Week 4: Depth Drop Jump
Hopefully you’ve already started to implement the training methods discussed over the last three weeks (5 Ways to Improve Your Vertical, Increasing Squat Strength Increases Vertical, and Jump Variations) and are building a great foundation for this week’s method.
What we will discuss below is more than likely something most people are not ready for. That’s okay. Patience will get you a long way in life and training. Hopefully you gain a better understanding of a long-term plan and have something to look forward to putting into your training toolbox.
Plyos or Jump Training? What the difference?
We have all heard the term plyometric training thrown around in the training world. Jump training and plyometrics are two very different things. Jump training looks more like last week‘s exercises where you are starting from a static position or even a normal countermovement jump performed as a single repetition.
Plyometrics are also known as shock training. The term shock is referring to an increased fall to the ground usually in the form of depth jumps – where you are stepping off of an elevated box. The “shock” happens when you hit the ground with much higher forces than typically seen. The shock method is an advanced protocol that is not meant for novice athletes. Progression must be implemented over years of training for plyometrics to be effective and safe. Plyometrics are also any exercise where a series of jumps are performed repetitively with minimal ground contact time.
When performing an exercise – such as hurdle hops – where an athlete will jump over multiple hurdles in succession, it is important to identify what the goal is. The goal should be focused more on minimizing ground contact time and maintaining posture and technique while jumping. Hurdle hops, like box jumps, can have negative effects on technique if height of the hurdle/box is emphasized too much. Very rarely will an athlete pull their knees to their chest when jumping for sport or in a combine setting trying to impress scouts with their vertical jump. With that being said, if a young athlete is barely clearing a hurdle and is slower than molasses getting back off the ground, the hurdles are too high and the training effect will be much different.
Depth jumps are one of the most powerful exercises an athlete can use to improve their explosive abilities. Typically, you will set up a box the same height as your standing vertical jump. Step off the box landing on two feet in our loaded power position. You will immediately jump up as high as possible into the air after landing.
An extremely fast stretch is happening at the ankle and knee while this is happening. Just like a rubber band builds up tension, your tendons are building up a lot of kinetic energy that can be used in your jump. Like we discussed last week with a static jump you are relying more on your muscle contractions to jump. We still use our muscles in plyometrics, but the speed of contraction is much greater with the help of the elasticity of our tendons. Remember: to develop power you must increase force, velocity, or both. Strength training and static jumps improve the force, and plyometrics will improve the velocity.
Progression is everything
If you want to perform plyometrics safely you need a plan to get there.
- Learn proper jumping technique (week 1).
- Get stronger with basic barbell lifts (week 2). Many coaches recommend being able to squat 2x your bodyweight before implementing plyos. Specifically, you will want to improve/emphasize eccentric strength as the fall from the box to the ground is creating a massive eccentric force that you will have to be able to absorb. It’s the fall that can be dangerous for an unprepared athlete, not the jump.
- Perform lower level plyos like low box (6-12”) depth jumps or repetitive pogo hops to condition the structure of the lower leg to be able to handle these forces.
How the Stretch Reflex Works
The stretch shortening cycle (SSC) or stretch reflex is a powerful mechanism found in the human body. First off – it is referring to the muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs (GTO) which are receptors that measure changes in stretch and tension of a muscle. Think of when a doctor taps your knee with a mallet. They are tapping the patellar tendon, which will then lead to a small stretch in the quadriceps muscle; muscle spindles will detect this and send a signal to the brain, leading to a counter action of a rapid contraction of the same muscle. This is obviously useful to prevent injury but is also a trainable mechanism that can lead to dramatic improvements in jumping and sprinting ability. With every stride you take when sprinting this is occurring. When you see a basketball player running up for a highlight reel dunk this is happening just prior to them leaving the ground.
That concludes our four-week vertical jump series. You now have the knowledge of what you should be focusing on and how to progress your training to achieve greater jumping ability. No matter the sport you play every athlete needs to be more athletic. Improve your vertical jump and you are on a great track to doing just that!