The improvement of an athlete’s vertical jumping ability can contribute significantly to overall sports performance. Basketball and volleyball players are obvious examples of athletes who benefit from the ability to execute a strong vertical jump (VJ). However, most other athletes can also benefit from jump training, because many sport-specific movements rely upon extension of the hip, knees, and ankles (triple extension).
Vertical jumps use a forceful and rapid concentric (pushing) action of the leg muscles to create separation from the ground. Fast-twitch (Type IIa) muscle is a major determinant of force production. For more on fast-twitch muscle development, please refer to Developing Fast-Twitch Muscle to Improve Power Output.
The following are examples of different types of jumps that can help you improve your strength, explosive power, and athleticism:
A squat jump (SJ) is a vertical jump from a static start. From the static start position, maximal concentric muscular action is exerted, using triple extension. You can further improve force development by adding resistance (an external load), such as a hex barbell, dumbbells, or weighted vest.
A countermovement jump (CMJ) starts with a movement in the opposite direction of the jump, followed by an explosive upward movement. In addition to loaded squat jumps, this movement is executed in Olympic lifts, such as high pulls, power snatches, and power cleans.
The one-step approach jump (1-step AJ) is an exercise where an athlete takes a step forward into a CMJ. An example of the 1-step AJ is a volleyball player approaching the net during the execution of a spike. It’s preferable to incorporate the 1-step AJ into an athlete’s jump training only after the athlete has demonstrated the ability to perform a technically correct SJ and CMJ.
Depth jumps (DJ) are a type of plyometric exercise that use potential energy and the force of gravity to store energy in the muscles and tendons. The DJ is performed by having the athlete step off an elevated platform, landing, then reversing the movement into a powerful, vertical jump. Depth jump training is a common training modality for improving lower extremity power and speed.
Jump training should always incorporate proper landing mechanics: The athlete should focus on landing with hips down and back; knees bent and pointing straight ahead; and on the entire surface of the foot (not only on the balls of the feet)
Athlete’s who engage in both strength training and VJ exercises have a better chance of improving their VJ performance to a greater degree than those who only strength train or jump train independently.
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