You often hear coaches, parents, and the media talk about how “explosive” an athlete is. While some folks are born with natural explosiveness, most athletes need to spend time developing this valuable skill. Strength coaches all agree that development of explosiveness (AKA – power), is important for athletes in almost all sports.
So how do you develop power? One common method is to use the Olympic Weightlifting movements, the clean and jerk and the snatch. While each of these lifts is an excellent way to develop power, they are very technical lifts that require a large amount of instruction. In certain situations they are ideal to use, but not all. If you have athletes that or inexperienced lifters or if safety is an issue, then you may have to find other alternatives to develop power in your athletes.
So what can you do if Olympic lifts aren’t ideal to use? There are several options. This post will look at the various types of jumps that can be used. Part 2 will explore various medicine ball exercises.
These jumps are listed in order from simple to most complex. Anytime that you introduce one of the exercises, make sure to properly teach it and be a stickler about technique, especially on the landings.
Sets & Reps
Since the development of power generally involves all out effort on each rep, it is best to keep reps low for each set. I like using sets of 5. If you are only using one of these exercises for power development, you should use 3-5 sets. If you are using several types of jumps in a session, Try not to go over 10 total sets. This will allow your athletes to have plenty of energy left for the remainder of the training session.
No question that it will go fast. But how does it stop without crashing?
I have previously written about the role of a proper landing in the prevention of ACL injuries. I thought that I would expand on that somewhat. We often think about landing playing a role in basketball and volleyball injuries. I’ve also had it happen to athletes playing football, soccer, and lacrosse. If we take time to carefully evaluate our athletes, many of them in all sports display poor landing mechanics. This can put the knee into an awkward position and can cause extra stresses to be placed on the ACL. Since an ACL reconstruction generally keeps an athlete out of action 6 months, anything that we can do to help prevent these injuries can be huge for our athletes.
So, what can be done to help? We often get into a hurry to get kids running and jumping too fast. In my mind, when car gurus design a newer, faster car, they make sure to spend plenty of time designing and testing the braking system before they take the car on any test runs. It should be the same with athletes. We need to test and train the braking systems before we go crazy with the jumping and running. The simplest way to help your athletes is to teach them how to land properly. Now this isn’t just a 5 minute drill that you do once and never repeat. You have to emphasize landing every time that you do a jumping drill. We all want to see how high or how far the kid jumps. However, it’s probably more important to watch how they land. Yes, you should try to watch and coach everything. Just make sure that you are putting emphasis on the landings.
Want to see the effect that proper landings can have? Myers and Hawkins published a study in 2010 that looked at changes in tibial shear forces when they worked on landing mechanics. They found a 56% decrease in forces when the emphasized proper mechanics. The athletes that they worked with also increased their vertical jump about 2.5 cm. The only negative was the fact that the athletes tended to revert to their old habits once they got tired (see this article on knee landings which discusses the study further).
I think that a 56% decrease in forces could make a huge difference in ACL rupture prevention for athletes. Because of this, make sure to emphasize it during your training.
So how should the athletes land?
Should land on their toes
Keep their knees flexed
Keep their head/shoulders up
A good way to check on their landings is to listen. The athlete should “land softly”. If you hear a loud landing, it’s a good sign they they landed on their heels and probably had their knees straight. This type of landing puts too much force through their ankles, knees, and hips.
As for how to limit the return of bad habits once your athletes get tired, I have two suggestions:
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Make sure to do some of the landing training when the athletes are tired. We all get sloppy when we are tired. Putting them into this stage for some of the training will give you a chance to show them what happens and then correct it.
I was looking in a catalog recently and came across an item called the airope. What is it? Basically, it’s a jumprope without the rope. It is two handles that each have a short length of rope attached to them. For a better idea, please see the picture below.
Want to take the athleticism out of jumping rope?
I guess the idea is to make it easier to do jump rope activities with people who may struggle to get the hang of it. The price – $35. Of course, for $5 I can buy a regular jump rope and do numerous activities with clients. What if they have problems getting used to using the rope? Wouldn’t it be easier to start them with the “non-rope” version? NO!!! Easier isn’t the point. Jumping rope is and always has been a great training tool. It helps to develop balance, coordination, and let’s not forget the plyometric benefits of the jumping itself. Why take away any of the benefits? If you have a client who can’t jump rope, loan them one and have them practice at home.
As for drills that I have clients do using the rope, here is a partial list:
Two foot jumps in place
One foot jumps in place
Two foot lateral jumps
Variations of form running while using a jumprope (high knees, etc)
One/Two foot jumps while moving
Obviously it is important to start off with the easiest jumps and progress to more difficult ones. I feel that jumping rope is one activity that should be incorporated into your training plans regularly. I try to find a place for it at least once a week. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I use the $5 – $10 ropes. They work just fine and they keep the athleticism in the activity.