The highest vertical jump I ever personally recorded for myself was 37 inches, and I am incredibly proud of this feat. Plyometric exercises are certainly not the only tool which I used to get there, but they absolutely helped!
Box jumps and broad jumps are two types of plyometric exercises that provide you with benefits relating to explosive compound movements. Both movements are commonly done with bodyweight or with very light loads, and the aim of engaging in plyometric training such as this is to train your body for maximum force production, within the shortest period.
Usually, reps are kept low, while the intensity and effort is high.
You should try to carry out each movement as explosively as you possibly can, to train for maximum vertical jump benefit.
Plyometric Training and Muscle
Contrary to most athletes, I do not recommend plyometric training very often. The reason for this is that since I am a basketball player, I am jumping with maximal force extremely often. Plyometric training is great for learning jumping technique and force production, but I generally use my time to focus more on the other areas of vertical jump training.
However, adding in optimized and intense plyometric training at certain points in your workout routine can absolutely have great benefit on your overall ability to run and jump!
Our muscular system is composed of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers; with the fast-twitch fibers happening to be the strongest and largest fibers in our body. This type of muscle fiber is trained through heavy lifting, explosive movements, and anaerobic activities.
The slow-twitch muscle fibers are built for endurance. For almost all athletes, fast-twitch muscle fibers are more important!
Use of Plyometric Training
Plyometric training such as broad jumps and box jumps help to increase efficiency and strength, by focusing on the development of fast twitch muscle fibers.
Effective plyometric training can accelerate an average athlete in to a great athlete, just as similarly as useless plyometric training can hold a great athlete from becoming an elite athlete!
Some trainers and coaches tend to shy away from plyometric training because they consider the movements too difficult to teach, and dangerous; but your body may not become as explosive as it can be, without plyometric training.
I am certainly not one to load an excessive amount of different plyometric exercises in to one workout, but targeted plyometric training absolutely has a place in my workouts!
Creating a Box Jump Training Program
Box jumps are a jumping exercise where an athlete projects from the ground, and lands on an elevated box. Although it may seem elementary, there is more to box jump than you see from a distance.
In practicing box jumps, there are several factors that can lead to either great results, or poor results with the possibility of injuries.
- Do you walk, run, or jump from a stationary position to the box?
- Are you projecting from one or two feet, and is the initiation from a counter movement or a static position?
- What is the height of the box?
- What is your reason for engaging in box jumps?
Being able to effectively answer these questions will greatly determine the level of success that you get from this plyometric exercise.
Why Do We Need Box Jumps?
Why do we engage in plyometric exercises such as box jumps, or broad jumps?
Primarily, plyometric exercises such as broad jumps and box jumps help you to exploit the stretch-shortening cycle of your legs, in order to improve the use of elasticity energy. There are several benefits of engaging in box jumps:
- Box jumps helps to increase your strength and muscle tone, and it also helps to build both your upper and lower body strength. By forcing you to jump as high as you can, you are forced to utilize every muscle in your legs, and your arms in order to propel your body up.
- Engaging in box jumps is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. While you jump, your body burns about 800 to 1,000 calories an hour; when compared to 200 to 300 calories that you burn per hour while walking. Since high-intensity jumping which includes broad jumps and box jumps stimulates remarkable changes in mitochondria (this is where fuel is being converted into energy), your body will burn fat before carbohydrates, which is a great advantage for people who desire to lose weight. Obviously, you won’t be jumping at a high intensity for an hour straight; but I think you get the picture!
- You can simply locate a bench that is high enough, or any other firmly rooted structure to jump on to! Box jumps do not need to be done with one specific type of equipment, and are quite adaptable.
- Box jumps helps to improve your vertical jump, endurance, speed and coordination, which will enhance your performance with any sports activity that you try.
Tips on Effective use of Box Jumps
To effectively use box jumps and get maximum results, the following points are useful to understand:
- Start by taking an athletic position, as you should ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart. Maintain a comfortable distance away from the box.
- As soon as you are ready for the jump, drop quickly into a squat position, and then extend your hips. Swing your arms, then push your feet through the floor to propel yourself onto the box.
- Try to land quietly and softly, to reduce the amount of impact that you are putting on your tendons, ligaments, joints and bones.
- To prevent the risk of hitting the box during the arm swing, you should ensure that the distance you are standing away from the box should be wide enough.
- Practice on low boxes before increasing the height of the box at all. Form is key, and work slowly towards higher boxes!
- Box jumps can be performed at almost any point in the workout, but are particularly effective when your legs are more “fresh,” since you want to be performing this movement as explosively as possible!
One of the main advantages of a broad jump is that it helps to improve your explosive strength, and your ability to jump quickly. Also, known as standing long jumps, this is a very useful exercise for any athlete who needs to quickly get off their feet vertically, or horizontally!
As an athlete, by introducing broad jump to your exercise program you are establishing a functional way of improving your overall performance.
To improve your broad jump, you should work to perfect the movement. This can be achieved through repetition with full exertion, on every rep.
You can also improve your broad jump by adding resistance to your movement. You can use bungees to add resistance, if you are conscious of your technique.
Another way to add resistance to broad jumps is to jump slightly uphill. Often, I will do broad jumps up the side of a grass hill, since this also helps reduce your landing force. Broad jumping in this manner will force you to push with even greater force, adding a unique stimulus to the movement!
Benefits of Broad Jumps
Probably the greatest benefit of broad jumps is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers, all over your body.
Just like other plyometric exercises, it requires your leg and core muscles to contract quickly, which will help you to generate maximal force for every leap. By engaging in one or two plyometric exercises in a week, it will no doubt have a significant effect on your explosive strength; which will also positively affect your sprinting and jumping performance.
There is a possibility that while engaging in any plyometric exercise such as broad jumps or box jumps, that you may experience strain on your lower body when landing from the jump. Although you exert a large amount of strain on your lower body when you land from any jump, if you focus on a soft landing for every box jump that you do, you will greatly reduce the strain on your anterior cruciate ligament, knee and hip joints.
Practicing broad jumps and box jumps will help you learn proper jumping and landing technique, making these movements more natural and safe when you are competing in physical sports.
One more simple plyometric exercise that you can do is the jump squat!
There are many variations, but the basic jump squat is just as effective as any other. I consider this move a precursor to the box jump and broad jump, since you are simply jumping straight up and down with the jump squat.
This is an excellent plyometric exercise, and requires no equipment at all to be done!
Once you have mastered the basic jump squat, you can also try out some more difficult variations!
Plyometric Exercises Summary
Plyometric exercises are a necessity for many athletes, but need to be programmed intelligently. If your strength and conditioning coach has you routinely just jumping over objects or trying to perform maximal height box jumps, you are risking injury for very little reward.
My strategy with plyometric exercises is to always perform them in correlation with strength exercises, to maximize the production of fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Utilizing a routine of intelligent plyometric exercises, along with foundational lifts and single leg exercises, is the absolute best way to improve your vertical jump!
Use these tips and build a massive vertical jump for yourself!