Escalating Jump Training
Plyometric training is one of the most common methods to enhance an athlete's power output and athleticism. No matter the sport, all athletes need the ability to produce tremendous amounts of force in the shortest time. As an athlete, using plyometrics will allow you to separate yourself from your competition with explosive movements and rapid force production.
At Westside, we have long understood the benefits of combining plyometric training with barbell training to induce improvement in an athlete's ability to demonstrate high levels of speed and speed-strength. Whether an athlete needs to improve vertical jump height, running/sprinting speed, agility, or improve injury resistance, plyometrics can help improve performance in a way that optimally transfers to competition.
Jumping is one of the most common plyometric exercises used at Westside Barbell. We use jumping to enhance the power output, athleticism, and rate of force development for all our athletes. In the past, we have even had some of our powerlifters utilize plyometric training to enhance power in the squat and deadlift.
With jumping, programming and execution is critical. Plyometric exercises must be programmed correctly, particularly when combined with barbell training. Programming plyometric exercises is not exactly rocket science, but you must possess some baseline knowledge to ensure your training volume and intensity is correct and that you are training at a level that is best suited for you or your athletes.
Too often, individuals either overshoot or undershoot with their jump training program, leading to either a lack of results or excessive fatigue caused by improper plyometric training volume or intensity. As with any training method or exercise, it is only as effective as your ability to program and execute the plan properly.
Optimal jump training features a controlled escalation of training based on intelligent increases in difficulty level, training volume, and training intensity. Additionally, the training must meet the athlete at the level of athleticism they are currently at. Failure to do so can significantly increase the risk of excessive fatigue or injury.
Some athletes will walk in off the street and be capable of training plyometrics at an intermediate or advanced level. Others may spend considerable time working at a beginner or intermediate level. The approach should match the individual.
Here are a few jump exercise variations we recommend for beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level athletes:
As an athlete new to plyometrics or jumping, it is crucial to educate yourself in the proper execution of any exercise or variation you perform. Remember, if you are an athlete, you have performed plyometrics most of your life. However, depending on strength, coordination, and conditioning, you can be an experienced athlete and still need to work through a beginner-level jump program.
At Westside, we typically use box jumps when executing a jump program. As a beginner, we recommend choosing between three types of box jumps; static box jumps, step-in box jumps or seated box jumps. The static box jump is just as the name implies; you will stand in place and jump to a box. The step-in jump means the athlete no longer remains static and will now take one step to load into the jump. The seated box jump employs a box, with the athlete sitting on a low box to load, then jumping onto a higher box.
Each of these exercises should be fairly easy for an athlete to learn. Initial success will ultimately depend on the volume and intensity management provided by the programming. At Westside, we recommend 40 jumps per workout, typically executed using a 4 x 10 set and rep format. However, this volume level may be difficult for a beginner to complete due to issues with conditioning.
In this case, we will cut the volume in half and begin using a 4 x 5 set and rep format. By lowering the volume, the athlete can focus on execution and intent without being overcome by fatigue. When working with beginners, reducing the volume also allows a coach to see if the athlete is genuinely struggling with the execution of the exercise or if fatigue is the limiting factor and conditioning needs to be addressed.
Once the issue holding the athlete back is discovered, it can then be addressed, and the athlete can begin performing the exercises using optimal volume levels. Additionally, coaches must ensure their athletes understand basic jumping procedures regarding how to execute a jump's eccentric and concentric portions properly, sit into a seated jump, or land safely once depth jumps enter the equation.
Once an athlete has displayed competency in both the programming and execution of a basic jump program, it is time to move on to intermediate-level jump training. We will still employ the static box jump, step-in box jump, and seated box jump at the intermediate level. However, we will also add depth jumps into the mix. This exercise raises the stakes but also the potential for athletic improvement.
When performing depth jumps, you will drop in from a specified height, load into a quarter squat, and jump vertically. For athletes new to depth jumps, we recommend starting with a drop in height of 12-20". As ability and execution improve, you can increase the height, with the end goal being 30". Remember, a 30" drop in height is for advanced athletes, so correctly estimate abilities.
The most important part of the depth jump is how the athlete lands. A proper landing means the athlete lands on the balls of the feet, allowing for ideal impact absorption. Avoid landing on the heels, as this can significantly increase the risk of injury. If an athlete consistently demonstrates the inability to execute a proper depth jump, avoiding the exercise is recommended.
Depth jumps are high-intensity jumps and can provide tremendous rewards when executed correctly. Incorrect programming and execution can negatively affect athletic ability and sports performance. We recommend no more than thirty total reps each workout when executing depth jumps.
Once an athlete has demonstrated a high level of capability with the aforementioned exercises, it is time to escalate to an advanced level of jump training. At this level, we will continue performing the jumps we have been performing, but with increased difficulty. This means adding weighted jumps, change of direction jumps, single-leg jumps, and increasing the box heights used.
By doing this, we further avoid accommodation and provide the athlete with continued challenge and stimulus that will lead to further training adaptations despite already possessing a high level of athletic ability. The coach must change the questions when the athlete comes up with the correct answers. As athleticism improves and movements become easier to execute, the movements must increase in difficulty or intensity for continued progress to be made.
Keep in mind, despite the added levels of difficulty that come with training at an advanced level, the volume recommendations will remain the same. We will still execute 40 total jumps when performing static, step-in, or seated box jumps using a 4 x 10 set and rep scheme. When performing depth jumps, we will perform 30 jumps using a 6 x 5 set and rep scheme.
Visit our website for more information regarding how we implement plyometric exercises at Westside Barbell, along with articles and books to help improve your understanding of all aspects of strength and conditioning.