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Improving Speed and Vertical Jump

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For experienced athletes, continued improvements in speed and power may sometimes require an experimental change in their training program. These experimental procedures are meant to target specific processes of the body and while they might not appear to be beneficial at first glance, they can provide great functional results. 

In this case, a twenty-five year old recreational athlete was looking to improve his speed and vertical jump with a 6-week pre-season program. The athlete had been training two days per week over the past few months in a program that included traditional free weight, dumbbell and medicine ball exercises but had not seen any increases in strength, vertical jump or speed. This athlete decided to participate in an experimental approach that added a third day of training to his current schedule and included reps on both the Cybex Eagle Leg Press and the Cybex Arc Trainer.

For the Leg Press/Arc Trainer workout, the athlete would:

  • Perform one repetition maximum and then immediately remove one plate a time, performing as many reps as possible at each weight without rest until he was pressing a load equal to his body weight. 

  • Then move onto performing a series of five sets (with one minute of rest in between) on the Arc Trainer using its Advanced Power Training mode with a maximal pace of 160-170 strides per minute in an attempt to reach and maintain an elevated level of power output for as long as possible or until his pace dropped below 150 strides per minute.

When the athlete finished this 6 week program, he recorded an increase in his vertical jump by 3.04 and an increase in his completion of the 40 yard dash by .05 seconds. These improvements carried over into the competitive season as he felt more powerful throughout each volleyball match and also felt quicker in his football pre-season activities.

For more information on Cybex case studies like this, visit the Cybex Research Institute.

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Scott Moody
Founder and CEO Soccer F.I.T. Academy




Interesting blog. I was wondering if the athlete had tried a traditonal program that included plyometrics such as box jumps and depth jumps along with explosive lifts such as the power clean as well as lifts such as squats, deadlift and the glute/ ham raise on a GHD. Programs that have included those exercises have been very good at developing explosive power needed to increase one's vertical jump and speed. 
Again, interesting blog and the program certainly provides another means of training to reach certain goals.
Posted @ Monday, February 27, 2012 7:34 PM by Jeff
The athlete in this study had years of experience with plyometric and strength training programs (cleans, squats, trap bar deadlifts, box jumps, bounds, etc.). He was also fairly quick and explosive coming into the study. He was just looking for something different and was willing to take on this protocol.  
Here's the take home point... Even though most of us believe in these power and plyometric means by which we have been using to improve vertical jump, we should also open our minds to other protocols that may be a better fit for an athlete that is poorly suited for the heavy power and plyo work. 
For example, if someone has a history of low back pain, or is currently in a competitive part of their season... This protocol might be a good fit, as it reduced the amount of soreness typically associated with glute/ham raises and did not require the spinal loading of squats. 
Thanks for the comment, I would love to discuss this further if you have other questions.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:04 AM by Scott Moody
Thanks for your response. I was interested in what his background was and what led him to choose the above program described in the blog. 
I agree that many factors go into various programs, especially those that are more sports specific. Also, as you alluded to, during the competitive season some exercise programs may not be advisable.  
I might add that some of these exercises are advanced and would not be good for a beginner or someone who may have injuries that you described. A depth jump, for example, is an advanced plyometric exercise that should not be tackled by a beginner. 
I did not want to come off as dismissing those exercises you described that use machines instead of free weights. Everything has it's place. I am actually a big fan of machines that are ground based such as the plate loaded jammer machine or a Functional Trainer where ground base compound exercises can be done (The Bravo is a great machine). 
That said, I think many are missing the boat by not doing deadlifts, squats, push presses and power cleans, lifts that are tremendous for building strength and power. I know that my greatest and quickest gains in power, strength and speed came when I incorporated those exercises as the main lifts in my program. 
As you would know, power racks and GHDs are prominently featured in professional and collegiate athletic facilities. The lifts I described above along with the bench press and glute ham raise are the core exercises with many of these athletic departments. The glute ham raise is a tremendous exercise that outside of athletic and power lifting circles is an exercise that is completely unknown. I hope that as Cybex moves more into the athletic market that they offer a GHD in the future. 
Posted @ Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:01 PM by Jeff
It's usually not the 'specific exercise' that improves performance, but rather the way the athlete 'executes the movement pattern' of that exercise. In both a free weight and machine settings, it is the effort and intensity through a specific path that drives the end result. If you can get the athlete stronger, while focusing their attention on being more powerful (improving the rate at which they move the load), whether its with leg presses, squats or Arc Trainer A2 Sprints, performance gains will usually follow. 
Anyone who knows me, knows that I will never totally give up my focus on free weight activities in the weight room! But, we all need to step outside the box from time to time and challenge/question our own practices and philosophies. Our goal is to find the best ways to improve performance, for any individual, at any level, with any type of health history or background. 
And sometimes it is much simpler than we might think. 
Posted @ Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:24 AM by Scott Moody
Vertical jumping is a component of most sports. It is often taken for granted that an athlete instinctually knows how to jump vertically. Actually though, jumping vertically is a skill that can and should be taught to athletes 
Research has proven that heavy lifting and plyometric training have effectively improved power output. A combination of both can result in gaining improvement in your vertical jump.
Posted @ Sunday, April 28, 2013 4:36 PM by M Bivens
@ M Bivens 
Thank you for your comment. We agree that vertical jumping has both power and skill components. Our position is that those elements should be treated independently. In other words, one should develop power, and then practice their skill. 
In this study, Scott demonstrated that the Arc Trainer, having a power capacity of 900 watts, along with a leg press, are capable of delivering significant improvements in leg power, and vertical jump height, even though the movements did not replicate jumping conditions.
Posted @ Monday, April 29, 2013 8:30 AM by Dr. Paul Juris
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