This article is part 3 in a four-part series on programming and progressing jump training for field sport athletes. Read Parts 1 and 2 here.
Let’s look at how to make things more challenging for advanced field sport athletes.
The same way you won’t max out your strength by sticking to 200 pounds on Barbell Squats from here to eternity, you can’t expect to see improvements in your explosiveness by performing standard Vertical or Broad Jumps forever.
To truly maximize your power and elasticity through jump training, you must increase training intensity over time. Proven ways to achieve this include:
- Adding external resistance
- Shortening ground contact times
- Combining planes of movement
Let’s examine how to use these different methods in practice.
Adding External Resistance
Weighted jumps have been shown to be an effective approach to developing lower body power.
Weighted Vertical Jumps are the most common resisted jump movement used for this purpose.
By holding onto a pair of light dumbbells or placing a barbell on your back, you can easily add resistance to standard Jumps. Of course, you won’t be able to jump as high with external loading. Nevertheless, it’s still a viable way to develop more power.
Interestingly, recent research has found that using a trap bar for extra resistance in a countermovement jump allows athletes to jump higher and generate greater force, power, velocity and rate of force development than with a straight barbell. So that’s something to keep in mind when deciding which resisted jump variations you’re going to perform in your workouts.
Here’s another effective way to apply external resistance:
Perform the first one or two repetitions in a set while holding a pair of dumbbells, then release them mid-set. This method “potentiates” your nervous system, allowing you to generate more power on the subsequent Jumps than using just your own body weight.
Shortening Ground Contact Times
We previously discussed the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and the difference between slow and fast SSC activities. As a reminder, movements involving longer ground contact times (> 0.25 seconds) are called slow SSC whereas movements with short contact times (< 0.25 seconds) are dubbed fast SSC.
While that’s nice to know, why should you pay any attention to ground contact times in the first place?
Because your training objectives will determine whether you should focus on short or long contact times in your workouts.
If your goal is to improve your max Vertical Jump, which is a slow SSC movement, you should perform mostly exercises with longer ground contact times, because they allow you to generate maximum force and thus, maximum jump height.
But what if you want to improve your maximal sprinting speed or be able to change directions quickly? Since both of these activities depend primarily on fast SSC utilization, you’ll want to pick exercises with shorter ground contact times to improve these qualities. Some great fast SSC exercises include:
- Hurdle Jumps
- Hurdle Hops
- Depth Jumps
Note that Lateral and Diagonal Bounds require relatively long ground contact times, making them slow SSC activities. For that reason, stick to Linear Bounds when developing fast SSC is your goal.
Using hurdles is another great way to minimize the amount of time you spend on the ground. Two variations I like are Depth Jumps over one or multiple hurdles and 3-Way Hurdle Jumps. The first exercise trains you to be more reactive linearly while the latter smoothly combines linear and lateral reactive movement.
Combining Planes of Movement
What do most weight room and track movements have in common?
Think about your Squats, Deadlifts and 40-Yard Dashes. They occur either up and down, or straight ahead.
But if you observe what happens on game day, you’ll immediately notice that sports aren’t played in a strictly vertical or linear manner. You have to possess great lateral and rotational movement ability as well. In addition, you must be able to combine movement in multiple planes into one fluid motion to truly excel on the field.
That’s why when preparing field sport athletes for the demands of their sport through jump training, multidirectional, transitional power and elasticity is the name of the game.
That’s where so-called “hybrids” (a.k.a. Jump combinations) come in. These are drills where you absorb force and then quickly transfer it into different directions. I first came across hybrids in Bobby Smith’s and Adam Feit’s excellent book, Complete Jumps Training, and have been using them with my hockey players ever since. I think they’re the missing factor in many conventional training programs that over-emphasize vertical and linear jumping.
So what exactly are hybrids?
They’re challenging, reactive, multidirectional Jump variations. They mix movement in four directions:
Note that hybrids should be reserved for advanced athletes. They’re not suitable for beginners. Below are a few examples:
90-Degree Rotational Hurdle Jump + Vertical Jump
Lateral/Medial Hurdle Hop + Broad Jump
After 1-3 Jumps, you can also explode into a short sprint of 10 to 20 meters. Such drills are very sport-specific because you must first decelerate and then get moving as fast as possible—exactly what happens dozens of times in a game.
Lateral Hurdle Jump + Sprint
Alternating 90-Degree Rotational Hurdle Jump + Sprint
For developing maximal power and elasticity through jump training that transfers to the playing field, you’ll want to take advantage of different training methods. Jumps involving external loads, fast SSC movements and multidirectional hybrids should all be used to improve your elasticity and explosiveness.
McBride, JM et al. “The effect of heavy- vs. light-load jump squats on the development of strength, power, and speed.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2002 Feb; 16(1):75-82.
Swinton, PA et al. “Effect of Load Positioning on the Kinematics and Kinetics of Weighted Vertical Jumps.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012 Apr; 26(4):906-913.
Weakley, JJS et al. “Jump Training in Rugby Union Players: Barbell or Hexagonal Bar?” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2018 Jul; Published Ahead of Print.
Flanagan, EP & Comyns, T. “The Use of Contact Time and the Reactive Strength Index to Optimize Fast Stretch-Shortening Cycle Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008 Oct; 30(5):32-38.
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