Over the years at Force Barbell, we have developed a pretty solid consistency when increasing athletes’ vertical jump. We have had athletes increase their vertical jump up to 6″ in 6 months, and up to 10″ in 2 years. I will acknowledge that Force Barbell wasn’t the only factor that played into these huge increases in vertical jump height, but it definitely was a significant variable.
Every athlete wants to increase his or her vertical jump and become more powerful. Right? So, how does it get done in a time-efficient manner?
I think it’s important to acknowledge the process of increasing power output. And that doesn’t come overnight. If you are not a naturally explosive athlete, then it may take some time to develop the power output that you would like to see. You may have to get over the fact that some athletes are genetically more gifted than you, and you might have to work a lot harder to see sufficient power output increases. However, it can be done. But it’s important to acknowledge the fact that, to increase power and speed, you need to develop other things first.
If you are an athlete who hasn’t spent a ton of time working within a strength and conditioning program, then it’s not smart to throw a bunch of high-intensity plyometric training into your program. That would be like putting a Ferrari engine into a Honda Civic. Certain things have to be built before the body is ready for high-intensity explosive activity.
An athlete has to learn to move properly and efficiently to absorb and create force in good positions. Often, when we get athletes for the first time, we like to use low-intensity jumping drills, where an athlete can learn to land and jump in quality positions. These drills include broad jumps, where that athlete is focused on landing in good positions and doesn’t focus on how far he or she can jump. Other drills include depth drops, lateral bounds, and box jumps. They require a low-level of skill, where an athlete can simply learn to be an athlete without much confusion or complexity. Usually, an athlete has increased his or her power output by a small measure while just learning to utilize force in the proper manner during these basic drills.
Strength and Capacity
Once an athlete has learned to absorb and create force in an efficient manner, then it’s time to work on the athlete’s ability to generate a lot of force, “aka” getting STRONGER. We usually work on both simultaneously. The warm-up is when we spend time on low-level plyometric drills, where the rest of the training session is built upon getting the athlete stronger, moving better, and developing the capacity to work. We incorporate all sorts of movements to get athletes stronger, but we primarily focus on squats, presses, deadlifts, pulls, and core accessories. Our goal with these movements is first to get athletes to learn to do them in an efficient manner, and then build some capacity and strength off of that. When an athlete first comes in, the reps will generally be higher, between 5-10. With this higher rep scheme, we can develop some conditioning in the athlete and the higher reps also give the athlete more time to perfect the movement as best as he or she can. After a month or so, if an athlete has built a foundation of quality movement and capacity with the lifts, we will lower the reps down to 1-3. With the reps being lower, we can get more weight on the bar and really focus on developing the athlete’s ability to create a lot of force. If an athlete is getting stronger in the back squat, then by definition, we know that he or she has developed the ability to create more force than they once had.
This is when we’ll see greater improvements in the athlete’s power output. The focus on movement quality with low-intensity plyometrics molds together really well with heavier lifting.
At this point in an athlete’s training, he or she has built-up a pretty strong foundation of quality movement and strength gains. This allows us to get a bit more specific with speed and power work. We’ll then start adding higher-intensity plyometric drills at the beginning of their program, such as broad-jump multiples, depth jumps, lateral-bound multiples, hurdle-track jumps, crossover steps, sprints, etc. These plyometric drills are more focused on utilizing the stretch-shortening cycle and are more demanding on the body, because there’s increased force that has to be decelerated by the body during the eccentric phase. Remember, these drills are best for athletes who have a solid foundation of strength, because they’ve built-up the resiliency and force requirements to handle these loads, which is why we don’t start athletes off with these higher-intensity plyometric drills.
During this phase of an athlete’s training, we also like to incorporate speed squats, deadlifts, and presses during an athlete’s training to develop the ability to create force in a short amount of time. We also might superset heavier compound movements with some sort of jump or medicine-ball throw to obtain the benefits of post-activation potentiation (PAP). At this point, with all the other training that’s been accumulated, an athlete is usually moving like a completely different human being. It’s quite amazing seeing an athlete go from an 18″ vertical to a 24″ vertical in 6 months.
Sometimes, athletes have a hard time getting on board with this process. Everyone would like to be more powerful and faster now, rather than putting in a bunch of mundane hard work over time. It isn’t fun to spend time learning how to land from a jump appropriately over and over, or perform a bunch of reps on squat, but it’s the work that’s necessary to increase power output over the long-term. If we wanted to increase an athlete’s vertical jump within a month, we probably could, but we would probably also break that athlete in subsequent months. Much like how you would destroy a Honda Civic if you put a Ferrari engine in it.