Rolly's "Original" Guide To Jump Training
With all of the talk concerning vertical jump and plyometrics, it's no wonder so many athletes are tapping into this area of training. Can plyometrics and jump training help you? Are jump training and plyometrics dangerous? What can I expect to gain from these training methods--1 inch increase in my vertical? Or can I expect to gain 10 or 12 inches? These are some of the most common questions that are asked about plyometrics and jump training. In the following article, I will answer these questions to the best of my knowledge based on my current studies and research and my own personal experience involving these training techniques.
Let's first talk about vertical jump. Being able to jump high involves many factors. Some of these factors you can control and, unfortunately, the biggest factor you cannot. We've all heard before that great leapers are born, not made. Well, I'm here to say (and you can quote me on this) that great leapers ARE made and those that are born great leapers are fewer than those that are made. My point is that in the confusion of the "born leapers" arguments, the fact that there are more average leapers with the ability to jump high than there are natural 40-inch jumpers, was lost in the shuffle. The result is athletes believing that there is really no way to jump high if you haven't already.
When we talk about born leapers, we're talking about the percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers in the important areas (legs) being higher than average. In most people, the difference in the percentage between slow-twitch (great for endurance athletes) and fast-twitch is relatively small. Usually the person's percentages are close to 50%-50% or 60%-40%. How much fast-twitch do you have? Well, there are tests that can be done to approximate this percentage, however, they are very costly. Chances are you already know if you have a huge difference in these percentages. If you were a really fast sprinter in junior high or you ran a 5 minute mile in junior high, you can make an educated guess.
What can you do if this genetic garbage is keeping you from hitting over everyone? Well, before this last summer, I could simply tell you what i did to increase my vertical from 24-inches to 38-inches and say that i hope it works for you. Now, after new research has given me a reason to believe that my success was no accident, I can relay this great news to everyone interested in increasing their vertical jump.
It has been discovered that this fast-twitch/slow-twitch separation is not so simple. Research has uncovered the fact that along with these great fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers, there are also fibers that have properties of both of the fibers. Now for the great news. These fibers are influenced in a major way by specific training. Therefore, doing training that focuses on quick movements (jumping, sprinting, etc..) enables these muscles to develop the properties of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Wow, that had to have been the most satisfying news I had heard since I started playing volleyball. In some cases, there has been evidence of new fibers being created through very extreme training techniques. This, however, is extremely rare and, therefore I will not address this in detail.
In order to train these muscles, we must pay attention to the concept of "specificity." Specificity involves the reaction of muscles or muscle groups to training. If you train a muscle group by moving it at a high speed, then eventually that muscle group will be stronger--but only at that speed. In fact, in recent studies, the concept of specificity has been shown to be even more prevalent in all types of training. If a muscle group is trained at a certain angle, then it will only show strength improvements at that angle. The concept of specificity should be kept in mind in all levels and all types of training.
So, what does this have to do with jump training? Well, many different types of training are used and considered effective, even though some are simply not useful and even dangerous. When a technique produces results, it doesn't necessarily mean that it was that specific technique that produced those results. Sometimes, the positive training effects that occured, came about in spite of that training technique (because of some other factor). Keep in mind that training should make sense (because of the concept of specificity), so if a technique seems "off the wall" and a friend says it worked for him, don't jump (ha ha) to conclusions.
Now that we've had a brief lesson in exercise physiology, we can move into the jump training program with a little bit of knowledge. Let's look at a few concepts we need to keep in mind when jump training:
Stretching: You might be surprised to know that it still hasn't been proven that stretching prevents injuries. The reason you should stretch is to improve your performance. A flexible muscle reacts and contracts faster, and with more force than an non-flexible one. If you did nothing but stretch all day long, you would notice an increase in your vertical jump.
Warm-up: This is a very important part of your workout. A warm muscle (higher temperature, more blood flow in the muscle tissue) will stretch more effectively and will perform more effectively than a cold one. A warm muscle reacts and contracts faster, and with more force than a cold one.
Food and Rest: This is probably the main reason athletes do not see improvements in their performance and leave them injury prone on a regular basis. It is hard for your muscles to recover from a workout if you don't sleep enough. It is hard for your muscles to perform to their potential if they don't have the correct fuel to do so. Eating a 60-25-15% Carbohydrate-Fat-Protein diet is a general guidline for an athlete's diet.
Injuries: Well, it is going to happen to you, so you should be prepared. If you pull or strain a muscle, use the ice-heat method of icing the area for 20 minutes and then heating the muscle for 20 minutes without a break in between for as long as you have time. When I pulled my hamstring last semester, I would ice-heat my leg while I did my homework (2 or 3 hours at a time) and any time I had a break and was sitting around--it healed in around 3 weeks. If you have a serious injury that you been dealing with for an extended period of time (ACL tear, cartilage tear in your knee, or some other related injury ) you should take extra precautions to not aggravate that injury.
Intensity: Your workout will be for nothing if you don't take an intense approach to your training. Pushing yourself further each week is what will make you stronger, faster, and jump higher.
Listen to Your Body: You will get better at this the longer you sustain a regular workout schedule. Now that I have been working out for 4 years straight with no extended breaks, I know when it's time to slow down, take it easy, or simply rest for a day. If you feel you may sustain an injury if you do your last set of the night (it happened to me recently), then don't take a chance. At first, you will struggle with such decisions, wondering if you are just tired or if you really are near that danger zone. When in doubt, rest.
Periodization: When setting up a training program, always allow for a break period after about 8 weeks. During this break period, your body will recover from the pounding it received during the 8 week training session. This break period should last about a week and exercises, and weight training during this time should consist of the same movements with less intensity (less weight in the weight room). Without this rest, your body will never reach it's potential and will probably aggravate itself into a tendency for injury.
Weight Training FIRST: If you haven't been on a weight training program before, or you aren't on one currently, do not try my program. In fact, if you haven't been on a consistent weight program, especially one that emphasizes the leg muscles, for at least four weeks, you should start that now and read the rest of this later. Without better than average strength in your legs, this program will probably result in more injuries than results.
Total Body Training: I cannot stress how important it is to do a well rounded weight training program while you continue to work on your vertical jump. I learned that even though I could jump high, I had to keep doing my rotator cuff exercises so the pain would subside in my swinging shoulder.
Actually, I omitted the original parts of this document that were modified in
the weight training and plyometrics section due to my new research findings. To
return to the new, updated version of the jump training page, click (here)
This new jump training page is to be used in conjunction with my original page. So, if you haven't read my other page yet, click (here)
This new section was completed on August 5th, 1996. The changes were made due to changes in current research topics and results. Enjoy.
So many questions... so many different and confusing answers. Many people have e-mailed me over the past six months asking question after question about specific jump training/weight training concepts. Many questions were directed to my jump training page not being completely finished. I had a good reason--I was working on a new program, a quicker and more reliable program. I had gained fourteen inches on my vertical jump over a year's time. My weight training was consistent in terms of always doing something. My plyometric training was consistent in the same regard. What I lacked was consistency in documenting my progress--marking my progress as I went through the program.
When I had measured and found my fourteen inch gain, I looked to the program I had been doing for the past year--I decided that it took a year for me to gain that vertical jump. I hadn't thought of the fact that if I had documented my program daily over a nine week period, I might have a substantially larger and quicker result--definitely a more reliable and valid result.
Sometimes circumstances dictate our actions. I like to say that I never let circumstances effect my daily life, but instead, I live in spite of them. Nevertheless, breaking my fifth lumbar in a car accident on historic Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach California on St. Patrick's Day 1995 had an effect I could not ignore--it continues to effect me. Just yesterday (7-4-96), I fell on the floor, face first, as my back went into spasm.
My 38-inch vertical was definitely in jeopardy after my injury in sunny, smoggy California. I made quite a comeback, however; just five months later I played in an open division tournament. I had my regular net-dominating games, using my blocking techniques that I live by. I definitely felt I had come back. No pain in my back the entire day. No problem, I had made it back.
When my fall semester started, so did my indoor volleyball season. I had less time to think about training--and I felt that I was okay anyway. As the season progressed, my back pain returned. By February of 1996, I had returned to coaching the UNT Men's team full-time--no playing at all. Unfortunately, that meant no training at all--none.
What did it was my pitiful performance at the US Open in May. It was extremely painful for me to even stand on the court. How did I even consider stepping on the open-level court when I was so out of shape? I had to start my program for real--careful programming would keep me from another setback. I had to get in great shape and stay in great shape. I really wanted that 38-inch vertical back again.
This story, though long, personal, and somewhat boring, teaches an important lesson to be learned by all; self-improvement is enhanced by self-awareness. Who you are, and the physical limitations you live under, are important factors that you must work under. These limitations can serve you in an important way--you can coordinate your efforts in a more effective manner. Self-awareness is sometimes hindered by innate self-denial. I am guilty of this--the athlete syndrome, characterized by feelings of omnipotence and "Rocky Balboa" toughness. I learned to get over it, so save yourself some time and get over it now.
Jump Training and Plyometrics are geared toward making you jump higher--that is the big and small of it. Anyone that has a "special" program that guarantees improvement to a specific number of inches is out for a buck. I can't guarantee a certain number of inches with my program, but I do guarantee that my guidelines are based on current research and will, more than likely, bring about some sort of vertical jump improvement. Your improvement may be in maintaining your 40-inch vertical jump throughout an entire tournament. Your improvement may be a couple of inches every couple of months. No matter what your improvement, you will gain something from my program. You may gain fourteen inches like I did. You will just have to take that chance.
Now, before any jump training can take place, I recommmend a strength training program. Strength in the legs and trunk muscles are necessary to jump high regularly without an overwhelming risk to injury. In my case, with a bad back, outstanding strength in the legs and trunk muscles is absolutely necessary for safe "flying". Someone with knee injuries may need to focus on the surrounding leg muscles to avoid future knee injuries.
Injuries are an unavoidable part of sports--ignoring them will eventually cost you in one way or another. In my case, I have taken off the last five weeks from any volleyball. I decided that if I wanted a strong back, I really needed to rest it. Healing of injuries is necessary--unfortunately, most of us get too impatient and rush back to the court too soon. Some time off may save you some frustration. I, for one, want to be 100% on the court--not 75% the entire year.
The weight training section for this new jump training page is based on the new program that I went through myself. No promises, just proof here. I am an avid weight trainer and have been training in the weight room seriously for four years now. I have never seen this kind of improvement from a program so quickly--and believe me, I have tried everything. Click (here) to go straight to the weight training section.
The jump training section will be basically the same... only, I'll finish it this time. I'll base this on nine weeks so it will fit the weight training program schedule. Click (here) to go to the new jump training program schedule.
Weight Training/Periodizing Your Workout
Weight training can be a confusing and frustrating task for most people. Even if you get a membership at some club with your own personal trainer, the fact that personal trainers are less regulated than cosmetologists makes it all the more frustrating. In fact, you should know that most organizations that certify personal trainers, the organizations that certify a majority of the trainers you would encounter at the local gym, certify them over a weekend crash course. If they memorize some data, they are certified. Comforting isn't it?
After watching personal trainers put poor, innocent individuals through dangerous workout routines and hearing some of the ridiculous claims these trainers swear by, I decided to do something that people on the internet could not argue with. No promises, just results. You no longer have to believe that I study exercise physiology in order to make my own training for volleyball more effective, or the studying I do on current research is any help at all in weight training. You can simply look at my documented routine and decide what the results mean to you. After all, it doesn't really matter what information I relay to you if you can't use it.
If you make a link to my weight-lifting page, make the link to this page so that the user will read my introduction first. The following pages are designed to help you get an overall understanding of why and how I accomplished my goals over the last nine weeks. Click (here) to go to the table of contents.
Note:Always take 60-90 seconds of rest between sets. If you feel dizzy or sick, you may want to stop training for that day; or at least take longer breaks. Never sacrifice safety for a workout.
In/Off-Season: In-season will be defined as playing 5 days or more per week for 2 or more hours or more each time. Off-season is anything less than that.
The Program - Off-Season
Weeks 1 & 2
Pick 2 exercises to do 3 times per week from the list below.
1. Jump-rope: 3-5 sets of 100 reps, 2 sets (1 on each leg) of one-legged jumping of 100 reps.
2. Square jumping: create a square with four quadrants on the floor (use tape or something) and jump around into each square in a clockwise and the counterclockwise pattern. Do 4 sets of 25 reps alternating clockwise and counterclockwise rotation (one time around, four hops, counts as one repetition.
3. Jump and Reach: Find an object that is just beyond your reach and jump from a standing position (no approach) and reach for it (basketball rim or point on the backboard). Do 5 sets of 15 reps.
4. Pool Jumps: This is great for anyone with a back injury. Squat and jump out of the water as high as you can; land in a manner that puts no pressure on your body (if you sit into the water when you come down, you will avoid most impact injuries--don't land on the bottom of the pool butt-first though). Using chest-high water works great for those with back injuries (me), and the shallower the water, the more pressure will be put on your joints. I recommend this for everyone that has access to a pool--you avoid the impact but get a great workout on your legs. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Weeks 3 & 4
Continue doing two of the three exercises for weeks 1 & 2. Choose 2 more of the 4 exercises listed below.
1. Block Jumps: Find an object within your reach on an average, less than maximal jump. It's best for this object to be on top of something. I used objects on a 8 ft. bookshelf. The reason for this is that you want to be able to reach up and penetrate over this object and not touch the structure the object is on top of or the object itself. Jump and reach with maximal effort reaching with strong hands, fingers spread, and without touching anything in the process. Work on getting as close to the objects as possible with your hands and moving your hands around the object while in mid-air. This will better your balance while still jumping with maximal intensity. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. And don't knock the bookshelf over.
2. No-armed Jumps: Get ready for the hardest exercise. Jump with your hand clasped above your head striving to touch your knees to your chest on each jump. As your feet hit the ground, rebound back into the air (bounce, with no pause on the ground). This exercise really sucks because you realize how much you use your arms to jump. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps. Have a trashcan ready for puking.
3. Approach Jumps: Do normal approaches with maximal jumps. Reach for an object slightly out of reach. Concentrate on your arm movements as well as the speed of your approach (the faster the better). The closer (time-wise not distance-wise) that your last two steps hit the ground, the higher you'll jump. Focus on mechanics. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
4. Laundry-Jumps: Named after the materials I had available to me at the time, this exercise requires jumping back and forth over an object in a side-to-side motion. The object should be no taller than 2 feet and no lower than 8 inches. It should not be more than 12 inches in width. The object should also be collapsable in case you land on it. I used an extremely collapsable laundry basket (plastic). Rebound back and forth over the basket. Do 3 sets of 20-30 reps.
Weeks 5 & 6
Do your 4 exercises from weeks 1-4 and add one from this list:
1) Speed skater bounds: Do the same motions as a speed skater would. When you land on your right foot, your left arm should be swinging in front of you, your right arm should be swinging backward, and your left foot should be close to the ground and crossed behind your right leg. Sorry if the description isn't very good. I recommend watching a speed skater. Instead of sliding back and forth while bent over, you bound back and forth over about a distance of 4-6 feet depending on how tall you are. You should feel it killing your gluteus maximus. Do 3 sets of 30 repetitions.
2) Split-leg jumps: Start in a kneeling position with your forward leg bent at 90 degrees and your back leg slightly off the ground. Jump and land with the opposite foot forward and the opposite foot backward (don't bang your knee on the ground). On your forward leg, try and keep from bending your ankle so that your knee is more forward than your foot (this puts a lot of pressure on your knees). Do 3 sets of 30 repetitions.
Weeks 7, 8, & 9
Now it's time to do some real work.
From weeks 3 & 4, do three of the four exercises and add 10 repetitions to each exercise. Also, do both of the exercises from weeks 5 & 6 adding 10 repetitions to each. After you are done with these 9 weeks, take a week off and do some "active-rest". If you don't know what that is read my new weight training page--just a (click) away. After that, do some of the exercises that you enjoyed the most--or the exercises that you felt you benefitted the most from. Do 3 of your favorite ones three times per week working on intensity and increasing the number of reps you do every week. After another nine weeks of that "playing around", you might want to start working on the program again. I recommend a lot of "down-time" from plyometrics after a nine week period of hard training. I have kept nearly all of my gained vertical jump after I finished a year of plyometrics and progressive weight training without much plyometric maintenance. However, to get back to peak form, I would have to do three sets of some exercises, three times per week for a few weeks. I do that a few weeks before each season begins. Good luck.