Shock training or plyometrics is developed by a sudden stretch preceding any voluntary effort. Kinetic Energy and not heavy weights must be used. Depth jumps and med ball re-bounding are two common means used. Dr. Verkhoshansky, the father of plyometrics first thoughts came by observing triple jumpers and how powerful the jumps were after each landing. This he knew, that the powerful jumps came after the athletes falling body reacted to the impact of the contact to the ground. This made Verkhoshansky aware of the stretch-shortening action by the use of kinetic energy. Many believe that plyometric’ s are dangerous, they can be without the proper knowledge of general weight and jump training before engaging in depth jumps. While depth jumps build explosive strength, they also build absolute strength by using different heights to achieve a certain goal. How many drops are done in one workout for the intermediate or advanced. You will note Olympic lifting is never mentioned when the goal is developing explosive power or strength. Why?

Strength is not measured in heavy or light weights. What is a heavy 300lb squat for a female sprinter would be light for a world class shot putter. So how can one weight be heavy and light? It can’t, but rather fast or slow. Strength is measured in velocities.

Explosive = fast velocity

Speed Strength = intermediate velocity

Strength Speed = low velocity

Isometric = zero velocity

This is explained on pg. 150 in Supertraining sixth edition 2003

Are depth jumps and bounding safe?

Just as safe as running, jumping or many other ballistic sport activities. What makes them unsafe is a lack of a complete training system. Before the subject of plyometric training, we must first prescribe a sound weight training and jump training. Let’s look at the three proven methods of weight training.

1. Maximal Effort Method

This is the greatest method of strength training for improving both intermuscular and intramuscular coordination, as your body only adapts to the load placed on it. Then to use after a warm up to single attempts until setting a new record. Stop for the day and 7 days later switch a special barbell exercise and max out once more. This is low volume, highest intensity training followed by 3-4 small special exercises.

2. The Dynamic Method

This method improves the rate of force development and speed and explosive strength. It is no use to build maximal strength, but certainly had a lot to do with its development. As your max’s go up are you able to maintain the same bar speed at sub maximal weights. 50% of speed strength should be at 50% to 60% of a one rep max with 25% band tension at the lockout. Roughly 0.8 to 0.9 m/s on average. This is mechanical power.

3. The Repetition Method

This method should not be done in the classical lift, but in small exercises. Especially for the posterior chain. Note: the posterior chain is talked about all the time, but I see athletes constantly lack strength in that area. 80% of Westside training is small, special exercises, while only 20% are classical.

4. The Maximal Effort Method

This method uses slow velocity while the dynamic method uses intermediate velocity. The two methods make it possible to absorb the harsh training plyometric domains of the athlete. Explosive strength is trained at fast velocity. It is trained by a variety of special exercises with and without weights or other resistance.

Basic Jump Program

A group of jumping exercises that first came from dance and later incorporated into weight lifting and track and field. Seated press on the floor. All around consider kneeling squats front and back, jumping on the feet. Power clean off knee’s onto feet, power snatch off knees onto feet and power clean or snatch off knees onto feet split style. Add weights when possible while keeping records on each type of jump.

Next, box jumping with weights, use kettlebells, weight vest, ankle weights and combos of all types. Keep records of every type, always rotating each jump session to avoid accommodation. 40 jumps per workout for the very strong or at least advanced athlete 18yrs and older. To round out the athletes preparatory phase, power walk with sleds. This will build strong jumping and running muscles as well as thicker ligaments and tendons including the feet where many career ending or at least season injuries occur. Westside DVD’s cover all the above info on the volume and intensity. The coach and athlete must learn to train smarter not harder like ACDC said, it’s a long road if you want to reach the top.  Now you are ready for plyometric training. Like all the shock methods can be taxing, plyometrics are no different.

So before depth jumps let’s look at several types of bounding with ground contact under 0.2 of a second.

            1. Single take-off jumps on stairs

            2. Leg to leg jumps: single, triple, 5’s and 10’s

            3. Double leg jumps over 5-10 or 15 low hurdles

            4. Double leg jumps over high hurdles of 40-42”

            5. Slow bounds with submaximal effort in a controlled style

            6. Frog jumps

            7. 3 jumps off left foot then 3 jumps off right foot

            8. 20-40/60 meter leg to leg bounds with light resistance 10-20-30lbs with Bulgarian bag

            9. Standing long jumps (keep records)

          10. Standing long jumps with kettlebells, release before landing

The above jumps should be done and weight lifting dynamic or max effort with a 30 minute rest from the barbell lifts.

Explosive Weight Jumps

Do single to a triple with 30% of a one rep max or 10 – 15% of a one rep max with kettlebells or Bulgarian bags for 10 – 20 reps, stop when fatigue sets in.  While Dr. Verkhoshansky uses contracts training with a heavy barbell for 1-2 reps at 90% immediately followed by 30% barbell jumps, Westside uses band resistance by the barbell for an over speed eccentric phase to produce more kinetic energy for re-usable strength and the bands give accommodation to eliminate bar deceleration.

Depth Jumps

First, what is the goal? Explosive power or absolute strength?

The height of the drop will determine the outcome. 36 inch drops and lower will build explosive power. Drop jumps of 45 inches and higher will build absolute strength but can be very dangerous, never for beginners or large, over 125kg athletes.  To time of the fall until ground contact will determine the amortization phase or shock absorption phase which must be 0.2 of a second or faster to be considered a plyometric action. When falling from a greater height, the shock absorption phase will be longer, mainly training a strong isometric contraction in the leg muscles. 4 sets of 10 drops for the advanced and 3 sets of 8 drops for well trained. Remember the amortization phase is most important. In the beginning drop off a low box 12-16-20 inches. The coach must analyze the time spent on the ground just like sprinting, the less ground contact, the better.

Depth Drops vs. Depth Jumps

Depth drops will provide the ability to absorb the shock of the fall, but are not as effective due to not using an energetic take off to develop reactive ability. Like many things there are many varieties of depth jumps, but like box squats there is only one correct method. Note: I am always amazed that great sport scientist like Dr. Verkhoshansky spent years perfecting the perfect technique in a proven exercise, only to have un-experienced coaches use their own ideas that lead to less than favorable results, then assume the inventor was wrong in his assumption of its value. So to reduce the risk of injuries and to make depth jumps as valuable to the athlete as possible. I will describe Dr Verkhoshansky’s method for performing the exercise.

Depth Jump

The athlete must start with arms behind the back, then step off a pre-determined height box with one leg stepping forward at the start of the fall. Now bring the other leg forward to even. After stepping off the box the legs must be straight. Remember do not jump but fall from the box forward, straight down to the landing surface.

How to Land

The athlete must land on both legs simultaneously on the balls of the feet, then back on the heels. Now, upon landing be flexible to cushion the surface contact before the takeoff.

The Takeoff Phase

The athlete now must jump as high as possible. One can set a vertical jump tester to establish the height to reach. Try new records and keep records from different height drops. I prefer to drop jump from a pre-determined box and jump upward on the second box. This is somewhat less taxing because your velocity is near zero upon landing on an elevated box. When jumping upward to touch a new height you now must once again do a safe landing to try to land as easy as possible on the balls of both feet with a flexible surface (rubber mats or foam).

Note: Because depth jumps can alter the work load to such an extent you must limit some squatting and pulling exercises during depth jump training.

Westside uses the recommendations of Dr. Verkhoshansky. 4 sets of 10 jumps two times a week. Average drop height is 30 inches. 3 sets of 8 jumps for not so advanced, meaning well trained and very strong. Our weight jumps use the same loading. Remember you must be physically prepared to do depth jumps. Weight training for max strength, speed strength and explosive through jumping up onto boxes. A large base for GPP is sled work, wheel barrow push and 80% of the training must be small special exercises.

Recommended Reading:
Supertraining by Mel Siff; Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M Zatsiorsky; Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches by Y. Verkhoshansky; Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sports by Y.V. Verkhoshansky; Explosive Power and Jumping Ability by T. Starzynski and H. Sozanski PHD; Lifts DVD by Natalia Verkhoshansky

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