When searching for ways to increase your vertical jump, you will undoubtedly read about plyometrics and weight training. Some will argue about why you should focus one one or the other. Smarter resources will speak to the value of both in an athletes training, as they are both great tools to help you jump higher. Even better coaches will recognize that they are both pieces of a complete 360 degree training approach that will lead to maximum results.
The why for weight training is a simple concept. As you get stronger you have more strength to use, and strength via force is proven to be a variable to directly contributes to you jumping higher. The limitations of why it’s not the only aspect of training you need to focus on is also pretty clear once you think about it. Why does the skinny kid you know on the basketball team out jump many power lifters or guys competing on worlds strongest man? Those giant lifters are clearly stronger, they can undoubtedly squat way more weight. So what gives?
This is where plyometrics come into play. One of the missing variables in jumping higher is time. Time is referencing how quickly the strength is expressed. For a jump, and especially a running jump, the action happens relatively fast. We are taking fractions of a second being the difference between a fast jump and a slow jump. There are other factors as well, but the simple answer as to why the skinny basketball player jumps higher in many cases comes down to that athlete more effectively applying strength relative to his body weight in a shorter amount of time. The power lifter, though his goal of lifting the most amount of weight, has become accustomed to applying his strength over a longer duration. This can be noticed in a max deadlift for example, some lifters will be applying force into the ground for over a second before the bar even come up off the ground to start the lift. By that time a jump has already happened. This is an oversimplification, as there are lots of other factors to consider, but the point is still true that in order to jump our highest we need to be able to produce that force and express our strength very quickly. Plyometrics help us to improve that aspect.
The idea of what you are doing with weight training is more understood, so I’ll expand of what we are doing with Plyometrics. Plyo’s are what people will call all kinds of movements that involve either jumping or quick ground contacts. Some will be things like depth jumps or bounds that have longer contacts, others will be things like line hops and assisted jumps that focus on quicker contact times. What is important is that you understand what each is being used for and focus on that aspect of the exercise accordingly. For example, shifting the focus of an exercise from jumping for max height to jumping as quickly as possible can dramatically change the stimulus from one that’s more power and strength based, to one that’s more reactive and elasticity based. If this is all getting difficult to follow, don’t worry at all, work with a team of coaches here at PPA that are extremely experienced and knowledgeable. We will get you dialed in and working on the details of each movement to get you the best results.
Some would say, lift weights until you get strong “enough” and then switch to focus on plyometrics. This is such a short sighted thought. Sure we all want to jump our highest at the next competition, but in reality those who see the best results will be the ones who commit to training as part of their life as an athlete. It isn’t about the next 2-3 months, it’s about continuing to get better and better over the course of their time competing. With a longer term view we can more clearly see the need to continue to develop both our strength and the speed at which we can express it. For the best results, both weight training and plyometrics will continue to be parts of your Project Pure Athlete 360 degree approach to training.
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