There's a lot of confusion surrounding vertical jump training. Some say to simply practice jumping more often, some say you need to perform Olympic lifts, and some recommend hours of stretching. Reaching the truth can be difficult, but research and experience help lead the way.
In general, solid vertical jump development comes down to five key factors:
- Being strong
- Practicing bodyweight jumping exercises
- Practicing loaded jumping exercises
- Practicing unloaded jumping exercises
- Being mobile
Although this clears up some of the confusion, it brings along its own questions. How can you fit all this into one training session? How many reps of strength work and jumps? How do I know what mobility work to do? The answer to these questions can be found in a programming method known as French Contrast training.
What is French Contrast Training?
In the French Contrast training method, you pair a heavy strength exercise with three different jump variations (bodyweight, weighted and unloaded). After this sequence, you'll need roughly 3-5 minutes of rest. This is when the mobility work can be done.
It's an advanced training technique, so beginners should probably wait until they're a bit more experienced before jumping into French Contrast training.
Here's an example of what a French Contrast training block might look like:
Heavy Strength Exercise: Split Squat x 3 reps on each leg
Bodyweight Jump: Hurdle Hop x 4 reps
Weighted Jump: DB Jump x 4 reps
Unloaded Jump: Band Accelerated Jump x 4 reps
Mobility Work: Ankle Mobility Stretches for 3-5 minutes
Repeat for 3-5 total sets
This unique combination of exercises helps your central nervous system recruit a higher number of muscle fibers during athletic movements, which increases your rate of force development. According to S&C Research: "Higher rate of force development in lower body actions is generally correlated with faster sprint speeds and greater jumping heights."
There's no question that the French Contrast Method will save you time during your training. You can cover all bases of vertical jump training in one short circuit. But it's also highly effective at increasing your vertical jump height. Through something called Post Activation Potentiation, the heavy strength work at the beginning of the circuit allows you to jump with greater height in all of the subsequent jumps. Over time with the French Contrast Method, you'll see strength gains, vertical jump improvement, and mobility enhancement – all in the same circuit.