Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do I have to strength train to increase my vertical jump?

Do I have to strength train?

For those of you out there who are not keen on lifting weights and wonder if you have to strength train to improve your vertical jump the answer is, no of course not.  I will post several very effective jumping programs that can be performed without weights just for these people and I know these programs are very effective on their own.

It's been said that the main reason many trainees avoid leg training is because it hurts too much. Maybe they're right. After all, leg training in the gym with heavy iron can be painful. Im not going to try and sugar coat anything.  But Ill also tell you that most of you out there are not going to come close to reaching your potential unless you do some strength training somewhere along the way.  Now, some of you, especially those who are naturally strong, will be able to gain a significant amount on your vertical jump without ever even lifting weights.  Sometimes even a VERY significant amount.  However, eventually there will come a time when your gains will stop and the only way to further your improvement will be to increase your base of strength.  I want everyone to benefit here.  If you have only a very limited amount of time and dont have access to a weight room Id encourage you to give it your all on one of the non-resistance training programs I will post later. For those of you who still want to strength train but dont have access to a weight-room I will also included a routine that will increase your strength using a variety of unique bodyweight exercises which youll find challenging.  For everyone else, virtually all youll need is a weight room with a squat rack and a barbell!

Training Loads

Before presenting you with the routines Id like to address the loads used for strength training exercises.  Load can be defined as the % of your 1-repetition maximum that you use in a movement.  So, if you’re training with a 50% load and your max 1 repetition squat is 200 lbs, you would be using 100 lbs (50% of 200=100).

Many people are confused as to how heavy the load should be for optimal power development.  Some people say, Use light weights with more speed.” Others say Train with heavy weights or go home.” Still others say, Use Olympic lifts.” It can get very confusing with all the varying opinions out there.  The truth is, there is a time and place for ALL of these types of lifting.  However, different loading percentages have varying effects on the body.  Following is a list of the different training loads and what they’re best utilized for:

Speed training (0-25% of maximum): Here speed is maximized while power output and force are low. This training zone can be used to train speed of movement and rate of force development but has little benefit for improving maximal force production. Training in this zone could be considered similar to the effects of performing plyometric type training.  With resistance exercises this training is more effective when you can projeceither the load or your body in the air. Exercises such as jump squats and medicine ball throws are best suited for this training load.

Speed-strength (25-50% of maximum): Here youll find a compromise between speed and strength with speed and rate of force development being the dominant qualities affected. If you train in this zone you will get gains in force development and speed, however the gains in maximal force production will be marginal.

Strength-speed (55-80% of maximum): Here youll find the best compromise between speed and strength with strength (maximal force) being the dominant quality affected. Training in this zone will give you gains in both rate of force development and strength with a marginal gain in speed.

Maximum strength (80-100% of maximum): Here strength and force are maximized. Now, which loading zone should you spend most of your time in?  The answer to this is fairly complicated.  First, remember the power equation.  If your goal is to improve the “Force part of the equation as quickly as possible then there is no question about it, using a heavy load (80-100%) will strengthen your muscles much quicker and will allow you to get more out of the time that you spend training. 

The problem with this approacis that if you were to only lift heavy loads 100% of the time while doing no other types of training or sports specific activity, you obviously  wouldnt be doing a whole lot to improve rate of force development and speed.  Thus, over time those qualities would suffer.  You would undoubtedly become very strong, but youd eventually sacrifice some speed as well.

However, you also have to consider the training effect that comes from other activities that you do outside the weight-room.  If you’re also playing a sport requiring speed (basketball), or doing any running or plyometric work, youll be getting plenty of stimulation in the speed aspects as well.  This occurs just from participating in and practicing your sport.  So, for the majority of people who engage in sports training as infrequently as 2 times per week, there isnt a whole lot of need to try to duplicate this work (speed and rate of force development) in the weight room.

We also have to ask ourselves if training for speed in the weight room is as effective as other methods of speed training such as sprinting, plyometrics, or even playing a sport. Consider the effects of performing a 60-meter sprint vs using light weight training for speed.  The movement speeds of a sprint are far faster then anything that can occur in the weight room.  Lifting weights should improve your ability to apply more force, which you can then take advantage of and use in the sprint, yet trying to duplicate the speed of the sprint with a weight room activity is impossible.

Since you can develop the velocity and rate of force development components through jump training itself, your priority in the weight room should generally be to develop your strength qualities.  This is best achieved through the use oflimit’ strength exercises such as squats.  This is also the same reason most top sprinters, jumpers, and other tracathletes spend the majority of their weight room time training to improve maximal force production by lifting weights in the 80-100% bracket, with a smaller percentage of the total volume dedicated to performing exercises in the 55-80% bracket for power and rate of force development (force + speed together).  Most of you should spend the majority of your weight room time training in these 2 zones as well.  Doing so will lead to quicker increases in maximal force and strength, and better economize your training time.

However, you will also see the programs I will share with you are designed to be customized to the individual and sometimes do lend a portion of weight-room time using lighter loads with quicker speed of execution.  Yet, for the most part, those qualities are addressed using other training methods such as plyometrics.


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McArdle, William D., Victor L. Katch, and Frank I. Katch. Essentials Of Exercise Physiology. 4th ed. 2010. Print.

Chu, Donald A. Jumping Into Plyometrics. Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998. Print.