Monday 4 July 2016

Jump Training vs. Weight Training: The Best Way to Increase Your Speed & Vertical Jump

Want to run faster and jump higher? Who doesn’t? As an athlete, you know full well that increasing your explosive power and vertical jump will help you dominate your competition. So what’s the best way to do this? Do you need some special jump training program, or should you just get to the weight room and get stronger? Is one better than the other, or is a combination of the two the secret to big hops. Let’s look at what the latest research has to say about this.

Study Reference:
Lloyd et al. Changes in Sprint and Jump Performances After Traditional, Plyometric, and Combined Resistance Training in Male Youth Pre- and Post-Peak Height Velocity. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: May 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 5 - p 1239–1247.

The Methods
80 school-aged boys were divided by their maturity level (before or after peak height velocity – the phase in a teen’s life when the fastest growth rate occurs. This is often used to know when kids can crank up their training). Then each set of boys was put into one of 4 groups: 1) jump training, 2) weight training, 3) combined weight training and jump training and 4) control group (no training – poor guys). Vertical jump and speed were tested. Then each training group trained 2x per week for 6 weeks.  

The best results were found in the plyometric group for the less mature guys (i.e. the ones who hadn't hit their big growth spurt yet). For the more mature guys, the best results were achieved with a combination of strength training and plyos.

  • For this type of study, having 80 subjects is pretty good!
  • It is nice that they were able to look at all for scenarios (1) jump training, 2) weight training, 3) combined weight training and jump training and 4) control group
  • The programming for the study was pretty good. However, the weight only group had the leg press – personally I’ve found this to have a negative correlation on performance.
  • The length of the study was quite short. I predict that the results would be even more impressive for the combined group if the study went longer. I also think that even the less mature group would see more benefit from the combination of weights and plyos. However, for the subjects’ sake, I’m glad the study was not longer, as it would have likely lead to injuries in the group just doing jump training. 
  • The did not include any explosive lifting. This is amazing for improving performance.

Real World Application for You and Your Performance
If a kid who has never done any training before starts doing “jump training”, he or she will see quick increase in vertical jump. This is great in the short-term, but what really matters in the long-term. Just because you got your vertical jump from 10 inches to 13 inches, doesn’t mean we will see you on ESPN. These short-term gains leave you with a big question – now what? Many athletes think they can just repeat the jump program that worked before and they will keep increasing their vertical jump. However, it doesn’t work that way. If it did 40 inch vertical jumps would be the norm. Jump training alone doesn’t continue to work and if you keep trying, you will get hurt. 
The key to safely and effectively increasing your vertical jump is to think long-term.
A better approach
As a university strength coach, I work with athletes who need much more than they can get from a typical “jump program”. We help take male athletes from mid to high 20’s to mid to high 30’s and female athletes from mid to high teens to mid to high 20’s. The secret is exactly what this research shows – a combination of strength training and jumps. Here are some keys to take your performance to new heights – literally!

Hit the weights
While you may emphasize it more in the off-season and less in the in-season, year-round strength training is a must. If you keep getting stronger, you will have more strength to turn into power. This is especially true as you stop growing as you are no longer naturally getting stronger. If you stop getting stronger, you will hit a wall with your power development.

Get strong for your body
The stronger you are in relation to your body weight, the easier it will be for you to move your body. Guys need to be able to do a trap bar deadlift with 2-2.5 times their body weight. Ladies, need at least 1.5-2 times body weight. Don’t worry if you are a long way off right now, keep at it and get those numbers up with good form! 

Include explosive training
Consider using explosive training such as Olympic weightlifting variations. Research and real-world evidence show that these work great for improving your speed & vertical jump. You don’t have to be a competitive Olympic weightlifter to do these. Even just some hard work with hang power cleans and hang power snatches can work wonders for your athletic performance. Team testing seems to always show the same, predictable result – (the exception of genetic freaks) the person with the best clean/snatch on the team has the best vertical jump.

In addition to this, jumping with light weight also works great. Jump squats, dumbbell jump squats and trap bar jumps are all effective tools for increasing your power. These are fast and easy learn. They are also great for getting a nice toe snap which gives you that extra inch. 

Jump & sprint – the right amount
While getting stronger and more powerful is great, you still need to practice jumping and sprinting. The key thing here is recognizing that this might already happen a lot in your sport. Go easy on the jump training during your season – especially if you play a sport where jumping happens a lot (e.g. volleyball). Bring in some more focused jump training in mid-to-late off-season when you are well-rested from the previous season and much stronger from the early off-season. 

Get lean 
Get leaner and everything gets better. It is far easier to jump high and run fast without extra body fat. I have a tone of free fat loss info on this site. Also, check out my book Athletic Training for Fat Loss for a complete guide high performance athlete-focused fat loss.

Work really, really hard
Many athletes lift weight and yet fail to get any real results because they fail to really push themselves. When you are first learning a new exercise, you want to take it easy and focus on getting the technique down. However once you can do the movements, you are wasting your time if you just go through the motions. Every athlete I've ever coached who was really successful had an aggressive, focused approach to lifting and really attacked the weights! They also fought to regularly add weight to the bar.

Be patient
Many athletes shy away from hard heavy training because it is - hard. Another disadvantage with strength and explosive training is that it takes time. You won’t see the results immediately. Think of it like a financial investment. Initially you have to invest the time and effort to learn the technique and then to progressively get stronger. Then you have to wait for things to get better and for you to be able to move a respectable amount of weight. However, if you are willing to put in the necessary work and patience the payoff and end result is well, well worth it!

For some inspiration, check out this clip of our Men’s Volleyball star Blake Scheerhoorn breaking our all-time Spartan men’s volleyball spike touch record. Blake really got after it in the weight room and the kitchen this year and was rewarded for his efforts. He broke the record of Danny Grant's who was an absolute beast in the weight room and destroyed previous records just a few years ago. 

How about you? What has your experience been with jump training? Please leave your comments and questions below or on my Facebook Page.

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