with the jumping day.
Outlined in this and the previous Westside for Jumping Athletes article are the basics of what the Westside conjugate system is all about and how it might be applied to a jump program. The training split they have devised is certainly a tried and tested way to organize things. It not only keeps you moving onwards and upwards, but the variety of heavy and light workouts will also keep your jump training interesting.
These are articles are however just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more information available that you can access about the Westside Barbell system at their site. There are plenty of great training articles written by Louie Simmons that make it is well worth a visit.
Band Training - Find out why you should be using bands to get the most out of your vertical jump training.
Lightened Method - Bridging the gap between specific and general strength training for awesome bang for your buck vertical jump development.
Squats and Deadlifts - Squats and deadlifts are the big two strength building exercises for increasing your vertical jump. Check out our introductory look at these great exercises.