Training

Effective Vertical Jump Training


Written by

by Travis Hansen

In this article I’m going to reveal to you some quick and productive tools to enhance both your standing and running vertical jump patterns.  Traditionally, it seems to have been culturally accepted that the standing variation scales inches higher than the standing type.  In reality, some people, mainly based on their unique body structure and sport type, will excel at one or the other.  So there is a definitive predisposition factor involved here.  However, with the right approach you can enhance both to become a more complete jumper.  I’m going to label each type of jumper, along with innate physical traits for each, and then show what types of strength and training style you can use to address your objective, and a simple way to test which style of jumper you are.

The Standing Jumper:                                     The Running Jumper:

High Levels of Maximal Strength                    Lower levels of maximal strength

Increased Quad and Calf Development          Increased Hip Development

Compact and stocky build                                Leaner build

Football player or weightlifter                           Basketball or volleyball player

Good Starting Strength                                    Poor Starting Strength

Poor Reactive Strength                                    Good Reactive Strength

Average Stretch Reflex                                     Great Stretch Reflex

Normal Ankle and Calf Tendon Output            Great Calf And Tendon Output

Acceleration-Primary                                        Acceleration-Secondary

Top Speed-Secondary                                     Top Speed-Primary

 

Ok, now these are just general guidelines for each style of jumper.  This list may have been slightly modified a bit, but was derived from my friend/mentor Kelly Baggett.  After working with athletes for over a decade, this seems to be common features that each jumper possesses and makes them great at that particular type of jump.  Sometimes you will see individuals who violate these parameters and excel at both, because they are just freaks of nature.  This list applies to a majority of the athletic public.

The first thing that I want to address in this list is the value of maximal strength, and its role in dictating jump performance.  Having higher levels of max strength has strongly been shown to correlate with vertical jump performance.  In a study conducted by Carlock in 1994 that examined 64 national-level weightlifters, he found that strength levels scaled with vertical jump ability.1  There were at least 2 other studies I located that supported Carlock’s findings.  The reason exercises like the squat and deadlift work so well for enhancing standing jump capacity is because they are a specific strength exercise, meaning they train the same joint angles and muscle recruitment patterns that the vertical jump demonstrates.  This naturally allows more conversion between the two exercises.  This is not to say that max strength does not work well for the running vertical jump, because it definitely does, it’s just not quite the same.

You will also tend to notice that shorter, denser, and bulkier builds tend to dominate the standing vertical jump.  Their leverage/short femurs make it easier to move their limbs, and I imagine reduce energy leaks during the amortization phase (pause between squatting and jumping) of the jump.  Their leverage also guarantees easier maximal strength development which in turns leads to better standing jump outcomes.

Years ago, famous strength and conditioning expert James “Smitty” Smith was the first to introduce to me two distinct types of strength that affect which style of jumper you naturally are.  He referred to these strength types as “Reactive” and “Starting” Strength Styles.  Reactive Strength is a type of strength that requires some speed or pre-motion prior to jumping.  The running vertical jump is the most fitting example.  Athletes such as basketball and volleyball players get many exposures and opportunity to develop this type of strength, due to the nature of their sport.  Starting Strength on the  other hand, is a type of strength expression that involves no motion or less motion prior to your jump attempt.  Deadlift variations and the standing vertical jump are staple starting strength drills.

Now it’s pretty obvious that football players and weightlifters traditionally possess higher levels of starting strength with monster squat/deadlift performances, while basketball and volleyball players develop reactive strength better, mainly through specific practice in the running vertical jump pattern.  Although structurally, their bodies may be regulating them and gravitating them towards these sports.  You have already seen that shorter athletes have better leverage which creates higher levels of maximal strength output, and the same holds true for starting strength.  Basketball and Volleyball players on the other hand are usually taller and leaner athletic types who really hone their lower body’s natural “Stretch Reflex.”  It’s been proposed that these athletes have higher achilles tendon insertions, and long achilles tendon’s which affords them increased energy storage here which is half of the reflex equation.  The increased momentum of the mass as it loads and lands during a running vertical jump also excites the CNS and both qualities combined yield a higher running vertical jump.  These same qualities also help dictate acceleration and speed levels.  Look at Usain Bolt.  I’m pretty sure he is routinely mid to back of the pack at 40 meters in a 100 meter race, but then blows by his opponents as his longer leg length/body structure and momentum builds over the course of the race which sets the stage for greater top speed acquisition.

Now I hope that if you take away anything from this piece, it’s not an excuse to only accept the fact that you can only be successful at one style of jumping.  The fact is that any body structure has advantages and disadvantages and what is important is to continue to accentuate your strengths and remove the impact disadvantages propose on performance.  Personally, I played collegiate basketball and I’ve always been predisposed to a running jump for the aforementioned reasons, however by programming opposite of my tendencies I was able to improve my standing vertical jump from 30” to 37” over 3 years time.  I was also able to take my running vertical jump from 39” to 46” during that time.  Halfway through this video I hit a running 44” vertical jump and a full windmill off of a bounce at 5’11”.

Before I leave you, I want to show you a quick, easy, and effective assessment to determine which type of jumper you are, along with assessing yourself based off the previous guidelines I provided you at the beginning of the article.  To test to see if you are a standing vertical jumper, just set up a vertec measuring device and perform a one rep vertical jump.  Make sure to complete a thorough movement prep/dynamic warmup prior to the jump attempt.  Next perform a depth jump off a 12-18” plyometric box.  The first variation relies more upon maximal and starting strength while the second variation requires a better stretch reflex and reactive strength.  If you score better off the box then you need a more mass/strength specific routine, and if you score better on the first then you need a more speed oriented one.  Below is 2 routines that I’ve had great success with in the past with my athletes who need one or the other.

 

Standing Jump Specialization Program:

Movement Prep (10 Minutes)

Sets/Reps/Int/Rest

 

Box Squat or TBDL   2-3  5-8   80-85%   3-5 Min

Standing Vert Test            2-3         2 Min between jumps

A1. Walking Lunge   4-5  10-12 70-75%  2-3 Min

A2. GHR                   4-5  10-12 70-75% 2-3 Min

 

B1. Core Stability       2-3 12-15  60-70% 1 Min

B2. Calf Raise Variation  4-5 20-24 50-60%   1 Min

 

Running Jump Specialization Program:     

Movement Prep (10 Minutes)

Sets/Reps/Int/Rest

 

10-20 yard sprints      5     100%+   2 Min

Jump Squat     3-5   5-8   20-40%  2-3 Min

 

A1. Walking Lunge   3-4  10-12 70-75%  2-3 Min

A2.  GHR                  3-4 10-12 70-75%  2-3 Min

 

B1. Core Stability       2-3 12-15  60-70% 1 Min

B2. Calf Raise Variation  3-4 20-24 50-60% 1 Min

 

Program Notes:

* Perform Letter/Number (i.e. A1.) in a superset format.  Do one exercise then the next.

* If the reps say 10-12 make sure to use an “actual” weight you can do for the prescribed reps.

* Make sure to utilize the mandatory rest intervals to maximize energy restoration and power output levels.

* You can use this format 2x per week initially and just lower the intensity on the second day.

* Make sure to rest 3-4 days between workouts to allow for complete neuromuscular recovery.

SCIENTIFIC REFERENCES:

1-Carlock JM, Smith SL, Hartman MJ, Morris RT, Ciroslan DA, Pierce KC, Newton RU, Harman EA, Sands WA, and Stone MH.The relationship between vertical jump power estimates and weightlifting ability: a fieldtest approach. Journal of Strengthand Conditioning Research 18:

 

 

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