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Jump Specificity – Understanding Different Vertical Jumps

Vertical jumping or jumping for height can be seen in a range of sports. Think of a basketball player jumping for a dunk, a netball player jumping to intercept a lob or a soccer player jumping for a header. They all require the ability to jump high or at least higher than your opponent – however, not all these jumps are performed exactly the same. Vertical jumps performed in sports can be broken down into three categories: standing vertical jump (SVJ), running vertical jump with a 1-foot take-off (RVJ1) and running vertical jump with a 2-foot take-off (RVJ2). These different jumps can be seen across different sports and even within the one sport. Basketball for example, can involve a SVJ when rebounding, a RVJ1 when doing a lay-up and a RVJ2 when dunking.

Masters Research Study

I have recently completed a master’s research study which looked at determining the relationships between these different types of vertical jumps. The findings of the study are highly relevant to athletes and strength and conditioning coaches as they help us to understand how much difference exists between these jumps and what qualities influence them.

While it is clear there are different types of vertical jumps, they tend to be thought of and tested as one physical quality. Therefore, my study aimed to determine how these different jumps relate to one another and to different jump tests which are commonly used to measure speed-strength qualities. The tests of speed-strength qualities were a squat jump (SJ), countermovement jump (CMJ) and a drop jump (DJ). The SJ is a measure of pure concentric leg power with no pre-stretch movement. The CMJ measures leg power with a slow stretch-shortening cycle. Without getting too technical, a stretch-shortening cycle is when the muscles perform a small pre-stretch movement and then contract. For example, when you do a little “dip” before you jump maximally. Lastly, the DJ measures leg power with a fast stretch-shortening cycle (better known as “reactive strength”).

To summarise the main findings from the study, we found that:

  • The three types of vertical jumps shared strong correlations, but there was still a considerable amount of uncommon variation between them.
  • The RVJ1 and RVJ2 shared the lowest amount of commonality, while the SVJ and RVJ2 had the highest.
  • The RVJ1 had a very large correlation with the DJ, but only moderate with the SJ and CMJ.
  • The SVJ and RVJ2 showed similar correlations with each of the SJ, CMJ and DJ.

What does this mean?

It shows that while the three types of vertical jumps share similarities, they are also quite different and should not be considered the exact same quality or skill. This means that testing and training for the different types of jumps should have differences. For example, the CMJ is a commonly used jump test when assessing jumping ability; however, it may be more appropriate to use a DJ if the sport requires athletes to perform running jumps from one foot as opposed to the other two vertical jumps.

For coaches and athletes looking to improve jumping performance, it is important to consider the different types of vertical jumps. The first step is to determine which of these jumps is most common or most important for your given sport. If all of them are required, then you should train to develop each type of jump and if one is more important than the others then maybe you should devote more time to developing that jump. Some sports may only require one type of jump and in that instance, you should focus on training to improve that jump. For example, a high jump athlete will always jump off one foot and from a run-up; therefore, their training should reflect that.

Reactive Strength for Running Jumps

Based off the findings of the study, it appears that reactive strength is the predominant quality that relates to RVJ1 performance. This means that we should aim to enhance reactive strength when the goal is to improve RVJ1. Plyometric training is a common method for improving reactive strength. It is important to ensure that the plyometric exercises you select incorporate a fast stretch-shortening cycle to target reactive strength. Some examples of these exercises are: drop jumps, repeated hurdle hops, bounding and ankle jumps. The goal when performing these exercises is to jump/bound as high or as far as possible while being as quick off the ground as possible. This should be cued to the athlete to ensure that they are performing the exercises optimally.

This does not mean that general power training with a slow stretch-shortening cycle should be ignored. There is definitely still a place for exercises such as weightlifting derivatives, resisted jumps and assisted jumps in programs aimed at developing vertical jump performance, especially when the goal is to improve SVJ or RVJ2. However, plyometric exercises should also be a part of these programs and – according to the research findings – it appears that they are even more specific to RVJ1 performance.

Key Take Home Points

  • Different types of vertical jumps should be treated as different skills or qualities when it comes to training and testing.
  • Reactive strength seems to be the predominant quality for performing running vertical jumps with a one-foot take-off.
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Travelling Athlete Tips

Want to travel as an athlete?

As a young athlete today the lure of travel can be quite compelling when finishing school or university; the excitement of discovering the world that is around you, meeting new people, and breaking that potentially dull routine. You may be reluctant to take that jump as an athlete because you are worried about your training and how it may be affected while you are away; feelings that are common among athletes, particularly when their world revolves around their sport and performance. There is however no reason to worry – overseas travel does not mean that the training and hard work has to stop.

As a keen runner and strength and conditioning coach it was definitely a concern of mine when deciding to travel overseas this year. I may not be an elite athlete but training, competing and staying in shape are engrained into me so it was difficult to think that I may not be able to maintain these. Too strong though was the lure of discovering the world around me while I was still young, thus I decided to take that metaphorical leap. Being a runner made maintaining my training a little easier given that all I needed was a pair of runners and a map… don’t want to get lost in a foreign city. Strength training would prove a little more difficult to adhere to, but given my work as a coach this was something I wanted to maintain as best as I could whilst away. With a little imagination and a keen eye there was no need to worry at all. Creativity is imperative on occasions when a gym is unavailable, however resistance bands, a bench, stairs or any other structure can serve as an able replacement.

Resistance bands are a fantastic tool for adding difficulty to an exercise when conventional weights are not available, while they are also super light weight and easy to pack. Further, many fantastic body weight exercises are effective at building strength and should be staples even when you have an abundance of equipment.

An example program is outlined below:

Warm-up (2 sets only)
1. Banded lateral walk/monster walk x10 each way
2. Banded fire hydrant x 10 e/s

Workout (3 sets ea.)
A1. S/L Squat x 10 e/s
A2. Push ups x 10
A3. SL hamstring bridge off bench x 10 e/s

(3 sets ea.)
B1. Reverse lunge x 10 e/s
B2. Banded rows x 10
B3. SL calf raises x 15 e/s

(2 sets only)
C1. Side plank x 45sec e/s
C2. Banded dead bug x 10 e/s



Keep in mind this is just an example which you can change depending on your sport/injuries/ability and what facilities you have around you. What else can I do? Bikes are in abundance around the world and are a fantastic cross training tool, while serving as an inexpensive way to see a city that you may be in. Pools are also universally available and generally quite affordable, again offering a cross training option with low impact which is ideal when away from your routine.

Flexibility is key when on holidays – be creative with your routine, and be open to change, i.e. planning training around activities. Diet structure may provide additional concerns when travelling; again look to be creative and cook yourself, or alternatively head out for a meal, researching establishments that sell freshly made dishes with an abundance of nutrients, although this may cost a little more. The occasional treat will not affect your training as long as a consistent diet is maintained, so go out and indulge in that local delicacy you’ve been eyeing off, and the mental benefits that come from this will likely outweigh the negative of the potentially poor nutritional value. Personally, I struggled thinking that if I tried too many of the unhealthy local dishes, my training would be impacted. With a little persuasion at the start of my trip and a conscious effort not to have too much, I have managed to try different foods from the countries that I have visited, all without it impacting my training.

If you are an athlete finishing school or university and dreaming of a big adventure overseas, but are a little anxious about how it may impact your training – prepare, be creative, have an open mind and you will manage to smash your training. When you are young with few commitments it is the perfect time to take that leap, so my advice is go out and explore, learn and develop, and most of all enjoy yourself!

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Work Station Stretches

‘Sitting is the new smoking’. Not only is sitting terrible for your posture, however it has been proven to increase your risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, alongside noted detriment to your mental health. For office workers and students alike – particularly leading into exam period, the postural integrity of the public is in danger. How often is it that you find yourself hunched over a computer screen, perhaps even experiencing tightness or pain? You  might stand up tall, do a few spins from side to side before resuming your slouched posture thinking you’ve ‘reset’; unfortunately, that’s not going to cut it, but we’ve got some exercises, when paired with periods of standing and an awareness of sitting with appropriate posture that will. 

Hip Flexor Stretch

Two main areas cop it during prolonged periods of sitting – the hips, and of course the upper back/neck. Looking to the anatomy of the hips, maintaining constant flexion puts the hip flexors in a shortened state which due to their attachment points over time will pull the pelvis into an anteriorly tilted position. This can lead to a pronounced lower back curve which often results in lower back pain. The apparent fix to this is avoid the hip flexors shortening, or if this is already occurring, aim to provide them with some lengthening strategies. A method of doing so is the classic ‘hip flexor stretch’, however we have a few cues which will maximise the effectiveness of this. 

Looking to the above photo, some vital points are:

  • Stay tall through the body
  • Contract the glute of the straightened leg
  • Rather that pushing your hips through and over stretching, try to ‘tuck your tailbone’
  • To feel a greater stretch, reach your arm up on the lengthened side, and while keeping your chest tall, lean across your body

Where possible, complete 2 reps on each side, holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds. 

Reach Through

In a prolonged hunched posture, the muscles around the thoracic spine become stiff and will struggle to maintain range in both brining your chest up tall and achieving rotation. A remedy for this is the ‘reach through’ exercise.

Important notes for the reach through are:

  • Keep the body square (i.e. hips stay level)
  • Keep the non-moving arm straight with your chest up tall
  • Reach through as far as possible
  • Rotate away from the body thinking about these points as well
  • Follow your hand with your eyes
  • Move through the movement nice and slow, looking to reach a little further each rep

Complete 2 sets of 4 reps each direction.

Cobra

Our third and final exercise is the ‘cobra with lat walk’, which provides some additional mobility around the both the pelvis and thoracic spine. 

We suggest:

  • In the cobra position, look upwards and show your chest to the sky
  • Slowly rotate the body side to side 2 times each way
  • In the puppy position get your chest and elbows as low to the ground as possible
  • Walk hands around to the side while maintaining this low position to feel a lat stretch, holding for 5 seconds 

Complete 3 reps each side in each position. 

While these mobility drills may seem taxing or silly, completing these 1-2 times per day could save your posture, improve your mental state and decrease the risk of chronic disease. This will help you perform better as not only an athlete, but as a person – that’s worth it, isn’t it? If you have any questions or would like some further stretches tailored to your needs, get in touch with the team at RAD.