Jump training can serve as the foundational element of power training before any type of external loading is applied. Maybe you haven’t started lifting weights yet or you have a younger child that you want to be more explosive on the field/court but are not sure their bodies are ready for the weights just yet. Jump training can serve as that introductory to force development.
Similar to almost every exercise out there, plyometrics have progressions and regressions. The important thing is to identify the base level, what we may refer to as an “assessment” in the fitness industry.
If someone wants to learn how to squat with the barbell, they should not just start throwing plates on the bar to see where they might collapse. Personally, we have every client perform a bodyweight squat initially. If someone is not efficient at controlling their own body in space, demonstrating the proper skills required in a squat (knees out, back flat, reaching proper depth), how can they be efficient in the movement once a load is applied?
In the same light, one should not just start stacking bumper plates on top of a box until they can no longer jump that high without mastering the fundamentals first. We want to train to perform better; not to fail. This requires being able to train on a consistent basis without having to take extended time off due to being so sore you can’t even walk for days or, even worse, injury.
Take care of one aspect (perfecting the basics) before trying to move on to the next level (progression)!
The following phases will detail lower intensity plyo work, feel free to use as THE workout in the beginning and gradually turn it into a warm-up as you become ready to progress:
- Know how to HINGE. I can’t tell you the number of clients and young athletes I have encountered that simply have no idea how to sit back in their hips and prime their glutes and hamstrings. If you do not know how to do this on cue, without having to think about it, there can be no Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) and your knees will not be able to tolerate even the lowest intensity plyo work.
- If you’ve mastered the hinge, you are ready for Snap Downs. This is the process of quickly and forcefully sitting back into that hinge, almost a quarter squat position. This movement is priming phase one, the eccentric pre-stretch. Reach for the ceiling, long and tall, then forcefully throw your hands down and sit back into a hinge, and hold. After you have done a few and are ready to progress, you can make snap downs reactive by reaching for the ceiling on your tip-toes and repeating the steps listed above.
- Can you feel your hamstrings stretch as you sit back into your hinge? Congratulations, you are ready to leave the floor. I prefer to work ankle extension first and Pogo Jumps are a terrific choice. Just imagine you are jumping rope in place, you can pick a set number (5 jumps) and stick the landing into a snap down on the last one. Then progress to timed rounds (10-15 seconds is all that is needed). Do a few rounds to get the body prepared for rapid deceleration and rebounding back to acceleration.
- Now we are ready for explosiveness from the floor. Knee Tucks are a great option, one rep at a time. Keep sets short and focus on driving your feet through the floor and landing in an advantageous position that absorbs the shock properly, leading you into the next rep. Each time you go to explode from the floor, try to get as much air as you can, tuck your knees into your abdomen, say to yourself (or scream out loud like Impractical Jokers) “SICK TRICK,” then land as soft as you can. You should immediately come back to the bottom of a snap down position, arms back, and come to a complete stop before rebounding into the next jump.
- Finally, let’s put everything together with a few short rounds of Squat Jumps, sets of five jumps are all that is needed. Squat to full depth (don’t cut yourself short!), hit the bottom of your squat hard and immediately drive your feet through the floor, get as much air as you can (reaching for the ceiling as you come off the floor, arm action plays an integral role), “SICK TRICK,” land soft and immediately sink into your modified squat/snap down position to go into the next rep.
I highly encourage you to begin here and perform this as your entire ‘plyo routine’ until you are comfortable and efficient at each movement, and to learn how to control your body so you do not feel like you are “crashing down” on every jump. As Tony Gentilcore would say, “land like a ninja.” The ability to control one’s own bodyweight in space needs to be the foundation of any plyo program. Do not rush through these steps- they are the building blocks for more advanced training.
Use this as a warm-up if you are interested in increasing your vertical, want to become better at jumping, or to feel better force production from your legs on heavier squats, deadlifts, or olympic lifting sessions. If you do, let me know how it goes. If you have any questions on how to implement plyometrics into your routine, let’s chat.
Vinnie can be reached at Vincent@freedomfitgym.com