Tag Archives: plyometrics

6 Ways to Jump Higher

30 Jun

The ability to get up off your feet is obviously important in sports like basketball and volleyball.  But what about other sports?  Well, since your vertical jump is an indicator of your lower-body explosive power (and since lower-extremity strength and power is important for virtually all sports), it’s in every athlete’s best interest to develop his/her vertical jump performance.

Here are 6 ways to improve your vertical jump:

  1. Get stronger.  Jumping is about pushing your body away from the ground.  The stronger you are through the hips and legs, the greater the force you can generate against the ground.  Exercises like squatsdeadlifts (we like using the trap bar), glute-ham raises (on the bench or manual resistance), and Romanian deadlifts should be incorporated into your training plan.
  2. Develop your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers.  Your fast-twitch muscles are your body’s largest and have the most growth potential.  They are responsible for maximum effort jumps, sprints, and lifts.  However, to produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest.  That means, in order to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must work at about 70% or more of your capacity (we benchmark at about 80% of an athlete’s 1RM) – heavy weight, low repetitions for most exercises.
  3. Contrast training.  This strategy will help you accelerate the development of lower-extremity strength and power (and it will also wear you out!).  Contrast training involves performing a strength exercise, immediately followed by an explosive movement.  An example would be to do a set of squats and proceed, without rest, to a set of squat jumps.
  4. Push the Prowler.  We love the weighted sled for the development of hip/leg drive, strength, and power.  You can push it and/or pull it, and adjust the weight to the needs and abilities of each individual athlete.  We use the Prowler as a workout “finisher” for many of our athletes, especially during their off-season training phase.
  5. Plyometrics.  Once you’ve built a strong foundation through strength training, it’s time to add plyometric exercises to your workout.  Plyometric training involves exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, using something called the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).  SSC is basically an eccentric(lengthening) muscle movement rapidly followed by a concentric(shortening) contraction.  Examples of plyometric exercises are box jumpsdepth/drop jumpshurdle jumps, and even jumping rope.
  6. Steer clear of injury.  Vertical jump training should include landing mechanics, since research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  Balance and stability exercises are important additions to any vertical jump training program.  Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion, knee alignment, and hip motion should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Plyometrics

3 Feb

Power-Plyo%20Box%20Starter%20Set%20-%20Plyometric%20Training%20Equipment%20for%20Football[1]Want to run faster and jump higher? Virtually all athletes can benefit from improvements in — and development of — explosive muscular force.

Plyometric training has a positive effect on neuromuscular performance, increasing explosive performance and, subsequently, athletic performance.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that two factors are especially impactful and should be considered when designing or participating in a plyometric training program:

  • Training volume
  • Training surface

Plyometric training volume is usually measured in touches (for example, when you jump up on a box and then back down, that counts as two touches).  In this study, it was determined that “a high plyometric training volume (i.e., 120 jumps per session or 240 jumps per week) would be necessary to induce an increase in acceleration sprint.” (Ramirez-Campillo, et.al.)

Plyometric training surface (hard or soft landing surface) was also relevant in the study, with a harder surface — such as a wood gymnasium floor — doubling the efficiency of adaptations in reactive strength.  As a result, “a high volume of training would not be necessary to induce reactive strength adaptations when a hard landing surface is used.”

Study data indicate that “when moderate volume is used during plyometric training, a hard training surface would be needed if fast SSC (stretch-shortening cycle) muscle actions, or reactive strength, are an important objective of training.”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Weak Men Can’t Jump

12 Dec

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw last summer while at Cedar Point with my daughters and their friends.  Obviously, it’s a clever play on a similar phrase.  But it’s also true, with regard to the relationship between lower-extremity strength and explosive power, and vertical jump.

Whenever I acquire a new client, I like to discuss his or her training goals.  I feel that the better I understand an athlete’s motivation for training — and what he or she hopes to derive from it — the better I can be a resource for that individual’s development and, ultimately, success.

I’ve found that tops on the list of basketball and volleyball players, and track and field “jumpers,” is the desire to increase their vertical jump.  My advice is always the same, based on volumes of research from the field of exercise science and human performance:  If you want to improve your lower-body explosive strength and increase your vertical jump, hit the weight room and focus on heavy-weight/low repetition squats and squat type exercises, and plyometrics.

Avoid the vertical jump programs that promise huge increases in your vertical jump in a relatively short period of time.  They’re mostly a waste of time and money.  You have to put in the work necessary to improve anything, including your vertical jump.  Understand that not everyone has the potential to jump like a young Michael Jordan, but everyone does have the ability to improve upon his or her jumping ability.  The goal should be to improve on your own current abilities, and not to compare yourself with what someone else can do.  Make sure you do your “homework” and consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength training professional, who can direct and supervise your training efforts.

Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches); plyometric exercises (squat jumps and box jumps); traditional strength training exercises (squats and deadlifts); and non-traditional strength training exercises (kettlebell swings and tire flips) are all examples of exercises that can help you improve your vertical jump ability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room

26 Aug

squats-strength-training[1]Every summer, I get scores of calls and emails from athletes (and parents of athletes) asking me if I can help with speed development in preparation for fall and winter sports.  Invariably, they all want me to focus on the same thing — running form, mechanics, and technique.  They feel that if I can correct and improve mechanical shortcomings, speed will improve.

I don’t dispute that running form is important, but it should be viewed as the “fine-tuning” and not the main area of focus.  I train some very fast athletes whose technique isn’t exactly “textbook” perfect.  Same goes for my highest vertical jumpers and quickest, most agile athletes.  But all the fastest athletes I train have something in common: Strong, powerful hips and legs.  They all have the ability to generate a lot of force against the ground to propel themselves forward (upward, laterally, etc.).

In his article, Why Power Development Must Come Before Speed Work, strength coach Rick Scarpulla asserts that “Power can overcome a lack of technique to an extent, but technique cannot overcome a lack of power.”

If you want to lay the groundwork for speed development, start in the weight room.  Once you have built a solid foundation of functional strength and power with exercises like squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and plyometrics, then it’s time to break out the cones, hurdles, and ladders, and hit the track or turf for your field work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

1 Jul

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There are also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but it may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is an increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Your Speed and Agility with Jump Training

20 Apr

Lead%20Photo-1[1]Research has shown a definitive correlation between jumping ability and running performance, including speed and agility.  Generally, there is a stronger correlation based on the sprint distance.  The contribution of muscle power may be most important in shorter distance sprints (for example, 60, 100, and 200 meters), although middle- and long-distance running performance is positively impacted, as well.  Development of muscle power — via jump training — should be considered as  a component for training for most sports, including both sprinters and middle- and long-distance runners.

Running velocity, including the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction quickly, has been shown to be a function of force and power production.  The high-power output associated with jumping activities has led researchers to determine that jumping tests could be used as a  predictor of running performance.

Force and power are obvious components of running ability.  Maximal squat strength has been significantly correlated to sprint performance.  So, how do you incorporate strength and power training — including jump training — into your strength and conditioning regimen in a relevant way?

Strength Training

Before you start jump training, including plyometrics, you’ve got to be strong.  In order to be safe and effective, high-intensity power training requires adequate strength.  Bilateral, lower-body strength exercises like the squat, deadlift, and Romanian deadlift will help you build a strong foundation.  Unilateral exercises like the stepup and Bulgarian split squat are more functional, requiring strength and stability

Jump Training

Plyometrics are the most effective way to build lower-extremity power.  These exercises, done correctly, are designed to help you generate the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time.  Jumping rope and jumping jacks are basic plyometric exercises, and a good place to start.  Once proficient at these exercises, you can progress to multiple, continuous box and hurdle jumps.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Your Agility with Balance Training

13 Apr

airex_balance_beam_square[1]Balance should be considered as a potential predictor of agility, according to a new Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study.  The article also cited speed and power development as having an impact on agility; and gender-specific influences  — power development having a greater impact on agility in women, and balance training having a greater impact on agility in men.

Agility isn’t simply how fast you move.  It refers to your ability to accelerate (speed up), decelerate (slow down), and change direction; and how quickly you can recognize and react to a stimulus.  We also acknowledge that agility is contingent upon ground displacement: The stronger you are through the lower extremities, the more force you can generate against the ground.  With practice, increased ground force generation equals improvements in agility-related performance.

Balance training should include unilateral lower-body exercises, such as the single-leg squat, Bulgarian split squat, stepup, single-leg Romanian deadlift; and ankle, knee, and hip balance and stability exercises (pictured).

Speed training should incorporate max effort sprints, and assisted/resisted (uphill, parachute) running.

To increase power production, perform Olympic lifts (for example, the hang clean), squat jump, single-leg squat jump (also incorporates balance), and plyometrics.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Explosive Performance with this Triad

16 Mar

1243546_10152343645707164_704678511_o-jpg[1]For most athletes, the development of explosive muscular strength is desirable, since most sports involve movements that require powerful actions.

Sprinting, jumping, and changing direction (as well as throwing, kicking, tackling, etc.) are high-intensity actions that require athletes to generate intermittent bursts of explosive strength and power.

Lower-body triple extension (hip, ankle, knee) exercises — for example, the squat — mimic explosive actions like sprinting and jumping.

Incorporate this three-component strategy into your workout to enhance explosive performance:

RESISTANCE TRAINING

Perform exercises like squats and deadlifts, with about 50% of your 1 repetition maximum (1RM); 2-3 sets of 6 repetitions.  (Don’t ignore your posterior chain.  Complement your squats and deadlifts with glute-ham raises and Romanian deadlifts.)

RESISTED SPRINTING

Pull a weighted sled.  Use a load equal to about 10-15% of your body weight (don’t go too heavy; you want to maintain proper running mechanics).  Perform 8 sets of 20-yard sprints.

PLYOMETRICS

Perform box jumps, hurdle hops, vertical jumps, and horizontal jumps.  Choose 6-8 plyometric exercises, and perform 3 sets of 3 reps for each exercise.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Get Stronger (here’s how)

2 Dec

LoadedBarbell[1]Everybody wants to look good, but the real benefit of strength training is… well… getting stronger.  Increasing your physical strength will serve you much better in the long term, whether you’re an athlete or not.

And, while the aesthetic result of working out is great, research shows that stronger people generally live longer (so there’s that).  Strength and functional fitness is the way to go.

Move better, function better, perform better.

Here are a few basic tips for improving your strength (with some information borrowed from our friends at ASD Performance):

Lift Heavy

Lifting heavy (90% 1RM) will improve strength by recruiting high-threshold motor units. The muscle fibers associated with these motor units have the most potential for increasing strength. However, they fatigue quickly.

Exercise Selection Matters

Maximal lifting is best applied to multi-joint exercises (e.g., squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls). Even though the weight is heavy, your intent should be to move the weight as fast as possible. This will ensure you’re recruiting as many fast-twitch muscle fibers as possible.

Incorporate Plyometrics

Otherwise known as jump training, plyometric training involves hop- and jump-type exercises that train and develop what’s called the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). The stretch-shortening cycle teaches the body to better utilize stored elastic energy to produce stronger and more forceful contractions. This improvement in reactive ability can also be explained by improvements in muscle-tendon stiffness. Body-weight or weighted plyometric can be utilized such as consecutive body-weight jumps over hurdles or continuous dumbbell jump squats.

Rest Longer

When bodybuilding or training for muscle growth, short rest periods are recommended between sets, such as 30-60 seconds. When training for strength, increase your rest to 2-5 minutes depending on the exercise. The loads lifted will require longer rest periods to ensure you complete the same number of reps in the subsequent sets. Your mental strength and ability to focus on the heavy set will also appreciate the longer break.

Get Your Protein

Most experts agree that active men and women should ingest 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of their target body weight, daily.  Athletes and more experienced weightlifters may require more protein, as much as a gram (or more) per pound of their target body weight, daily.  Lifting heavy weight creates a lot of muscle demand.  Feed your muscles often, with lean protein from whole foods and a quality whey protein supplement.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Combined Plyometric Training Improves Performance

7 Oct
Single-Leg Box Jump

Single-Leg Box Jump

Single-Leg Hurdle Hop

Single-Leg Hurdle Hop

Most plyometric training focuses on bilateral, vertical exercises (nothing necessarily wrong with that).  We hop and jump with two feet, in a mostly vertical plane (straight up).

Adding unilateralhorizontal, and lateral plyometric exercises is a great way to accelerate the development of explosive power, balance, and muscular endurance, according to multiple studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

It’s pretty simple to incorporate unilateral (single-leg), horizontal (forward), and lateral (side-to-side) plyometric exercises into your training, once you’ve become comfortable and proficient with more traditional plyometric exercises.

When performing unilateral plyometric exercises, it’s important to start with a low intensity level and degree of difficulty.

If you’re already doing bilateral, vertical hops and jumps as part of your training, try adding single-leg vertical, lateral, and forward hops and jumps to your routine, on flat ground.  As your strength and balance improves, add low hurdles and plyo boxes to the mix.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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