When introducing certain qualities into strength and conditioning training programs, I’ve found it useful to stack (complex) and/or contrast them with other previously acquired abilities and movement skills. For athletes, this increases the rate and success of transferability to more sophisticated training protocols—and, inevitably, sport.
For example, an athlete who has mastered vertical medicine ball throws can recall and apply the extension that is required to efficiently maneuver through the first two pulls of an Olympic lift or weighted jump.
In this article, I will explain how and why I use the “Jump Matrix,” a concept and tool I acquired via social media from the phenomenal Sports Performance staff at Elon University. Additionally, I’ll cover:
- How we put it to work within a training program to develop and prepare the athletes I work with for multi-contact jumps, multi-directional jumps, and change of direction exercises.
- How this also leads to the more specific qualities and abilities that are foot and ankle stiffness, neuromuscular reactivity and force distribution changes, body awareness, and lower limb angles.
I always like to begin with definitions for clarity:
Jump – A plyometric (powerful and rapid stretch and contraction of muscles) activity that requires the athlete to jump and land on two feet – not to be confused with a hop or with single, same-leg jumping. Ex: vertical jump, broad jump.
Multi-Contact Jump – Jumps with repetitive take-offs and landings in-place or in various directions. Ex: consecutive vertical jump, triple broad jump.
Multi-Directional Jumps – Jumps with repetitive take-offs and landings that occur in various directions. Ex: Dot Drill, hourglass.
Change-of-Direction (CoD) – Various athletic movement patterns (running, shuffling, jumping) to and/or through various predetermined points that require virtually zero external reactionary cueing; points and timing of movement changes are unknown. Not to be confused with agility.
In the realm of athletics, the powerful, reactive, and efficient movement of the body through space more than once, and in more than one direction, is a highly necessary skill and ability to develop.The powerful, reactive, and efficient movement of the body through space more than once, and in more than one direction, is a highly necessary skill and ability to develop, says @KoachGreen_. Click To Tweet
Video 1. Multi-Directional Jump.
Combining what was originally viewed via the Elon Sports Performance social media platform, the space we have available, and the continually improving abilities of the youth I work with, we currently have a chart of 30 different multi-jump, multi-directional jumps—The Jump Matrix—that consist of a mix of horizontal (forward/broad), lateral (sideways), diagonal, and rotational jumps which are numbered, assembled, and progressed by complexity and/or inversion.
These 30 variations are used at various times in a training program depending on athlete, sport, training phase, and ability.
Variations #1 and #2 are the simplest renditions of the matrix, and the foundation on which all the subsequent variations are based.
Jump #1 consists of a single horizontal jump immediately followed by a lateral jump.
Jump #2 is the inverse of #1. The athlete begins with a lateral jump immediately followed by a horizontal jump.
All jumps in the matrix, excluding those that require rotations, are performed facing and moving forward.
Another goal of implementing the Jump Matrix into athletic development programs is to mature the function and robustness of shin angles for deceleration, agility, and change of direction.
Oftentimes, certain aspects of athletic performance—specifically in training—are best left up to trial and error on the part of the athlete. For younger athletes, words sometimes do not do justice in regards to what is expected for any given movement; thus, the athlete must organize themselves without too much, if any, outside assistance.Oftentimes, certain aspects of athletic performance—specifically in training—are best left up to trial and error on the part of the athlete, says @KoachGreen_. Click To Tweet
Understanding, however simple, the concept and tasks of these multi-contact and multi-directional jumps allows the athletes to maneuver and configure themselves in a way that usually yields the desired outcome: self-organization.
This allows for the foot, ankle and lower leg to get into positions that would otherwise take time elsewhere to reproduce.
Furthermore, the change in direction allows athletes to adjust where, how, and when forces are distributed or neutralized. The change in foot pressure is a major component in athletic performance, as it allows the redirection and faster responses to said force.
Below are still shots of a few Jump Matrix variations right as deceleration, amortization, or redirection forces are occurring. You can see the different lower limb and hip positions—dependent on previous or next movement—these athletes are getting put into.
For the vast majority of the athletes I have the privilege of training—speed/sprint dominant sport athletes—Wednesday (training day 2 or 3 depending on training frequency) is the lower body focus day of the SPS System I utilize, and coincidentally our plyometric focus day as well.
The athletes who go against the grain in this regard are the volleyball athletes I work with. Since volleyball is a jump and agility sport, we invert their high intensity day structure and provide them with two plyometric days (days 1 and 3 or 5) and one speed day mid-week. These individuals also have a lower total volume, since most play school, club, and/or pick-up games and tournaments.
But using the “80/20 Rule,” the majority of the athletes fall into the 2:1 speed:plyo category. Depending on the specific athlete, one to three variations of the matrix will be either done prior to the lifting portion (in the same manner as our speed work where full, freshly-primed efforts can be put into the jumps) or one variation and its inverse can be contrasted with the secondary (primary lift) lower body power/strength-speed movement.But using the “80/20 Rule,” the majority of the athletes fall into the 2:1 speed:plyo category, says @KoachGreen_. Click To Tweet
Being utilized as the high-intensity speed component of the training session following the dynamic warm-up and movement prep activities, one to three variations of 25-50 total ground contacts will be completed (ground contacts are how volume is calculated for multi-contact jumps, and 25-40 repetitions is the rough range I’ve found to be effective before quality diminishes).
Example plyometric jump set from the Jump Matrix: #3, #7, #15 2x ea.
Individual Jump Volumes:
#3 = 12 contacts (Forward, Forward, Lateral)
#7 = 16 contacts (Forward, Forward, Lateral Forward)
#15 = 20 contacts (Forward, Lateral, Return, Forward, Lateral)
Total Volume: 48 contacts
Also, by adding in other components, like a vertical jump or obstacle (hurdle) jumps or hops before, during, or after the completion of the matrix variation, we can increase complexity.
Traditionally, when multi-contact jumps are the contrast to a lower body strength/power movement, we see those jumps executed in a single-direction. For example:
What I’ve found and become quite fond of for athletic development is that by continuing the use of traditional lower body power and strength lifts (squats, Olympic lifts, hex bar deadlifts/jumps, etc.), and contrasting them with multi-contact and multi-directional jumps, athletes can immediately transfer force production into the various positions and angles that are consistent with the chaos of sport.
Video 2. Lo-Hanging Step-Off Lateral Lunge
In this manner, as stated above, we program one variation, three to six sets of one to three reps on each side.
Return to Play and Extensive Plyometrics
As far as return to play protocols for field and court sports go, extensive plyometrics are a great “bang-for-your-buck” option. They are good for:
- Preparing soft tissue of the lower leg;
- Re-familiarization with ground contact; and
- Immersion back into rhythm and coordination.
With extensive plyometrics, the focus is not covering ground through maximal efforts in any particular direction but rather reducing amortization time and building back the qualities and abilities mentioned above.
Reducing time on the ground while simultaneously increasing the repetitions and frequency of those ground contacts allows the plasticity of soft tissue (tendons, ligaments, and fascia) to mature through the recovery process leading back into full intensity play and training.
Similarly, the increase in ground contacts allows for the bones and joints to familiarize themselves once again with the impacts of the ground at lower intensities that can be increased over time.
Rhythm and coordination are the often-overlooked fourth and fifth qualities of athleticism (along with speed, power, and strength). Without rhythm and coordination, we can visibly see the awkwardness and purely unathletic movement expressions which can lead to injury. With extensive plyos, athletes are able to regain that ability through longer duration patterns, building not only the timing necessary to move fluidly, but also confidence.
Video 3. Applying the Jump Matrix.
Lastly, extensive plyometrics are a great conditioning tool. For the exact same reasons above, extensive plyos, especially for field athletes who may not spend much time jumping, are a great switch from the traditional running modalities that are normally used.Extensive plyos, especially for field athletes who may not spend much time jumping, are a great switch from the traditional running modalities that are normally used, says @KoachGreen_. Click To Tweet
The Jump Matrix is a great option for younger athletes, athletes returning from long seasons or injury, or introducing more complex plyometric variations, and there are a countless number of variations to be created. Although it is not designed to be a replacement for any traditional quality jumping, it is another highly useful tool in the toolbox.
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