Benefits of Barefoot Jump Training

Shoes

Are those fancy shoes helping your jump training???

There has been a lot written over the last few years about barefoot running and training.  I’ve even written a few posts myself on the topic (And The Feet Have It and 3 Tips For Barefoot Training).  However, what I haven’t seen is anything about barefoot plyometrics or jumping.  Recently there was a study published in the JSCR that addressed this.  The study looked at the performance of male and female athletes while performing a vertical jump, depth drop, and Bosco test.  While I won’t go into all of the statistics, in most instances subjects who were barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear had better jump heights and peak power results than those wearing tennis shoes.  These subjects also displayed equal landing forces to those athletes wearing shoes.

My thoughts from this study?

  • That $100 pair of tennis shoes that you’re training in may be hindering your performance in jumping activities.  These shoes are often designed with lots of padding to decrease landing forces.  While this is beneficial to limit the wear and tear on the body, this same padding may limit our explosiveness when jumping.
  • We know that when you lift heavier weight, you get stronger.  Does the same hold true if you do plyometrics or jump training barefoot?  Only time will tell as more research is completed.  However, it does make sense that training barefoot would have positive long term effects.  The previously mentioned study showed better peak power output and jump height when barefoot or in minimalist footwear.  If you get better results each time, what can happen if you train this way consistently?
  • I’ve previously written about the benefits of barefoot training while running, doing agility drills, warming up, etc.  At the same time, I’ve always felt like certain activities might put the athlete at risk for injuries when they were barefoot.  Any type of jumping activity was on my list of things not to do while barefoot.  I’m now rethinking that belief.  While I will probably end up settling on minimalist footwear as a safe alternative, the benefits of jumping without tennis shoes could outweigh the risks.  Plus we know that there isn’t a real difference in landing forces no matter what you are wearing.

What are your thoughts on jumping without tennis shoes?

 

Mark

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An Ounce of Prevention for Ankle Injuries

Ankles Pic

If you’re an athlete, you need to keep your ankles healthy.

Often I hear athletes mention that they have “weak ankles”.  My guess is that the problem isn’t so much “weak ankles” but an initial ankle sprain injury that was never given a chance to fully heal and be fully rehabbed.  I don’t doubt that some people are born with weaker ankles than others, much like some people are born faster than others or stronger than others.  The thing is, many athletes don’t seem to take the time to strengthen their ankles.  One way to help with this is to work some exercises into your training program.  I like to find ways to incorporate them into the warm up when possible.  This allows you to use them to help get the body ready for the training session while also doing some prehab or rehab work for the athlete. Most of the activities are fairly easy to do.  Here are some ideas:

  • Walks – These include variations of normal walking.  By putting the feet in unusual positions, you are forcing the ankles to adapt and become stronger.  So what types of “walks” are there?
    • Toe walks
    • Heel walks
    • Toes pointed in
    • Toes pointed out
    • Inside edges
    • Outside edges

I usually have the athlete begin with 10 yards of the first four types of walks. Over time I progress them to 20 yards.  I generally substitute the inside/outside edge walks for the toes in/out every other workout.

  •  Line Hops – These basic plyometric hops can help the ankles get used to landing in various positions.  It is another great and easy activity to help strengthen them.  These can be worked in as part of a warm up or as part of the actual training program.  To do them, simply pick a line on the ground and hop over it. The jumps don’t have to be high but should focus on getting back and forth over the line as fast as possible.  The athlete should begin using two feet to hop and then progress to one foot hops.  They can be done for reps or for time.  The hops should be done in multiple directions:
    • Laterally
    • Forward-back
    • Diagonally
  • Moving Hops –  Moving hops are all done over a distance and on one leg.  This makes them more difficult than line hops.  I usually have athletes start at 5 yards per foot and progress to 10 yards.  Here are the variations.  They should be done each direction on each foot.
    • Forward
    • Backwards
    • Right
    • Left
  • Single Leg Balance Drills –  These drills are conducted while standing on one leg while on an Airex balance pad.  Here they are in order of difficulty.  (Note – the drills should be done on flat ground first before progressing to the Airex pad).
    • Standing –  The simplest drill is to stand on one foot and balance.  This should be done for 10 reps of 10 seconds each.
    • Arm drills – One variation is to combine balancing on the pad with arm drills. This creates more body movement which increases the stress on the ankle joint.  I usually have the athletes do 20 reps with their arms but they can also do them for time.
    • Squats – While I’m not sure that I would have an athlete attempt to do a full one-legged squat on a pad, I think that partial squats are fine.  I usually have athletes complete 1-2 sets of 10 reps.

These are just a few ways that I have found to include ankle work in a training program.  In encourage you to try them and to create your own variations. There are certainly many other great ankle exercises including using exercise bands and training in the sand. While I’m also a big advocate of both of these, I prefer to use many of the examples I gave above instead.  Many of them have other benefits besides just helping to strengthen the athletes ankles (ex. – plyometric benefits).  Give them a try.

 

Mark

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