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.