So far in the reactive strength training series we have learned what reactive strength is and why it is important, in part 2 I looked at the standard training methods used to develop reactive strength, and in part 3, I discussed appropriate training loads and volume for these methods.
In this fourth and final installment of the reactive strength training series I am going to discuss some of the alternative methods that athletes looking to increase their vertical jump might also like to try. These methods are downhill work and over speed eccentrics and the different variations of each.
There are two basic kinds of over speed eccentrics. There are those that are driven by an external source which is most commonly bands, and those where the athlete increases the eccentric forces via the shock plyometric methods and the drop and catch techniques introduced in part 2. We have already discussed the athlete derived methods so I will focus here on the use of bands to increase the eccentric speed and forces.
Before I get into these methods it is worth a quick refresher on why bands work so well for increasing eccentric force. The main reason is that the bands are actually trying to contract at a faster rate than gravity.
The use of bands to increase eccentric force in the weight room
has become very popular over the last few years and they can be
purchased readily from a number of sources (some good ones include
EliteFTS, Jump Stretch, Iron Woody) in a variety of tensions to suit
In much the same way that the shock methods of plyometrics can be divided into force absorption training (Altitude landings) and reactive training (depth jumps), so too can the same logic be applied to using bands to over speed eccentric force with weights.
For example you might choose to use a heavier load in conjunction with the bands and upon executing the drop and catch you attempt to minimize eccentric movement and just focus on absorbing the downward force as you would in an Altitude landing.
Alternatively you can choose to use lighter loads and not only absorb the eccentric force but also spring back quickly into a jump or concentric motion as you would with a depth jump. Whatever method you decide to use the obvious thing to remember is to choose your load and your band tensions SAFELY.
Downhill training to develop reactive strength can involve skipping, bounding, jumping, and sprinting down a gentle slope. The key word here is ‘gentle’. If you use a hill that is too steep you can end up having too much momentum and losing balance and form on your jumps (or sprints).
The act of running or jumping downhill basically functions in the same manner as depth jumps. You are in essence using the increased landing forces provided by gravity to slightly overload the eccentric portion of the jump (or stride).
This training method can be highly effective if implemented correctly. In fact some universities in the US have actually gone so far as to install running tracks that have a very slight decline on them for this very purpose. The difficulty for the average athlete in using this training method is going to be finding the right sort of hill that is both flat enough so that you are not likely to roll an ankle and also has the sufficiently low angle of decline to be useable.
If you can find such a hill near you though some good exercises include sprints, skipping, 123 drill, bounding, and consecutive broad jumps and hops.
So there you have it, reactive strength training sliced and diced. For athletes of all types the need to be able to rapidly absorb force in one direction and then turn it around and generate it in another is one of the most important athletic attributes they can develop.
Obviously as discussed here it is very important in maximizing your vertical jump, particularly off a run up. However it is also plays a vital role in many explosively performed sporting movements including sprinting and changing directions.
Discussed in this series of articles is a number of methods for you to develop that reactive strength specific to the vertical jump. These methods are also unfortunately some of the most used and abused techniques that can often end up causing injuries if you aren’t too careful. If you do want to learn how to jump higher but aren’t confident about designing your own program with appropriate volumes, rest etc you should definitely look at joining our vertical jump coaching program.
In our program we will assess whether or not you even need to work on reactive strength in the first place, and if you do it will create you a workout with safe appropriate training volumes customized to YOU.
Reactive Strength Part 1 - What is reactive strength, why is it important, and even better, how do you train for it.
Reactive Strength Part 2 - In order to develop reactive strength you need to be using the right training methods. In this article we find out what they are, and how best to use them.
Reactive Strength Part 3 - Reactive strength training is about quality over quantity. Find out how to balance these two out for maximum results.