Most plyometric and jump training is like plum pudding. And even though nobody has talked about plum pudding in about a hundred years, I’m not the first to use this traditional British dessert as a point of comparison.
We used to compare atoms to plum pudding (hang with me, I swear this is going somewhere). In 1904, physicist JJ Thomson discovered that the electrons of an atom were negatively charged; however, the positively charged nucleus of the atom remained undiscovered. With this knowledge, he proposed that the electrons were like negatively charged specks (the plums) amidst a positively charged space (the pudding). This was termed the plum pudding model. A few years later, when Ernest Rutherford discovered that the positively charged part of the atom was congregated in the nucleus, the previous plum pudding model had to be adjusted.
Thomson’s discovery was revolutionary, but it was incomplete. Most jump training today is like Thomson’s plum pudding model: all the talk centers around minimizing ground contact time and the importance of the stretch-shortening cycle. This could be a hurdle jump, traditional bounding, or many other drills that fit into the original definition of plyometric proposed by Yuri Verkhoshansky in Supertraining. These plyometric exercises teach athletes how to transfer their stored strength from one movement to the next, like a rubber band. All else being equal, the athlete with a more efficient stretch-shortening cycle will be more explosive and faster because they’ll transfer energy more efficiently.Plyometric exercises teach athletes how to transfer their stored strength from one movement to the next, like a rubber band, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
But very few talk about (or train) another significant piece (like the nucleus) of the jump training equation: the longer impulse, or static plyometrics.
Beginning with ice hockey as an example, the sport has one big difference from land sports: it’s played on ice. Quite the astute observation, I know. What’s important to understand about that, though, is that skating is not the same as sprinting. One of the main differences is that the ground contact time of a hockey stride is longer compared to a running stride.
Because the ground contact time is longer, a hockey player can’t transfer elastic energy via the stretch-shortening cycle as much as a sprinter or football player can in the course of their sport.
That means an elite hockey player has to rely on other means to generate force. With less value put on elastic force from traditional plyometric training, hockey players need to learn how to create force in a more static position. If you’re training hockey players, that means less time, energy, and resources should be spent gaining incremental improvements in the stretch-shortening cycle and more time generating power from a static position.With less value put on elastic force from traditional plyometric training, hockey players need to learn how to create force in a more static position, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
Instead of consisting of all the “bouncy” plyometric exercises, a hockey player’s training program should be a mix of static and elastic.
How This Applies to Other Sports Besides Hockey
This insight is not only valuable for hockey players, however; all strides, land or ice, have varying demands. For running sports, the acceleration phase has longer ground contact times. When you think about this logically, it makes perfect sense because there is no stored elastic energy to transfer when you haven’t started moving yet.
Athletes who don’t effectively generate force without the aid of the stretch-shortening cycle will struggle in the first few strides of a sprint. Adding static jumps to your training programs can become one of the most effective means for training acceleration.
That makes it a crucial component of nearly any athlete training program. After all, in most team sports, athletes are intermittently accelerating and decelerating and often don’t make it to top speed. Therefore, training these skills should be a priority in any training program.Adding static jumps to your training programs can become one of the most effective means for training acceleration, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
Assessing the Need for Static Jump Training in Each Athlete
Some athletes will need more static jump training, while others should focus their attention on traditional plyometrics. Regardless of what the athlete thinks their weak points are, the only way to know is to test them. With regards to their limiting factor in their force development, a few simple assessments can show a lot.
30-Meter Sprint Times with the 10-Meter Splits
Remember that acceleration—regardless of the sport’s playing surface—requires the ability to produce force with less momentum and elastic energy. So, if two athletes have the same 30-meter sprint time (on ice or land), they might get there in different ways. One athlete might have a bad start but pick it up, and vice versa. If you look at their 30-meter sprint times and their 10-meter sprint times, that will tell you more information about how they got to that 30-meter time.
Were their first 10 meters slow compared to their peers? If so, that’s an indicator they need more static plyometrics to work on developing force without elastic energy, and vice versa.
Comparing Vertical Jumps
First, you measure two kinds of vertical jumps:
- Elastic or “countermovement” vertical jumps
- Static or “non-countermovement” jumps
When coaching athletes, I prefer the terms elastic and static over countermovement, because as much as I love big words (and crushing people with them at Scrabble), most athletes don’t.
The elastic jump is a typical vertical jump, where the athlete can do whatever they have to do to jump as high as they can. For the static jump, the athlete places hands on hips, sits down into a comfortable position to jump from, pauses, and without creating countermovement, jumps as high as they can. Measuring both static and elastic jumps will give the coach a good picture of how they produce force with and without momentum.Measuring both static and elastic jumps will give the coach a good picture of how they produce force with and without momentum, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
Now, obviously the elastic jump is going to have a higher score. The key is to look at their scores within the context of the whole team—let’s say the average difference between the two is five inches, but one athlete has a 32” elastic jump and a 24” static jump. That’s a sign the athlete’s weak point is their static ability, so their jump program will include more static jumps.
If the two jumps are very close together, the first thing to look at is the athlete’s jumping technique on the elastic jumps. Personally, I primarily work with hockey players, who often can’t jump because they didn’t spend enough time playing other sports. If you fix their jump technique and they still have a narrow discrepancy, it’s a sign their stretch-shortening cycle is lagging behind their static power generation.
Static Plyometric Exercises
In terms of what to do, perform the same simple plyometric and jump training exercises. But instead of going from one to the next in an elastic manner, pause completely before each jump in the posture that you’d jump from.
You can go forwards, sideways, 45 degrees, unilateral or bilateral, and more. Play around with the plane of motion and loads necessary for the athlete just as you would for typical plyometric drills.
Static Hurdle Jump
Set up your hurdles like normal and emphasize exploding out of the bottom position. Athletes will not be able to jump as high without the support from the stretch-shortening cycle, so you’ll have to lower the hurdles.
Static Broad Jump
Static Hex Bar Jumps
Just as the athletes will be limited in their explosive capacities during the hurdle jumps and bounds, the weight for the hex bar jumps will likely have to go down compared to elastic weighted jumps.
Box to Hurdle Jump
This variation shows how difficult it can be to jump without using any previous momentum. The athlete starts on the box at the angle they are prepared to jump from. Because the box will be immediately below them, they won’t be able to load up any sort of elastic energy.
Even for athletes used to springing over hurdles like they’re nothing, this exercise may be humbling.
Non-Countermovement Vertical Jumps
For these vertical jumps, start at the bottom position of where you would jump from, keep your hands on your hips, and then jump. They’re great as a diagnostic tool but can also be inserted into a program. The Just Jump System is ideal to assess NCM jumps.
Variations & Progressions
You could likely extrapolate this concept to any power exercise you perform. While I personally haven’t experimented much with Olympic lifts or kettlebell swings performed with the emphasis on pausing completely at the bottom and exploding up, I think those could make for interesting experiments.
As in any exercise, you want to be able to keep challenging your athletes as they improve. Static jump training can be progressed in a few ways:
- Put Your Hands on Your Hips. By placing the hands on the hips, you take away the momentum generated by the arm swing, making it even more difficult.
- Add Weight. The goal is to create as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time, and one easy way to challenge that is to add more load. For hex bar jumps, obviously you can add more weight. For other exercises, a weight vest will work best.
- In absence of a vest, if you have the athlete hold a med ball or a dumbbell, you’ll notice they’ll want to “swing” the weight forward as they jump. Acting like a counterbalance, this will actually make the exercise easier. So, if you do opt for a med ball or dumbbell, make sure the implement moves with them and not in front of them.
- Move to Single Leg. Another simple option is to go to one leg.
Through each of these options you can pick and choose and create enough options and variability to continue to make static jump training challenging and engaging.As in any exercise, you want to be able to keep challenging your athletes as they improve, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
Adding Static Jump Training to Your Program
The first step is recognizing that static plyometrics should be in most training programs. Next, determine whether your athletes need more or fewer of the simple tests. Depending on the athletes’ strengths and weaknesses, the program should have more or fewer static jump exercises than before.
For sports like hockey, static jump training should be a part of every athletes’ training program because of the demands of skating. For other sports, this can be more on a case-by-case basis depending on each athlete’s individual needs. Regardless, static plyometrics and jumps should be a part of your coaching arsenal.Static plyometrics and jumps should be a part of your coaching arsenal, says @dwrosalesvt. Click To Tweet
More broadly, whether it’s in evolving our jump training or discovering more info about the atom, remember that all of the information we have is incomplete; it’s just the best model we have available right now. There are plum pudding models all around us in our world, and it’s going to take experimentation, curiosity, and the willingness to learn if we’re to discover the nucleus.
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