The World’s Best Vertical Jump Exercise

The World’s Best Vertical Jump Exercise

So, you have probably heard, the best way to improve your vertical jump is by doing plyometric training. This type of training includes ballistic hops, skips, and jumps that enhance the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) in your tendons, and in particular, your golgi tendon organ (GTO). The GTO is a proprioceptive sensory receptor organ that senses changes in muscle tension. It lies at the origin and insertion of skeletal muscle fibers into the tendonsof skeletal muscle. When there is tension placed on your muscles or tendons from lifting weights or landing from a jump, for example, the GTO sends signals to inhibit the muscle from exerting too much force as a safety mechanism. This is important as it ensures you don’t strain or tear a muscle. However, structured plyometric training can inhibit or desensitize the GTO to allow your muscles and tendons to harness more kinetic energy thus giving you the ability to produce more force and power in your jumps.

Depth Drop to Box Jump Trumps Them All

The depth drop to box jump is the most effective jump training that you can do because it inhibits the GTO with the deficit drop landing. The other mechanism that makes this drill effective is that it not only has a shock method but also effectively trains all three kinds of muscle contractions. These include eccentric, isometric, and concentric muscle contractions. Training all three phases will enhance intramuscular coordination which will allow you to jump higher and get off the ground faster.

How to Do This Drill

Landing– Reach out with one foot with your toes pointing up. This is calleddorsi flexion.Step off the box and land on both feet simultaneously applying pressure through the middle of your foot. You don’t want to land on your toes or your heels. Next, focus on sinking your hips back and positioning your chest over your thighs or knees while swinging both arms back. If you look at the video, notice that when I land, both arms are being pulled down and back so there is no wasted movement. This will make the transition faster so you can get off the ground quicker! For beginners, pause on the landing to ensure good mechanics and posture. As you progress, decrease ground contact time.

Transition– This phase of the jump is all about joint stiffness. As soon as your feet hit the ground, don’t allow your hips to continue dropping toward the ground. To avoid this, think about landing like a brick hitting the floor versus a slinky. This shock mechanism will help you improve the rate of force absorption allowing you to transition into your take off quicker.

Take Off– This is the part of the drill that everyone emphasizes. However, if the landing and transition are not efficient or done properly, the opportunity for an explosive take off will be minimized. To decrease your take off time and increase your jump height, push through the ground swinging your arms forward and upward. Think about driving through your big toe and rapidly extending your hips to get triple extension.

If you emphasize each aspect of the depth drop (landing, transition, and take off), you will notice more pop off the ground and increase your vertical jump height.

Program Implementation

After doing a proper warm up, you can include the depth drop to box jump drill before your strength training routine or superset with a compound lower body exercise like squats. When doing plyometrics drills, you want to focus on quality not quantity so keep the reps low and gradually increase the volume by adding more sets as your training progresses.

Week 1-2: 2×5

Week 3-4: 3×4

Week 5-6: 4×4


5 Best Exercises to Increase Your Speed

5 Best Exercises to Increase Your Speed

I often get the question, “which is more important for speed, mechanics or strength?” I think it’s important to understand that speed is not a one or the other concept. In order to move fast, you need to have proper mechanics, AND you need to be able to put a lot of force into the ground.

Think of it like a car—if you put a set of racing tires on a Prius, it’s going to control the power extremely well, but that’s not going to make it fast. Alternatively, if you put a Lamborghini’s engine on a lawn mower, there’s not a chance you will be able to control that power. Speed is the same thing. We must have the knowledge and practice of how to move our bodies properly and efficiently, but we need to be building a bigger engine to produce more power through our efficient mechanics. I have compiled what I think to be the 5 best exercises to help you harness that power and increase your speed.

Squat                                                                                                       

The squat is absolutely essential for any speed training program. Squats target many of the important muscles related to sprinting including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.

Squats have a unique versatility to them. With numerous variations, they have the ability to strengthen the muscles necessary for sprinting in different ways.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

The RDL is another very important exercise if your intentions are to increase your speed. The RDL is designed to target your Posterior Chain, specifically your glutes and hamstrings.

These muscles are the ones responsible for your top speed. The ability to produce a lot of force horizontally is what keeps you ahead of your opponent.

Sled Push

Sled pushes are an awesome blend of strength training and biomechanics training. They can be done with varying amount of weight to increase or decrease difficulty. Sled pushes give you the ability to focus on sprinting mechanics while building the strength necessary to maximize your speed.

Depth-Drop Jumps

Depth-drop jumps utilize our Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) through means of Plyometric forces. This means that dropping from a height requires your muscles/ligaments to stretch and absorb energy, then rapidly contract and release that energy by jumping immediately after contacting the ground. This exercise gets your lower body producing a lot of powerful force, and when used right, gets you sprinting very fast (and jumping higher too).

Three-Way Plank

A list of exercises to improve speed would be amiss if it did not include something for the core. Having a strong core is essential for speed. Force cannot adequately transfer from your foot to your head if there is a weak spot in-between.

The three-way plank is great because it forces you to strengthen the muscles in your core that you utilize while sprinting.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of exercises that improve speed. And by no means should your training program only comprise of these exercises, but this is a great place to start. What is your favorite exercise for improving speed?


Decrease Injury with Deceleration Training

Decrease Injury with Deceleration Training

Sports are becoming increasingly competitive. In order to even be considered as a potential starter, athletes have to prove themselves. Coaches look for not only the most skilled athletes but also the most athletic. Parents and athletes are more aware of the importance of strength and conditioning training than ever before. As a result, most young athletes are falling into three categories:

  1. Athletes that have not been exposed to structured strength training techniques or speed and agility protocol. This group is at risk of overuse and soft tissue injuries because their joints and ligaments are not resilient and are susceptible to strains, tears, and stress fractures.
  2. Athletes that have been exposed to strength and conditioning along with speed and agility training, but have not been taught by a professional. Learning improper movement patterns and stressing them with high loads is a dangerous combination and will lead to injury.
  3. Athletes that have been exposed to a progressive periodized strength program that is appropriate for their age and experience. This group will have a solid foundation of strength, coordination, speed, agility, and power. They will have the advantage of performance benefits and less injury risk.

If we break down sports or athletics into its simplest form, it is a series of complex movements through multiple planes. Some are predictable and some are unpredictable. In order to prepare for sports, athletes must be able to tolerate the forces produced in their sport. If the forces required in the sport exceed the athlete’s ability to produce or absorb that amount of force, they are at greater risk for injury. It is estimated that there are around 80,000 ACL injuries each year. Let’s look into why these injuries may be occurring.

In the sports performance industry athletes are attracted to buzz words like speed, explosiveness, power, and vertical jump. All of these terms focus on acceleration movements or concentric muscle contractions. Putting a disproportionate focus on power and explosiveness will lead to a deficit in the ability to properly control the body when decelerating. Training specifically in the acceleration phase will primarily use concentric movements. In the leg we find that the quadriceps will become over-dominant and create an excessive amount of stress on the ACL. Therefore, it is important that athletes train athletes to use the hamstrings and glutes when decelerating, should be in our top priorities.

A lot of trainers and coaches don’t teach proper deceleration or landing mechanics. They may assume athletes know how to slow down, stop, and land. Now, they may be right in that most athletes can execute that task. However, the better question is can they slow down, stop, or land “properly”? Research supports that there are IDEAL positions and angles that athletes can put themselves in that will allow them to significantly decrease risk for injury simply by being in the right position while cutting, sprinting, or landing from a jump.

In order for athletes to prepare for the demands of their sport, it is important to incorporate these three elements into training:

  1. Emphasize the end of the drill – When performing agility or sprint drills, athletes should intently come to a complete stop abruptly when ending the drill instead of jogging or coasting. To decelerate, lower the hips and slightly over reach by contacting the ground in front of the hips. This will help enhance breaking ability over time.
  2. Focus on force reduction deceleration technique – Start deceleration drills off with an agility ladder and only perform the drills at 70%.  Really focus on digging the foot into the ground, coming to a complete stop, and maintaining low hips and proper body angle. Progress by increasing speed and more complex agility/plyometric drills.
  3. Add tempo into strength training – Emphasize the eccentric phase or the muscle lengthening phase of the lift. For example, instead of doing regular squats, descend down into the squat slowly for 3-10 seconds to work on controlling the load. Isometrics are also a great way to improve deceleration ability. Let’s use the same squat as an example. Descend down into the bottom of the squat and pause for 2-10 seconds before exploding upwards.

Linear Deceleration Technique

  • Hips down – 45 degree angle
  • Knees bent – Avoid <20 degrees of knee bend
  • Lean back – Contact should be nearly 45 degrees. Opposite of power line
  • Heel contact – Contact should begin with heel, roll to ball of foot, and press firmly into ground
  • Multiple steps – Spreading the force out of multiple steps greatly reduces chance of injury

Deceleration Drills

Linear Cone Drill

  • Set up cones 3 yards apart, sprint to the cones, decelerate into a lunge, backpedal to cones. Continue for designated sets/reps.

Lateral Hurdle Run w/ Pause

  • Set up 3-5 hurdles, laterally run over the hurdles, focus on a deep pause for about 2 seconds when changing direction.

Ickey Shuffle

  • Set up a ladder, run diagonally across the ladder, 2 feet in, 1 foot out. Focus on proper hip/knee angles on outside of ladder.

Depth Drop

  • Drop from a depth of 6”-18”, land simultaneously with both feet, very little/no hip drop, hips back, knees bent. Pause for 2 seconds.

Increase Your Speed with Plyometric Training

Increase Your Speed
with Plyometric Training

When you hear the term “plyometric,” most people think of jumping or jump training. However, plyometric is defined as an action that causes a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest time possible. We can take the term “plyometric” and directly apply it to speed training. Before we do, let’s review how the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) contributes to increasing your speed with plyometric training by breaking down the three types of muscle contractions.

  1. Eccentric Phase – This is the lowering phase where the muscle lengthens.
  2. Isometric Phase – The static muscle contraction that acts as the bridge between the eccentric and concentric phase.
  3. Concentric Phase– This is the phase when the muscle contracts and shortens to move the external load.

Anytime you perform dynamic movement you are utilizing the SSC. For example, let’s take a typical squat. When descending downward, your hips move back. Your knees bend. The quads, hamstrings, and glutes lengthen. This is the eccentric phase of the squat. At the end of the eccentric phase, right before you transition upward, there is a slight pause at the bottom of the squat. This is the isometric phase. As you transition upward, your quads, hamstrings, and glute muscles shorten. This causes your knees and hips to extend, completing the concentric phase.

Now that we have gone over the SSC, let’s dive into the relationship between plyometrics and the SSC. We know that plyometric is a rapid, maximal force movement.  The stretch-shortening cycle is a 3-phase muscle contraction involved in dynamic movements. Now how do they relate to one another? Plyometric training helps enhance the SSC by rapidly going through the eccentric, isometric, and concentric phases. This trains dynamic movements like sprinting and jumping to be more efficient and explosive.

So, how can you increase your speed with plyometric training? If we separate the three phases of the SSC and train them individually, you will see an overall increase in speed. We train the eccentric part of a movement to be able to absorb more energy and power. We then train the isometric phase, so that the force we generated and absorbed in our eccentric phase is not lost in transition from eccentric to concentric and actually adds to the force production. Finally, we focus on the concentric phase, ensuring that we get the highest rate of force development out of the movement.

  1. Eccentric – Train slow and focus on your landing! Allow your muscles to recruit the necessary energy in the weight-room and spend 3-8 seconds on the way down in each exercise. When jumping, focus on the initial contact to the ground–don’t waste the energy produced. Avoid knees going in or out, hips swaying, or chest falling forward.
  2. Isometric – Train at a stop, hold the landing! Allow your muscles to maintain the energy that has been produced. Get to the bottom of your exercise and hold it for 3-8 seconds. When jumping, land properly, then hold that landing position for 2 full seconds before standing up.
  3. Concentric – Train fast and focus on exploding! Allow your muscles to use the energy produced, come out of the bottom of the exercise quickly, but don’t sacrifice form!

(Pro tip: Decrease the amount of weight when doing concentric training until you can adequately control that weight.)

When jumping, focus on the up portion being as explosive as you can make it. Throw your chest to the sky, keep your knees in line with your toes, and launch your hips through.

In a relatively short amount of time you will see an increase in speed by integrating plyometric training and emphasizing the SSC. A comprehensive program to increase speed should include an effective warm up, speed training, plyometrics, and strength and power movements. Be sure to rest 48 to 72 hours between plyometric workouts to maximize results!

 

 


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