Posted on Leave a comment

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.
Posted on Leave a comment

Recovery Essentials

Recovery is an important consideration for athletes at any level, whether you are an Olympic athlete representing your country or a community level player with your local sporting club. Being able to recover more efficiently means that we can reduce the effects of fatigue and therefore perform better in subsequent training and competition. The main aims of recovery are to:

  • repair muscle damage
  • reduce muscle soreness
  • clear metabolic waste
  • refuel energy stores.

The three most crucial components of recovery are things that we do in everyday life: sleeping, eating and drinking. While we may do these all the time, we need to ensure that we do them well!

Sleep

Sleep is essential for our bodies to function and the negative effects of having a lack of sleep are well documented. In terms of recovery, ensuring that we get adequate sleep is of paramount importance. The exact amount of sleep that we need each night can differ between individuals; however, the recommended amount for healthy adults is 7-9 hours with adolescents generally needing a bit more. The time we are sleeping is when our bodies have the best opportunity to recover. Sleeping for longer enhances the body’s resistance to fatigue and improves markers of recovery in the blood. In contrast, a lack of sleep can impede the repair and adaptation of our muscles.

Try and keep a set routine for your sleep:

  • Go to bed at a similar time every night
  • Wake up at a similar time each morning
  • Have a set pattern before going to sleep to help wind you down and become relaxed

More information on the importance of sleep for athletes is available in our earlier blog post at https://radcentre.com.au/why-sleep-is-so-important-for-athletes/

Nutrition

After a game or training session you have began to ’empty the fuel tank’ – therefor it is super important to refuel and put some ‘good petrol’ back in the tank. Eating a meal or snack that is rich in protein and carbohydrates is important for recovery following fatiguing exercise. Consuming carbohydrates helps to replenish our energy stores that are used during exercise, meaning we can have the energy needed to exercise again sooner. Protein is essential for repairing and building our muscles. Having enough protein available in our bodies ensures that these processes can work effectively. Getting our recovery nutrition right is especially important when we need to perform exercise again the next day.

Some food options post training/game:

  • Lean chicken and salad roll
  • Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
  • Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yoghurt
  • Spaghetti with lean beef bolognaise sauce
  • Chicken burrito with salad and cheese
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers plus a banana

More information on nutrition and hydration for recovery can be found at https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/

Hydration

Re-hydration is another key component of recovery. During fatiguing exercise, especially in warm conditions, the body loses fluids and electrolytes through sweat. It is important to replenish these in the early stages of recovery to prevent dehydration and to ensure that we are adequately hydrated if we are exercising again soon. The recommendation for how much fluid you should intake after exercise is that it should be greater than the amount of weight that is lost through sweat. A general guide is about 1.5L for every 1kg of body weight lost.

Water alone is an adequate source of re-hydration and paired with a snack or meal can be effective to meet your recovery nutrition needs, however it may be helpful to include a sports/dairy drink if food is not available or practical.

Additional Methods

Other common practices that can enhance our recovery include stretching, massage, hydrotherapies and compression garments (this can include commonly worn garments such as tights as well as modalities such as Normatec Boots). These are extra things we do to provide an added benefit, but they should not form the base of our recovery strategy.

We will discuss all of these additional methods in further detail in an upcoming post. Diving into the finer details of how each method works and if it is the right fit for you.

Take home message

As a general rule, our recovery practices should be treated just like any other aspects of our training and performance. The main priority should be to ensure that we are doing the fundamentals right first (sleep, nutrition and hydration) and then we can include the additional things that help to give us extra benefits.

References

  1. Maughan RJ and Shirreffs SM. Recovery from prolonged exercise: Restoration of water and electrolyte balance. Journal of Sports Sciences 15: 297-303, 1997.
  2. National Sleep Foundation, Sleep needs across the lifespan. http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/Sleep-Needs-Across-Lifespan.pdf
  3. Samuels C. Sleep, recovery, and performance: The new frontier in high-performance athletics. Neurologic clinics 26: 169-180, 2008.
  4. Sports Dieticians Australia, Recovery nutrition. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/
  5. Versey NG, Halson SL, and Dawson BT. Water Immersion Recovery for Athletes: Effect on Exercise Performance and Practical Recommendations. Sports Medicine 43: 1101-1130, 2013.