I would love some information and programming suggestions on how to improve an athlete's vertical jump. Can you help me?
Thanks for your question! Although you did not specify what type of athlete, bilateral or unilateral vertical or arm movements along with the vertical jump are necessary. I will list the critical components of enhancing one's vertical jump (please take into consideration the other points just mentioned so your program is specific).
First, the athlete must exhibit optimal multi-planar soft tissue extensibility especially in the ankles, hips and trunk. To unload the body (which allows you vertical displacement), the athlete must load. The loading phase of any movement requires the soft tissue complex to lengthen, which in turn allows shortening (unloading). Our suggestion is to assess your athlete’s ability to dorsiflex, hip extend and hip internally rotate as these three areas are commonly the troubled areas. If the athlete presents restrictions, go to the PTontheNet.com Exercise & Flexibility Library and select stretches for the restricted regions.
Second, to exhibit power, you must have strength. Therefore, after the extensibility is within balanced levels, have your athlete perform strength movements that simulate the vertical in which you’re attempting to improve. For example, if your goal is to enhance single leg vertical displacement, perform single leg squats. During this phase of conditioning, focus on creating the right “tweaks” to get the correct biomechanical reaction (optimal alignment, multi-planar loading/unloading, etc.).
Third, to jump higher, you must JUMP! Without over exhausting the athlete from skill training (avoid overtraining), apply a power programming consisting of various jumps and/or hops (one leg). The key to proper jumping is to enhance the point of transformation, which is the point at which you turn the loading phase into the unloading phase. To assist you in your program design, keep in mind the following points:
- Jumping is loading the entire body in ALL three planes of motion.
- Watch the foot/ankle complex closely! What occurs at the foot/ankle will have a dramatic effect on the trunk.
- Jumping is subconscious (don’t create rigidity).
- Jumping without loading is impossible (therefore, optimal extensibility is a MUST).
- The hips must be able to load in all three planes!
- Gravity is the number one competitor of jumping, yet the best friend of loading, therefore the best friend of jumping (don’t use traditional equipment to enhance jumping – use gravity).
- Always compare right to left session to session. Re-assess and progress accordingly to avoid undesirable results!
For more information, please see Gary Gray's Functional Video Digest Series on Jumping. Gary presents one of the best assessment/strategies to enhance an athlete's jumping ability!