Plyometric and jump-based training has been shown to be extremely effective at increasing explosiveness, power output, and neuromuscular adaptations that increase athletic performance. Jump training, often used in formal sports training, has been also seen throughout olympic weightlifting programs, however the specifics on how to program them can be unclear. Throughout my research regarding the specific methods on how to implement plyometric/jump-based training into Olympic weightlifting programs, I have found little concrete guidance as to what exercises, loading schemes, and overall integration of these effective powerful and explosives exercises.
Therefore, in this article we will set out to discuss:
- Basic science of plyometric/jump training
- Guidance on when and how to program jump based training into current and/or future training cycles.
- Exercises and the loading schemes (1RM%, sets x reps, total volume)
Plyometrics and the Stretch-Shortening Cycle
In an earlier article, I discussed briefly the history of plyometric based training and it’s for increasing the efficiency of the stretch-shortening cycle. In the late 1950’s and 60’s, Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Soviet researcher and sport coach, found that plyometric based training can increase ground reaction force time, which positively correlated with increased abilities to absorb and react in a “collision” phase with the ground, either by running, jumping, landing in cleans, etc.The increased efficiency of that “collision” allowed for improved kinetic energy transferring, negating lost energy potentials and ultimately increasing an athlete’s ability to promote greater amounts of force to jump higher, run faster, and be more explosive. Furthermore, the ability of an athlete to properly eccentrically (muscles actively lengthening) decelerate and react concentrically (muscles actively contracting, such as in the catch of a snatch/clean, bottom of a squat, vertical jump, dip and drive phase of a jerk, etc), allows for greater rebound and force production to overcome a specific downward force. Lastly, the central nervous system is highly influenced by plyometric/jump-based training. Increased motor unit activation, enhanced motor unit firing rates, and synchronization of those impulses create a greater potentiation for powerful muscle contractions.
How to Program Plyometrics/Jump-Training
Integrating jump-training into weightlifting programs can enhance power, explosiveness, and overall performance of your lifters. Due to the high neuromuscular stress of plyometric-jump based training, it is often suggested that athletes perform these exercise in a minimally fatigued state (with an exception of PAP training, discussed below). In fatigued states, the neural drive is less than optimal, which may impede with an athlete’s ability to produce maximal power potential.
Below are three instances where coaches and athletes can administer plyometric/jump-based training to allow for the greatest opportunity for athletic performance within a training session.
Beginning of Sessions
Following the dynamic warm-up and mobility exercises, plyometric training can be performed while athletes are at the freshest state. At this time, an athlete should be able to perform these explosive exercises with minimal fatigue, allowing for the highest potential to promote positive neuromuscular adaptations.
Here are some examples of plyometric/jump-based training exercises that can be used prior to work sets:
1. Depth Drops and Jumps
2. Hurdle Hops
3. Other Creative Jump Sequences: Coaches can randomize jumps, both linearly, laterally, single leg, weighted, etc to promotw overall improvements in athelticism.
In-Between Strength Sets
Referred to as Post-Activation-Potentiation (PAP) training, following a strength set (loading and repetitions in which fatigue will not effective maximal plyometric capacities, often with moderate to heavy load for 2-5 repetitions) an athlete will immediately perform explosive plyometrics in order to promote positive adaptation in power production. Due to the increased demands of a heavy load, muscular contractions and motor unit recruitment is highest in order to match the imposed demands of the load, which allows for an acute bout of heightened neural drive and force production. Research originally done by German sport physiologist, Dietmar Schmidtbleicher suggested that increased acute neural drive following those heavy strength sets allows for greater rate of force development. The increased potential allows us to acutely perform at higher levels, and over time, allows us to enhance those capacities further.
Here are some examples of PAP training that can be integrated into strength and power cycles:
1. Squat Variations + Broad and/or Vertical Jump
2. Deadlift + Jump
Lower Volume and Intensity Days and/or Accessory Lifts
Throughout a training week, lighter volume (sets x reps) and intensity (% of 1RM) days may be a viable time to incorporate plyometric/jump based training. Additionally, coaches and athletes could incorporate plyometrics after main lifts with an understanding that optimal performance may be affected by an athlete’s fatigue later in a training session. Inclusion of either bodyweight jump training, or loaded jumps (squat jump, trap bar jumps, etc) can be beneficial as long as loading and fatigue do not limit an athlete’s ability to perform them properly. Research suggests that the loading percentage for jump squats have been found to be most effective for the hip and knee joints at 42% and 0% of 1RM, respectively. Research by McBride, et al. reported that lighter loaded squat jumps (30% of 1RM) has significantly higher movement velocities capacities and EMG activation than higher loading (upwards of 80% of 1RM) The results suggest that coaches and athletes can vary loading percentages within that range to develop greater power outputs specific to a joint, with higher loading affecting hip power and less/no loading promoting increased knee power. Both scenarios allow coaches and athletes to experiment with each.
Below are common examples of externally loaded plyometric exercises:
1. Dumbbell Squat Jump
2. Barbell Squat Jump
3. Trap Bar Deadlift Jump
Plyometric training has been shown to significantly enhance power output and explosiveness. Both lower body and upper body training can be adopted to perform various drills and exercises. Coaches and atheltes should fully understand the intended outcomes, point of diminishing return (too heavy of loads negatively impacts perofmrance and increases injury), and the upper limit to training volume used (too much too soon, over programming sets and reps, etc). With sound programming, plyometric/jump-training can improve the perofrmance of athetles on the platform, in the gym, and on the field.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram