In today’s world, especially with the prevalence of social media, it is easy to get caught up in the sheer volume of information on strength and conditioning, fitness and rehabilitative methods. Although access to more information is usually a good thing, it can also lead to confusion. Considering that some of the so called “experts” are not experts at all, the amount of bad information getting out to the general public has increased dramatically.
One of the the greatest causes of confusion in sports rehabilitation/performance is on the topic of jump training or plyometrics. This article will provide a brief overview on why you would want to; and how to prescribe a common sense jump program. When prescribing a jump program for performance or rehab, the strength/conditioning level of the athlete performing the program, volume, loading, complexity, and plane of movement must all be taken into consideration.
The reason an athlete would want to participate in a jump training program is to improve overall power. Power is likely the most critical aspect of sport performance, especially in the field sports that are most popular in this country. Also, a good jump program has proven to reduce the risk of ACL injuries. Power = force x velocity; so an adequate level of maximal strength must be attained prior to initiating a jump training program to ensure safety and effectiveness (there is no point in producing force quickly if you cannot produce much force to begin with). Unfortunately, attainment of maximal strength is commonly overlooked. Strength takes a significant amount of time to attain. However, coaches/ rehab professionals are often too quick to jump to the “sport specific” jump training program even if the athlete is not properly prepared.
First, the athlete must be pain free and have enough maximal strength of all relevant musculature including the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings glut max/glut medius and core muscles. Usually variations of the squat, deadlift and lunge are an effective way to improve strength to begin a jump program.
Appropriate volume must also be taken into consideration when designing the jump program. The need for perfect technique when landing from a jump should be paramount. If fatigue is involved it will make maintaining proper landing mechanics very difficult. This can lead to pain, injury and create bad habits that could be potentially injurious. Therefore, the jump program should be carried out after a thorough warm-up at the beginning of the workout routine. Volume should be minimal. Usually 3-5 sets of 5-10 jumps is adequate to create a training effect. Only in very rare circumstances should jump training be utilized for conditioning purposes (i.e elite level wrestling).
Adding loads to a jump can be a great way to progress a program. However, before loads are applied, the mechanics of the jump and landing must first be perfect without the load. Loading should also be very conservative. In most cases 20% of the athletes bodyweight will be sufficient to provide a training stimulus. Recently research has come out indicating that loaded vs unloaded jumping does cause different adaptations. Unloaded jumping creates improvement in jump height and provides no improvement in change of direction abilities. Loaded jumping improves sprint performance, jump height (not as much as unloaded jumping), change of direction abilities and muscular hypertrophy. (Beardsley, 2018)
It is also very important to jump in all 3 planes of motion, especially when the jump training is part of ACL rehabilitation/prevention program. Learning to jump and land both bilaterally and unilaterally in all three planes of motion will not only improve athleticism, but will also help to prepare the athlete for all scenarios encountered while playing sports. When designing the jump program, mastery of the sagittal plane should be achieved prior to implementation of the frontal and transverse plane.
There is a wide variety of plyometrics that can be utilized to improve athleticism and decrease injury. Review of all the variations is beyond the scope of this article, but variety will ensure continued adaptations and keep the program fun. It is important to note that the various jumps can be more or less stressful to the joints and central nervous system, and different variations will provide different adaptations. If the jump program is being utilized for rehab/injury prevention it is essential that both bilateral and unilateral training is implemented. To provide continued adaptations and to meet the varied needs of sport, jump training programs should be varied and progressive just like any other component of a strength and conditioning/rehab program.
Jump training is a really fun and effective way to train. However, it is important that someone qualified designs the program. This will ensure continued adaptation, injury prevention, and will reduce the risk of over training, pain and possible injury. As always consult your physician prior to implementing any fitness routine.
C. B. (2018, April). Comparing the Effects of Weighted and Unweighted jump training. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/