The importance that exercise selection has in your vertical jump program cannot be emphasised enough. Good exercise choices will bring good results and bad choices will lead to bad results. Here we will discuss the Top 4 things you should consider when selecting which exercises to include in your training program.
The first principle of exercise selection is specificity. This is a word you will see on this site a lot. It basically means you should be selecting exercises that mimic both the speed and movement characteristics of the activity you are training for.
In our case we are trying to develop the muscles we use for jumping so we should select exercises that not only target the quads, glutes, hamstrings, posterior chain, and calves, but requires a movement in the same, or similar manner as that of the jump.
Some terrific examples are the squat and deadlift as they both work nearly all the jumping muscles in very similar manner and plane of motion to which they are used for a jump. Exercises such as an incline leg press also train glutes, quads and hamstrings, however due to the nature of the machine you have a much lower recruitment of the core and stabilisation muscles and therefore less overall development. As such this sort of exercise, whilst still effective, is an inferior choice.
The other aspect of specificity as it pertains to exercise selection is understanding the sort of jumping you want to be doing. Single leg jumping is quite different to double leg jumping. Running jumps are different from stationary jumps etc.
If you do a lot of running or single leg jumps you would look to include more single leg exercises such as lunges, split squats, and running jumps such as the 123 drill and single leg bounding. Alternatively double leg jumpers would incorporate more squat jumps and two foot lifts into their program.
It should also be noted that you can actually take specificity too far. You are trying to mimic the motion, but not necessarily at all costs.
A good example of this is squatting. When you do a traditional back squat, you bear the weight through your heels or mid part of the foot. When you jump however, the force is transferred to the ground from the balls of your feet and toes. So should you be doing all your squatting on your toes? No!
By lifting heavy and explosively on the squat movement you train the large jumping muscles to get stronger. This strength will still be readily transferable to the actual act of jumping due to the relative similarities of the two movements.
The next principle of exercise selection is the order in which you should train. Generally the best way to order your exercises is to select drills that focus on addressing your biggest jumping weakness. A big vertical jump is the result of lots of strength relative to your bodyweight, the ability to apply that strength quickly, and good jumping technique.
If you are weak, choose strength work first. If you are slow do plyomeitrcs and jumping drills first. If your are strong and fast but have poor technique, prioritise jumping movement drills. If you aren't sure which you need to develop the most go here and we can help you determine your weaknesses and build your program specifically for you.
Another thing to remember with your exercise selection is to include drills that work smaller muscle groups that don't play such an important role. This might include for a vertical jump program your calves, core training, your big toes, and your upper body. These muscle groups certainly contribute to your overall power generation, but in significantly lessor proportions.
Failure to provide training stimulus to these groups will result in you leaving potential gains on the table in the form of energy leaks in your take offs and general loss of anywhere between 5-15% of vertical power.
However too much focus on them will result in not enough attention being paid to the main drivers of a high vertical leap. This is actually a bigger problem than many people realise. By doing too much work on the smaller contributing muscles, not only do you eat into your recovery, but also your ability to maintain intensity,and mentally it becomes difficult to maintain motivation.
Some general guidelines for choosing exercise that provide the most benefit are:
For strength development do compound movements that hit the big jumping muscles such as lunges, deadlifts and squats ahead of isolation exercises like hamstring curls and calf raises.
For plyometrics and explosive strength development choose higher impact jumping drills earlier in the workout such as depth jumps, single leg jumps, and altitude landings over lower impact drills such as seated jumps, box jumps and paused jumps.
For technique drills it is ok to rest between each jump. Focus on developing good jumping mechanics via high quality reps with plenty of rest between efforts.
Vertical jump training requires maximum effort at all times if the best results are to be achieved. Through poor exercise selection you can very quickly drain that desire to work hard, particularly if gains slow down or even decline. So remember to work these smaller muscle groups occasionally, but don't make them the major focus of your program.
These 3 principles outlined above provide good solid advice about how you should be selecting your jumping exercises. However if you are after the very best vertical jump exercise you need to read Game Changers. This book which is unlike anything else on the market covers unique and little known drills that rapidly and safely improve strength, power, speed, and jumping technique.
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The principles of exercise selection are not difficult to grasp. However too often you see not only vertical jump athletes, but athletes of all types making the same basic errors. How often do you see someone in the gym with a huge chest get straight on the bench press. Sure, it is a great choice of exercise for training chest, but if their back is lacking they should first look at something to address that imbalance. The same applies to increasing your vertical jump.
In your own program remember the 3 simple rules of exercise selection:
1) Specificity. For vertical improvements, this means selecting exercises that work the jumping muscles.
2) Train Your Weaknesses First.
3) Focus On the Biggest Bang For Your Buck Exercises.
A smartly designed jump program that uses those principles can make or break your training results. Train the right way and you will be able to jump very high, train the wrong way and you will just get better at training bad.