Tag Archives: vertical jump

Weak Men Can’t Jump

9 Sep

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw this 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.


Your thoughts?

Add Squats to Run Faster

14 Aug

squats-strength-training[1]At my facility, we encourage squats — and squat-type exercises — to improve sprint performance.  Research has also shown that squats can improve vertical jump and agility performance in athletes who perform the exercise regularly (athletes who swim, throw, and swing can also benefit from squats, which covers just about everyone).  Squats are a great choice to build the strength and power necessary to generate force against the ground, which is integral to speed, agility, and jump performance.

Recently, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research further corroborated the relationship between squats and sprint speed.  In their study, researchers found that athletes who did squats increased their sprint speed by 10% compared with those who did not do the exercise.

In addition to the Barbell Back Squat (pictured), try these squat variations:

  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  • Split Squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Single-Leg Squat


Your thoughts?

Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room

1 Jul

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.


Your thoughts?

Improve Your Vertical Jump Performance with Jump Training

1 May

Hockey-Squat-Jump[1]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.


Your thoughts?

If You Want to Get Bigger, You’ve Got to Get Stronger

31 Oct

I train lots of athletes who want to get “bigger.”  Although the focus at ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE TRAINING CENTER is helping athletes get stronger and faster, I certainly understand the importance of adding mass… especially when progressing to the next level (for example, JV to varsity or high school to college).  It’s important to understand a couple of things:  The process of getting bigger and adding mass is about calories.  Strength training, in and of itself, won’t necessarily make you bigger – you need adequate calories to fuel that growth.  Additionally, moving that additional mass requires the development of considerably greater strength and power.

Consider this:  What would happen to your vertical jump height, 40-yard dash time, and agility if you wore a 10 lb. weighted vest?  You can apply this same principle to gaining ten pounds.  Without a well-designed Strength and Conditioning program, your additional poundage is just going to slow you down.

Before proceeding, think about the following:

  • Why do you want to get bigger/gain weight?
  • How/why do you think adding mass will benefit you?
  • How much weight do you want to gain?
  • Do you have a specific plan to gain weight sensibly?
  • Do you have a Strength and Conditioning plan to offset the added weight? (remember, you don’t want to just maintain your current level of strength, speed, and power; you want to improve/increase it!)
  • Is your training plan periodized (to address sport seasonality) and progressive (increasing intensity over time)?

Regarding the last two points, I would strongly encourage you to enlist the help of a qualified and experienced Strength and Conditioning professional.  He or she can provide guidance while ensuring consistent improvement, growth, and development.

Healthy Ways to Gain Weight

  • Eat “good” calories:  Choose foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
  • Eat more:  Calories ingested must exceed calories burned.
  • Eat more often:  Try to eat six times per day.
  • Drink calories:  Shakes and smoothies can include ice cream, yogurt, milk, and/or peanut butter.  Stay away from diet drinks and sodas.
  • Aim for balance:  Each meal or snack should contain lean protein, clean carbs, and healthy fat.
  • Fuel your workout:  Observe healthy pre– and post-workout nutrition.
  • Slowly but surely:  Adding between 1/2 lb. and 1 lb. per week is a reasonable goal.

Maintain and Build Your Strength and Speed

  • Train movements, not muscles:  Your focus should be on multi-joint exercises.
  • High weight, low reps:  That’s how you build strength and power.
  • Challenge yourself:  If it’s too easy, it’s not enough.
  • Stick to the basics:  Exercises like the squat, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, bench press, and row should be incorporated into your training plan.
  • Train on one leg (or, with one arm):  Single-leg exercises like the squat, stepup, and Bulgarian split squat are functional and will help accelerate strength gains.
  • Add plyometrics:  These must-do exercises are a great complement to Strength training, and will have a positive impact on linear speed, vertical jump, and agility.


Your thoughts?

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