Big Ups

I get asked a lot of questions from trainees. Here are the four most frequent:

  1. How can I improve my bench?
  2. How can I lose fat while gaining muscle?
  3. How can I improve my vertical jump?
  4. Coach, why does it burn when I pee?

Okay, I'm kidding about that last one, but the first few really are the "big three" of all training questions! I've covered the first two in past Testosterone Nation articles, so today I'm going to tackle the third: how to increase your "ups."

There are several things to consider when designing a program aimed at improving your vertical:

1 – Exercise Selection

You want to pick the exercises which will be the most helpful in improving your jumping capacity. These are:

  • Back squat
  • Jump squat
  • Jump lunges (or jump split squat)
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Olympic lift variations (power clean from hang or power snatch from hang or blocks)
  • Depth jumps
  • Vertical jumps
  • Bulgarian squat
  • 2 – Physical Capacities Required

    When it comes to jumping high, the two most important qualities are strength and power (speed-strength). The need for power is self-evident, but few understand that strength is also an important key. Strength is the basis on which power is built. Without a fair amount of strength, power can't be increased by much as you'll always be limited by your muscles' capacity to produce force.

    3 – Training Parameters

    Now that we know which capacities need to be developed, we can select the proper training zones. These are: relative strength, limit strength, speed-strength, and strength-speed. These zones are characterised by the following parameters:

    Relative Strength
    Reps per set: 1-3
    Load: 90-100%
    Type of exercises: Basic compound movements

    Limit Strength
    Reps per set: 4-6
    Load: 85-90%
    Type of exercises: Basic compound movements

    Speed-Strength
    Reps per set: 8-10
    Load: Body weight (plyometric) or 10-30% (ballistic movements)
    Type of exercises: Plyo and ballistic exercises

    Strength-Speed
    Reps per set: 3-5
    Load: 45-55 (regular lifts) or 70-80% (Olympic lift variations)
    Type of exercises: Basic compound movements and Olympic variations

    4 - Training Frequency

    The lower body should be trained twice per week, which is optimal to develop the capacities without causing excessive fatigue or recovery debt. The upper body is also trained twice per week; one session is for basic strength lifts while the second one is more for auxiliary exercises (easier workout).

    5 – Type of Contraction

    It goes without saying that explosive exercises are necessary for the development of jumping capacity. However, you shouldn't neglect the importance of isometric and eccentric strength in jumping capacity.

    Jumps involve a pre-stretch/eccentric phase and a transition phase (isometric phase just before the switch from eccentric to explosive concentric). Without proper eccentric strength, you can't make maximal use of the pre-strength phase of a jump. And without proper isometric strength, the switch from eccentric to explosion will be slower, thus decreasing jumping power.

    The Program

    Here's a six week plan to get your ups up. If you follow it to a "T" you'll undoubtedly increase not only your vertical jump, but also your running speed and lower body strength!

    Day 1

    A.Back Squat
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 4-6 reps
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 1-3 reps

    B.Romanian Deadlift
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 4-6 reps
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 1-3 reps

    C.Speed Squat
    Weeks 1-3: 5 x 2 @ 45% (45 sec. rest)
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 2 @ 55% (60 sec. rest)

    D.Jump Squat
    Weeks 1-3:  3 x 8-10 @ 20% bodyweight
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 8-10 @ 30% bodyweight
    As the name implies, go light and jump at the top of the movement!

    E.Vertical Jump
    Weeks 1-3: 3 x 8-10
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 8-10

    Day 2

    A.Bench Press
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 6-8
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 4-6

    B.Bentover Barbell Rowing
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 6-8
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 4-6

    C.Push Press
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 6-8
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 4-6

    D.Weighted Chin-Up
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 6-8
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 4-6

    Day 3

    A.Depth Jump
    Weeks 1-3:  3 x 8-10 (50cm box)
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 8-10 (70cm box)

    B.Jump Split Squat
    Weeks 1-3:  3 x 4-5/side (hold a dumbbell that's 10% of your bodyweight)
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 4-5/side (hold a dumbbell that's 20% of your bodyweight)

    C.Power Clean from Blocks
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 3-5 reps
    Weeks 4-6:  5 x 1-3 reps

    D.Bulgarian Squat Iso-Contrast
    Weeks 1-3:  3 x 4-5/side (5 sec. isometric pause when the knee is at 90 degrees)
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 4-5/side (7 sec. isometric pause when the knee is at 90 degrees)

    E.Top Squat, Overcoming Isometrics
    Weeks 1-3:  Press against pins, 3 sets of 5 reps of 6 sec. each (3 sec. pause between reps)
    Weeks 4-6:  Press against pins, 4 sets of 5 reps of 3 sec. each (3 sec. pause between reps)

    Day 4

    A.Incline Press
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 10-12
    Weeks 4-6:  4 x 8-10

    B.Incline Dumbbell Rowing
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 10-12
    Weeks 4-6:  4 x 8-10

    C.Close-Grip Bench Press
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 10-12
    Weeks 1-3: 4 x 10-12
    Weeks 4-6:  4 x 8-10

    D.Barbell Curl
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 10-12
    Weeks 4-6:  4 x 8-10

    E.Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    Weeks 1-3:  4 x 10-12
    Weeks 4-6:  4 x 8-10

    F.2/1 Machine Curl
    Weeks 1-3:  3 x 4-5/side (lift explosively with 2 arms, lower in 5 sec. with 1 arm)
    Weeks 4-6:  3 x 4-5/side (lift explosively with 2 arms, lower in 5 sec. with 1 arm)

    Conclusion

    This program should yield impressive gains in vertical jump capacity, as well as in lateral agility and sprinting speed. It would also allow you to maintain or even increase your muscle mass, especially if a proper muscle-gaining nutrition program and the right supplements are used.

    I strongly suggest using Biotest's neural boosters Spike® and Brain Candy® alternatively on the lower body workouts. Plazma™ or Surge® Workout Fuel should be used with all the workouts.

    If speed and power are what you're looking for, this is the plan for you!