Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vertical Jump Methodology (Excerpt from article)

Here is an excerpt from my article '4 Steps for Successful Vertical Jump Performance in Volleyball'. I'm wordy but that's why you love me:


Strength training plays an integral role to support high performance on the volleyball court but the process that enhances performance is the development of speed and power. Strength training alone would limit performance enhancement for the sport without a specific focus on the time allowed for the application of force in jumping, hitting, blocking, short sprints, and changes of direction. These qualities are referred to as speed, power, elasticity, and rate of force development (RFD) and they are expressed in volleyball through several different yet complementary mechanisms. To put it simply each skill in volleyball requires a unique combination of these abilities and this combination functions optimally if they are developed appropriately.

The consistency we should focus on in this development is the achievement of a maximum movement speed specific to the exercise or drill. In analysis of speed and power training performed in our training program and other successful programs from around the world the primary factor in improving an athlete's performance is their ability to create this speed. Putting it another way let's ask this question: are younger players limited by the time of a match or the speed and skill required to perform at a higher level? You see all volleyball players play the same match length but the high-performing collegiate and Olympic level players play with greater speed, skill, and power. Speed and power training for the sport should teach the athlete to produce great movement speed and power with a high degree of skill in a wide variety of environments.

Specific decision making has to be made regarding the athlete's technical ability with these movements. Anyone who has attempted to use some of these techniques without the technical and physical prerequisites realizes that jump and sprint training, plyometrics, Olympic lifts and Olympic lifting variations, and medicine ball exercises do not benefit athletes as described without them. Another thing to consider is that there have been many athletes who have been successful without many of these specific methods either because they were intentionally left out or because their program lacked access to the appropriate facilities and equipment to perform them. Speed and power performance is not fixed or tied to performance on one exercise or training method but there should be a clear focus on maximizing speed and power in training to benefit performance on the volleyball court. If the coaching staff is not proficient in the teaching of Olympic lifts and lift variations there are very appropriate methods that serve as effective alternatives.

To review these capacities further I will focus on the methods that can be utilized to develop them for vertical jump performance. However an important note is that great care must be taken to not overwhelm volleyball players with additional training focused on these qualities as volleyball itself is a tremendous expression of speed and power. In combination with volleyball’s intensity, an extended playing schedule through much of the year, and other stressful demands common to life coaches and athletes must carefully decide when to try and improve physical performance and when to stabilize and maintain these abilities.

Progressive Loading Jumps (Technical)
Difficulty: Low
Methodology: This specific loading technique is to teach athletes to achieve the proper jump position and to utilize the arms and trunk properly. It is most definitely a regression of what athletes should be capable of but if there is a lack of understanding at how the arms and trunk help contribute to a great vertical jump this technique helps athletes understand the relationship better. This loading technique is not limited by the resistance of gravity, since we are moving downward with gravity, so the athlete should be capable of a very fast arm and trunk motion. The essential parts of the loading technique are:

Drive: Drive is the final arm drive used to get into jump position. This motion is used to teach the athlete to create a powerful descent that allows for a more explosive ascent. A faster down motion results in a faster upward motion due to the stored elastic energy within the neuromuscular system (the linking between the mind’s concentration of the effort and the body). A simple way to describe the drive motion is to think of “attacking the floor”.

Swing: The Swing technique is used to teach a relaxation of the arms to help athletes understand that there is a synergistic action that occurs between speed and relaxation. Essentially there is a burst of energy from the arm swing and drive created at shoulder height that results in higher speeds if the athlete can coordinate that movement with a more relaxed shoulder and arm motion.

Stick (the Jump Position): The Stick of the jumping motion is at the end of the arm drive and swing motion where the athlete uses the same principle of a coordinated speed and relaxation movement to stop and stabilize the jump position. The faster we can initiate this braking motion the faster we can begin our ascent, resulting in a higher and more explosive jump.

Arm Drive + Stick
Swing, Drive + Stick
Arm Drive + Jump
Swing, Drive + Jump

Explosive Jumps (Stationary Loaded-Countermovement; Speed and Elasticity)
: Medium to High
Methodology: These jumps are fundamental in that they offer an excellent view into the skill of jumping with little distraction. Jumping from a stationary position is the technique that we will depend on when we add speed and elasticity via an approach. What I often see as a coach are athletes who can jump with an approach but not without. I almost never see the opposite scenario of an athlete who can jump from a standing position but who cannot jump effectively when adding running speed to their jump. Explosive jumping from a stationary position is a fundamental building block for the approach jump. Loading this jump by using an effective arm and trunk motion followed by an explosive transition from descent to ascent is a critical step in teaching athletes to jump effectively. If good technique on this jump is displayed then all that is left to do is add speed, strength, and power to the movement.

Split Jumps
Standing Jumps

Elasticity Jumps
: Medium to High
Methodology: The stretch-shortening cycle, or stretch-reflex, is a mechanism that helps to prevent injury to muscles and joints but can also serve as a performance-enhancing mechanism when trained appropriately. Training the stretch-shortening cycle helps to develop more elastic jump performance (elasticity). Specific to volleyball, developing elasticity helps us jump higher, faster, and requires less mechanical work resulting in less fatigue. The focus of elasticity jumps is:

Faster Ground Contact Times: This means we are spending less time on the ground to develop a higher vertical jump. To explain further ground contact time is from the time we touch the ground to the time we get into the air. Fast stretch-shortening cycle activity registers at under .25 seconds and slow stretch-shortening cycle activity occurs above .25 seconds. There are specific measurement tools that help us to assess an athlete’s ground contact time and elasticity but we can still make progress in the absence of such equipment.

Faster Turnover: A simple way to describe elasticity is we want to achieve a faster turnover of the down and upward motion. We can cue athletes by describing the ground as “hot” and therefore we want to get off the ground as fast as possible. To add elasticity to a jump we do not have to jump off of high boxes as many believe. Adding elasticity to a jump can be as simple as adding a shallow hop before the jump and focusing on rapid turnover.

Stiffer Jump Position: Elasticity is sometimes described as “stiffness” at the appropriate body position. The stiffness of our spring prevents a slowing of the jump by “springing” us right back into the air. Elastic jumpers do not require as deep of a knee bend for jumps if they can either achieve an appropriate running speed or generate more stiffness earlier in their descent.

Double-Hop Split Jumps
Double-Hop Standing Jumps
Power Step-Ups
Hurdle Jumps
Standing Triple Vertical Jumps
Hop + Jump
Lateral Hop + Jump
Crossover + Jump

Vertimax Jumps (Speed/Power/Elasticity)
Difficulty: High
Methodology: The vertimax is a jump training device that is simply a platform with a series of rubber bands that allow for adjustment of the loading intensity. I encourage its use in training assuming that jump technique is up to speed and we have enough control over training to eliminate overuse. We typically add vertimax jumps into our club training program 4-8 weeks into club season although I will eliminate or limit its use when the tournament schedule becomes more rigorous. If available the vertimax offers a great deal of mechanical specificity and does not require additional instruction as Olympic lifting technique does. One primary consideration in using the vertimax is that athletes should maintain a focus on movement speed and not let the additional resistance slow them excessively.

Split Jumps
Standing Jumps
Double-Hop Split Jumps
Double-Hop Standing Jumps
Power Step-Ups
Standing Triple Vertical Jumps (Elastic Response)
Hop + Jump
Accentuated Eccentric Hop + Jump (with Straps)

Explosive and Elasticity Jumps with Variable Landings (Technical and Speed/Power)
: Medium to High
Methodology: Jumping in volleyball at times requires complex adjustments and landings. If the athlete must change position to adjust to a ball or another player, whether that is through a simple rotation, holding their jump longer, or otherwise, there will be a definite change in the ability to land "properly".

Landing properly is not limited to landing in a perfect athletic position as many describe. This is a gross oversimplification. Landing properly is the ability to decelerate and place appropriate loading to the body's active supports, primarily muscles, while minimizing stress to passive supports (ligaments and other joint structures). In short, it's a best case scenario for a worst possible situation. This requires a great deal of coordination, spatial awareness, muscle stiffness, and elasticity. It is a thin line we walk by training to make some of these adjustments but it is my opinion that this skill must be addressed. By including these minor adjustments in training we are including a physical decision making process that will help athletes make a better decision in a more challenging environment.

Single-Leg Hops (Low Intensity)
Lateral/Medium Hops (Low Intensity)
Alternating Split Jumps
Vertical Jump to Split Landing Right or Left Landing
Split Jump to Symmetrical Stance Landing
Hop + Jump to Split Right/Left/Symmetrical Landing
Hop + 1-Arm Reaching Jump to Right/Left/Symmetrical Landing
Vertical Jump to Split Landing Right or Left (with Audible Cue)

Concentric Power Jumps (No Eccentric Loading or Paused; Speed/Power)
: Low to Medium
Methodology: This specific jump technique is meant to teach the distinction between a fast loading technique and paused jump technique that sometimes occurs during the block and approach jump. These jumps teach athletes to accelerate and jump effectively from a static start position like a sprinter taking off from starting blocks. These jumps teach athletes to work through a difficult jump position, as the pause takes speed and momentum from the jump, and forces them to push hard from a proper position.

Seated Vertical Jump
Paused Split Jump
Paused Standing Jump
Hop + Pause Jump
Lateral Hop + Pause Jump
Crossover + Pause Jump
Dumbbell or Barbell Pause Squat Jumps

Medicine Ball Exercises (Speed/Power/Elasticity)
: Low to Medium
Methodology: Medicine ball training is an excellent source of training variety and is also a great teaching tool in the development of speed and power. We can use medicine ball training in a number of ways to teach explosiveness and reinforce athlete’s to work through proper jump technique. Relative to jumping medicine ball training is sub-maximal, meaning that the utilization of the medicine ball in teaching jumping will slow their jump performance versus jumping without the medicine ball. This occurs because medicine balls are extra weight. If an athlete gains 6-12 pounds, a common weight for medicine balls, they will most certainly not jump as high. The extra weight of the medicine balls serves a purpose:

The weight varies with body position: Because the medicine ball functions as an extension of our body position we can move the ball faster on the way up and down. In this way we say that the weight is “smart”. Speeding the ball up on the way down, by pulling it down with us, adds an effective load to our jump position. By speeding the ball up on the jump up, by “pushing through the ceiling”, the ball gains momentum and feels lighter near full extension.

The weight forces a concentration on position and technique: The athlete experiences medicine ball training as slower and at specific points in medicine ball training we must work harder to create an effective jump. We can also use specific techniques to reinforce full extension. For example on a medicine ball vertical jump toss we can do two things: 1-reinforce full extension by teaching that the hips should continue to rise after release and we should create a straight arrow with release; 2-do not release the ball at the top position of the jump to show the athlete if they are at full extension or if they have cut their jump short.

Medicine Ball Standing Vertical Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Standing Split Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Caber Toss (Between the Leg Toss or Granny Toss)
Medicine Ball Hop + Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Hop + Pause Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Seated Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Lateral Hop + Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Standing Vertical Jump Toss (No Release)
Medicine Ball Caber Toss (No Release)

Olympic Lift Variations (Speed, Strength and Power)
: Medium to High
Methodology: Olympic Weightlifting is a contested Olympic sport. In using these lifts the training and technique needed to develop power and speed in athletes is extensive, however, we can simplify several of the movements by using appropriate Olympic lifting variations to make them more accessible for volleyball players. Hang variations and variations used from above or just below the knee are often the first step in adjusting the lifts for taller athletes. During this portion of the movement the speed and power peaks and it is easier to teach athletes to stay in proper position than when attempting to initiate the lift from the floor. This list is far from comprehensive but is a good start for many lifters:

The Set Position: The athlete should slowly descend to this position focusing on keeping the barbell or dumbbell close to the body or “tucked” just against the thigh. A way to teach the set position is to teach the athlete to keep their knuckles and chest over the bar and hang over it by creating a proper hinge from their hip. The athlete should be in a proper athletic position with weight centered on the heel and hip. A flat back should be maintained through the complete movement.

The Jump: Keeping the barbell or dumbbell close to the body the athlete should drive the chest up and push through their legs (imagine “pushing the floor away”) until they achieve full extension. Upon full extension the athlete should stay with the barbell or dumbbell keeping their elbows high and rotating from the shoulder as appropriate.

The Catch: Catching the barbell or dumbbell properly is one of the more challenging parts of the lift. A successful catch takes the same amount of skill as creating a proper landing. We must teach the athlete to use their body to receive the weight of the barbell or dumbbell. The transition from the set and jump position to the catch position can be seen as “leaving home” and “returning home”. The athlete should also be taught how to successfully miss a lift if the weight is out of position.

Hip Power Snatch (also referred to as a Pocket Snatch)
Hang Power Snatch
Hip Power Clean (also referred to as a Pocket Power Clean)
Hang Power Clean
Hang Power Clean (Below Knee)
Dumbbell Snatch
Dumbbell High Pull
A Successful Miss


thomas morrison said...

Thank you so much for such a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, the video demonstrations are quit good. I'm will want to use these exercises also for basketball, I want to be able to dunk. Also, I see that many of these exercises were also incorparated in a training program I'm currently trying, which is the jump manual, and it's a vertial leap enhancement program that guarantees to add 10 inches in 3 weeks, can you look at it here and evaluate it by the review?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, the video demonstrations are quit good. I'm will want to use these exercises also for basketball, I want to be able to dunk. Also, I see that many of these exercises were also incorparated in a training program I'm currently trying, which is the jump manual, and it's a vertial leap enhancement program that guarantees to add 10 inches in 3 weeks, can you look at it here and evaluate it by the review?

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