This is Part 3 of 8 Key Tips To A Better Vertical Jump. Click here for Part 1. Click here for Part 2.
This article is guest blogged by Travis Hansen, author of The Speed Encyclopedia.
He also wrote Why Acceleration is More Important than Top Speed in Most Sports and Building Your Horsepower – The Power Development Model Part 1 and Part 2, which are full excerpts from his book.
To read all his articles on this blog, click here.
8 Key Tips To A Better Vertical Jump (Part 3)
Below is the list, and I will detail each of them specifically in the sequence they are presented.
- #1 – Size
- #2 – Speed
- #3 – Strength
- #4 – Power
- #5 – Potentiation
- #6 – Technique
- #7 – Frequency
- #8 – Anterior Hip Mobility/Flexibility
Potentiation is referred to as “PAP” or Post-Activation Potentiation. This process is the increase in motor neuron excitability and activity following primarily a heavy strength exercise that results in a higher potential for power output and force production when a speed based movement that targets the same musculature is performed afterwards. For example, performing a heavy conventional deadlift at a “buffered” or light to moderate intensity will help light up and fire our lower body motor units and musculature. After the final rep is completed we can and should then capitalize off of this new state of higher function and go perform a vertical jump. This specialized training method is also referred to as Complex Training or Contrast Training in many cultures.
Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence both real world and scientific to support this strategy in any jump or speed development program. I’ve utilized this method for years with all of my athletes with great success. When employed, performances always seem to elevate and most PR’s have been set when the approach was present. Utilizing a strength based exercise with speed/power training intensity ranges (20-50%) is a great general rule of thumb with this type of training. Recovery intervals following the strength exercise should be extended out to 2-4 minutes depending on the level of athlete to enable full neural and metabolic recovery.
Please keep in mind that based on the previous information some of your approach, specifically joint angles or flexing at each lower body joint will vary, and jumping technique is always secondary to performance regulators such as power, strength, speed, and recovery, but it does play a solid secondary role in jump height. I’m going to address 3 specific techniques for the vertical jump and provide some research to support each of these. Your collective technique could give you an extra inch or two from what I’ve seen over the years.
- #1-Lower Body Loading
- #2-Arm Drive
- #3-Mastering the Jump Phases
You saw earlier that Newton’s 3rd law becomes critical during technique #1 here. We have to load or lower our mass at the hip, knee, and ankle as fast as possible to take full advantage of our stretch reflex and subsequent muscle recruitment. Those that can descend the fastest are going to jump the highest. However, my mentor and colleague Kelly Baggett did share some research with me that muscle biopsies and research suggests that those who are not inclined to jump naturally may take a more gradual period to load and squat to help power levels. Increased knee angle bend was also reported in these same individuals. Everyone will arrange their lower body joints in their own unique fashion and we should not fret about this too much. What’s important is that their is good angles present throughout and the rest should take care of itself.
Arm drive is a very critical and often neglected feature of jump technique that I witness in athletes, especially beginners who are new to jump testing. A study in 2004 from The Journal of Biomechanics showed that arm drive can positively influence vertical jump height by up to 30 %!!! 12 It also recognized greater hip muscle recruitment with concurrent arm swing action. Don’t overlook this aspect even though the legs are the main driver in jumping.
The acronym EAC emphasize the Eccentric, Amortization, and Concentric muscle contraction phases during a jump. Amortization could also represent isometric because it is, and there is no movement that is actually present and all forces acting on the body are equal momentarily after you finish squatting. Here’s a simple breakdown for you. Eccentric is the lowering phase of the jump as all extensor muscle groups at the ankle, knee, and hip are undergoing lengthening and stretching as the tissues store potential energy to use later when we actually explode upward.
Amortization refers to the electrical delay that naturally occurs once we finish squatting, and just before we go to jump up. This is a critical phase in the jump process. The longer the delay, the more stored energy will be dissipated and lost in many cases. The goal should always be to squat fast, don’t pause, and then explode up.
The last phase is the easiest for people to attain because it’s more logical by nature. Now that steps 1 and 2 are complete, all that is left to do is sky upward and set a new record. The arms should drive forward and up in a very explosive manner, and we should be trying to apply as much force into the ground as possible.
Travis Hansen was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Reno Bighorns of the NBADL for their 2010 season, and he is currently the Director of The Reno Speed School inside the South Reno Athletic Club. He is the author of The Speed Encyclopedia.