How Jumps Directly Improve Workouts
Jumps boost muscle fiber recruitment. They can recruit dormant muscle fibers, increase neural drive, and improve the efficiency of your nervous system. This allows you to activate and train more muscle during your workouts for faster strength gains. And when you activate more muscle fibers, you increase the number of muscle fibers you can fatigue to maximize muscle growth.
Over time, explosive movements make your body more efficient. They help you hoist huge weights, get more explosive, and recruit more muscle fibers.
Most lifters screw up jumps by...
- Using loads that are too heavy.
- Using boxes that are too high.
- Using form so bad that they end up injured.
It's time to stop all that. Let's look at some styles of jumps, some specific jumps, and how to make sure you're not doing them like a jackass.
- Single-Response Jumps: These consist of one jump followed by a solid "stick" and are the ideal jump for improving starting strength and pure explosive power. They're a lower stress way for lifters to improve landing and take-off mechanics for injury-free, high performance gains.
- Multi-Response Jumps: These are more complex. They're multiple jumps performed in sequence that minimize time on the ground, like jumping over multiple boxes or hurdles. The focus is refining the stretch shortening cycle and maximizing explosiveness.
It's best to start with single-response jumps and then add multi-response jumps as your skills improve. Each type of jump can be a single-response or multi-response.
Jumps can also be static or with a countermovement:
- A static jump starts in the "loaded" position and shows static explosiveness and strength. For most lifters, the static start is ideal because it's simpler and allows perfect landing and takeoff mechanics while building dead-stop explosive power.
- A counter-movement jump uses an explosive transition from eccentric (negative) to concentric (positive or going up) and displays the ability to absorb, reverse, and generate force. This would be a jump where you start standing tall, rapidly drop into a squat position, and then jump as high as you can. Countermovement jumps are more advanced and too aggressive for most people to start with, but are a more plyometric for building explosive power.
Still, don't be a wise guy and jump right into these without practice. Novice athletes and overaggressive gym bros often lose body position, let the knees dive inwards, and spend too much time loaded.
1 Box Jump
Box jumps work best for reinforcing sound landing mechanics and reducing joint stress. Keep box jumps to a single-response jump. Maximize hip extension and stick each landing. Then step onto the floor or a lower box. And don't be one of those dudes trying to match JJ Watt's 60-inch box jump but keeps missing. You're not ready. You look ridiculous. And the rest of the gym is silently laughing at you.
2 Squat Jump
These are your classic vertical jumps. You can train jump squats with bodyweight or you can build explosive power by using a weight vest, light dumbbells, or a light barbell. From simple to complex, here are the different types of squat jumps. All variations can be made more challenging by adding resistance.
Static Single-Response Squat Jump
Static Multi-Response Squat Jump
Countermovement Single-Response Squat Jump with Weight
Countermovement Multi-Response Squat Jump
3 Broad Jump
Broad jumps are king when it comes to developing explosive horizontal power, faster sprints, and longer jumps. They also develop a more powerful deadlift. Focus on jumping both up and out on broad jumps to reduce shear stress on the knees.
Static Single-Response Broad Jump
Countermovement Single-Response Broad Jump
Countermovement Multi-Response Broad Jump
There are three key phases in all jumps: loading, exploding, and landing.
- Loading: Set up with feet about shoulder-width apart in an athletic stance and arms up at chest height. Swing the arms while flexing at the hips and knees and load up the legs. Note: Static jumps will start in the loaded, quarter-squat position with the arms cocked back and ready to swing.
- Exploding: Immediately after loading, swing the arms with the jump, driving off the legs and pushing the hips forward. Aim to jump both out and up, because adding a vertical component to the jump reduces shear stress on the knees. Bring your feet and arms back in front of you in preparation for landing.
- Landing: Drop your hips and bend your knees as you land to absorb force in a flat-foot position. If you're doing single-response jumps, stick each landing to reinforce proper landing mechanics before starting the next jump. If you're doing multi-response jumps, minimize your time on the ground, then re-load and jump again.
It doesn't matter how hard you train. Without attention to your body and jump mechanics, you're grooving bad form and increasing your chance of injury. By practicing sound technique you'll build muscle memory that automatically activates in more chaotic environments like jumping for rebounds during basketball.
Here are the points to keep in mind:
- Feet should be flat when you land, rather than any anterior weight displacement (which forces you to tilt forward onto your toes.)
- Knees should be neutral, rather than in valgus or varus (diving in or diving out, respectively). This prevents shredding your knees and writhing in pain during your pickup basketball games.
- Brace your abs. Don't allow your back to round. Any weakness in trunk position shows a power leak that reduces explosive power and opens the door for greater stress on the hips, knees, and ankles.
- Head up, chest up. If your head and neck drop when landing you'll lose trunk position and fold over. This leads to a breakdown in form from head to toe, decreasing performance and opening the door up for injury.
- Pause and hold position at the top of the jump to reinforce optimal landing position.
Jumps are best programmed early in a workout before your main lift. Doing them before your main lifts serves as an extended warm-up and ramps up your central nervous system for better muscle fiber recruitment, strength, and power.
Add jumps twice per week before training sessions with three to five sets of three to five reps, resting 90 seconds between sets. Remember, if you can't stick each landing position, regress your jumps.
If you haven't jumped in a while, start with static, single-response box jumps. Quality trumps quantity every time, so it's best to reinforce optimal takeoff and landing. Perform each jump variation for two weeks during your lower-body training day to build explosive power.
- Weeks 1-2: Box Jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds
- Weeks 3-4: Static Single-Response Squat Jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds
- Weeks 5-6: Static, Multi-Response Squat Jump, 3x3, rest 60 seconds
- Weeks 7-8: Countermovement Single-Response Squat Jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds
- Weeks 9-10: Countermovement Multi-Response Squat Jump, 3x3, rest 60 seconds
- Weeks 11-12: Static Single-Response Broad Jump, 3x3, rest 90 seconds
- Weeks 13-14: Static, Multi-Response Broad Jump, 3x3, rest 120 seconds
- Weeks 15-16: Countermovement Single-Response Broad Jump, 3x3, rest 90 seconds
- Weeks 17-18: Countermovement Multi-Response Broad Jump, 3x3, rest 120 seconds