In our system, we ran two main types of jumps: box jumps (or explosive strength variations) and true plyometric jumps. Box jumps develop more explosive strength and typically start with the athlete on the ground jumping up and landing on a box. Plyometrics build more elastic or reactive strength. The jump involves the athletes being off the ground, returning to the ground, and rebounding back up for another jump as fast as possible. This action has to be an involuntary reaction to be a truly effective plyometric by definition.
During this landing phase, there is a high level of eccentric and neuromuscular stress, which is good. We just need to be careful how often and at what intensities we play our ace card. All too often coaches try to draw on this training method year round and I’ve witnessed it cause decreased performance and increased injury.
Watch her knees when she lands. Great job! Explosive strength options (or jump variations) vary from plyometric options because there is less of a stretch reflex involved when performing them, especially at the lower leg. For this reason, we use these types of jumps for the majority of the year. We are going to spend the majority of our time working on our weaknesses. Then when it’s time to get ready or when we need it most, we utilize our strength (plyometrics). The athletes are already familiar with drawing on their stretch reflex for force production. They have been doing this their entire lives and it is what they will automatically go to in a maximal effort or sport situation.
The nature of the box jumps also allows us to train explosiveness at a higher frequency and volume than we can with true plyometrics. We get more bang for our buck and less wear and tear on our athletes. If you were to train true plyometrics at 80 jumps per week, there would be a greater chance of injury. This is especially true when you take into consideration the athletes' practice schedule and often lack of physical preparation for true plyometric exercises. With the amount of off-season practice and play their sport requires, they get more than enough plyometric stimulation.
Yes, 80 jumps per week is what Yuri Verkoshansky recommended for athletes. The carryover is lost when you don’t take into consideration that his athletes didn’t have to endure three-hour basketball practices, four hours of sleep per night, and terrible nutrition in addition to his 80 plyometric jumps.
Playing Your Ace Card: When and How to Put the Icing on the Cake
- Movements must be involuntary and reactive in nature. The ground contact times must be minimal to be truly effective. If the athletes are on the ground too long you must fix this (lower hurdle height, cueing the athlete, lower step down box height, etc.).
- These methods are very stressful for the athletes. We use them sparingly and typically save them for when the athletes' most important competition is approaching if this is the stimulus they need. Not all athletic activities are reactive in nature. Some require maximal acceleration from a static position.
- Start low intensity and volume and build your way up. Typically do not increase volume more than 20% week to week. Consider this Buddy Morris quote: “Build tolerance by training extensive to intensive.”
- These are usually paired with our max effort work and dynamic effort work in a superset fashion to take advantage of post-activation potentiation (PAP). We usually only pair our jumps/throws lane when we start our peaking cycles. If you draw on a resource (PAP) too often or for too long, it will lose its effectiveness. Remember, with high CNS stimulation also comes higher risk of fatigue.
- Take into consideration the type of movement your athletes perform (reactive versus static to dynamic). As they near their peaking phase, use the type of jump movements that most closely resemble their athletic needs.
Just like any other lane of the conjugate system, you have to have a reason for implementing the stimulus you choose. The jumps and throws lane is no different! Start from your major competition date and work backward when you are programming. This will allow you to direct the traits your athletes are developing or chasing in their training. Remember, it’s never black and white; you can’t predict where they will be (linear periodization) but you can steer them in the right direction (conjugate)!
Here are some examples of each kind of jump.
- Box Jump
- Seated Box Jump
- Box Jumps with Weight
- Seated Foot Slam Box Jump
- Kneeling Jump
- Jump Rope
- Six-Inch Box Scissor Jump
- Lateral Six-Inch Reactive Box Jump
- Step-Off Box Jump
- Hurdle Hops
In my book (coming soon to elitefts.com), I will cover specific examples of how and when to incorporate each type of jump and plyometric variation. Upper body options will also be covered.