Jump Training Lesson 3 - Individuality and Jumping Styles
Mastering the Vertical Jump part III - Individuality - Cookie Cutter Routines won't Cut It - What Type of Leaper Are you?
If there's one thing I've learned from working with athletes over the years its that people have individual differences that will determine what type of program works best for them.
These differences range from size, strength, body structure, limb lengths, fast twitch fiber ratio, mind to muscle connection, and an analysis of their strength ratios in different tasks like lifting vs jumping. Factors such as these will predictably determine what type of program an individual does or doesn't respond to.
A specific exercise or type of training style that may produce superior results for one individual, might only produce marginal results or zero results for another individual.
An example is an athlete with insufficient strength might experience great results from high-tension/high load exercises like the squat, while another athlete who already has sufficient strength but lacks explosiveness will likely find plyometrics and lifting lighter loads with great acceleration will work better for him. So, there's definitely not a magic bullet program that will work for everyone and anyone.
Furthermore, often times a training method that might not produce good results initially may produce excellent results at a future time as strengths and weaknesses change. Some training methods are good for a quick burst of improvement but over-relying on them will actually cause regression. Still others should be staples in the training of anyone desiring consistent progress - Other popular training methods or gimmicks should be chunked out the window.
If there's one thing that should be apparent it's that training needs to be INDIVIDUALIZED and taken out of cookie cutter mode.
Taking a Look At The 2 Different Types of Leapers
There are basically 2 dominant types of leapers with most people possessing a tendency towards one or the other. The first type I'll cover is the strength jumper.
The strength jumper tends to rely more on his pure strength and explosive ability to get up in the air. He tends to look a little less "springy" and a lot more powerful when jumping. He may even appear to be tearing holes through the floor when he takes off! When choosing his jumping style, he'll definitely tend to do best jumping off 2 feet and likely feel quite horrid jumping off of 1. He'll also tend to use a deeper knee bend and may also have physical characteristics like thicker muscles and joints. He will tend to have natural levels of strength that are greater then his natural levels of speed or bounce.
At the extreme end of this group are athletes like olympic lifters, throwers and many football players. Many of these guys have spectacular vertical jumps over 40 inches and can exhibit their impressive power from a virtual standstill, but you won't see them dunking from the free throw line or winning any high jump medals.
Now realize that not all strength jumpers are strong or can jump, it's just that their body structure, neurological tendencies, etc. will tend to make this their dominant style when they do begin working specifically for vertical jump improvement. Some people are "strength" jumpers but don't know it yet, because they may not initially have enough strength. Having said that, assuming this style of jumper has his strength levels up to par, he'll make further gains using plyometric and accelerative methods which, when coupled with his strength, will make him even more explosive and smoothen out his rough style. At the upper levels of sports, natural "strength" jumpers also learn to become smooth and graceful as well. Think for a minute about some of your favorite dunkers and I'm sure you can identify a few that fall into this group.
The 2nd type of leaper is the elastic jumper.
The elastic jumper, also known as the reactive, elastic, or plyometric jumper, tends to naturally be more fluid and often appears to take off effortlessly into the air when he jumps. Most of the time, he will be gifted in the structural department with long legs, long achilles tendons, and small joints. He also tends to naturally be able to get up higher jumping off of one leg with a running start then he will with a 2-legged take-off. His levels of strength may often seem inconsistent with his performance and even though he can become fairly strong he probably won't ever be setting records in the weight room, due in large part to his long limbs. The elite level high-jumper or long jumper are both excellent illustrations of extreme elastic jumpers.
The reasons the elastic jumper tends to excel at this style of jump are due mainly to structure (length of the bones, muscles, tendons etc.), but also muscle fiber considerations. He naturally tends to rely more on the action of the stretch-reflex and involuntary plyometric ability. In contrast to the strength jumper, - over time at the upper levels, elastic jumpers learn and train to become more like strength jumpers. They do this by increasing their pure strength and explosive strength. Since the elastic jumper is naturally gifted in the plyometric department, it usually doesn't require much focus in his training. Michael Jordan is a good example of an athlete who was naturally an elastic jumper but who also learned to become an excellent "strength" jumper towards the middle part of his career.
To summarize, most will favor a 2-legged takeoff if they rely more on their strength because one can obviously apply more muscular force with 2 legs than with one.
Those who favor a 1-legged take-off do so either because their natural structure and build favors quick rubber band type action in the tendons rather then pure explosive strength, or because they don't have enough strength or aren't yet able to apply their strength quickly enough to execute a powerful 2-legged take-off. This is why some people with subpar jumping ability will gravitate towards this style.
Different Means - Same Result
To explore this a little deeper, jumping is inherently plyometric and whether you're planting and jumping off of 2-legs, or taking a run-up and jumping off of 1, there is still a process of stretching, stabilization, and reaction in the tendons and musculature of the lower body as you plant to take off. No matter what your dominant qualities are, you can improve and learn to use your plyometric ability optimally, but there are differences in how you might go about doing it and the qualities required.
The plyometric/reflexive/reactive/ or elastic contribution to leaping can be divided into two categories. As you plant to jump, the brief time you spend changing direction as you're on the ground just before the take-off is called the amortization phase.
When executing a jump off of 2 feet the amortization phase is around .250 seconds or greater which can be considered long. We can call this longer response reactive ability because the ground contact times are fairly long.
When leaping off of one foot the amortization phase is shorter than .250 seconds and generally closer to .100 seconds. We can call this short response reactive ability because the ground contact times are very short.
Some people, especially strength jumpers, tend to excel more at the 1st, longer ground contact type of jump; whereas elastic jumpers tend to naturally excel at the 2nd type. This is because the longer you're on the ground during the amortization (plant) phase, the more time you have available to apply maximum force and thus, use your strength. The shorter the amortization phase and ground contact time, the more that natural structure, muscle tendon lengths, and speed are going to be dominant. These qualities rely more on involuntary and reflexive abilities rather than strength.
An example of a plyometric exercise that would improve longer response plyometric ability is a simple depth jump.
An example of a plyometric exercise that would improve short response plyometric ability is a running high jump or full speed sprint.
Both long and short response reactive ability rely on a base of general strength in order to add stability, absorb the eccentric forces created when planting, and give an athlete a bigger base of potential force ability to take advantage of, so strength is important regardless of your style.
To illustrate how 2 people can accomplish the same task via different strength qualities, an athlete who is at an elite level utilizing the short amortization phase (1-foot jump) like a high jumper, long jumper, or someone like Brent Barry, will not necessarily be proficient in performance of the other type of jump (2-foot jump) and vice-versa.
Dunkers of Old vs New
It used to be in the NBA most all of the good dunkers were 1-foot jumpers. If you ever check out some of the older NBA slam-dunk contests that run at 3:00 a.m. on ESPN classic you'll see this. Back then, because of the lack of effective training, the thought was that there wasn't much you could do about increasing the vertical jump and the guys who were good at it were naturally good at it. Nowadays, however, take a look at the best dunkers and you'll notice the 2-foot jumpers dominate. This is in large part directly due to the influence of strength training, which really has a large impact on the 2-foot jump and allows one to take advantage of their voluntary explosive strength, which is much easier developed then short response reactive ability. So just because you may be slow and not blessed with a great jumping structure and you many not ever be able to become an elite high jumper, long jumper, or fly from the free throw line. This doesn't mean you have to stay ground bound because the sky is the limit!
Although short response reactive ability is under quite a bit of genetic control and in large part determines performance in movements like the high jump and long jump; Anyone and everyone can dramatically improve their explosive strength which can dramatically impact the 2-leg jump and increase it by 15-20 inches or more (ie. How does an increase of 20 inches sound?!)
Your optimal training program should have you focusing on your weak points and gradually building up both areas (strength and reactivity). With this approach and barring injury, it's about impossible for improvement to ever plateau.
That's Not All Folks!
Most of you probably have a pretty good idea what your dominant and weak qualities are right now.
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The Vertical Bible has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. Wanted to inform you that after only a week and a half the vj was already up by two inches in the running jump and was up by around 3-4 inches in the standing jump with arm swing. By the end of my second week my standing vert was up another 2 inches and with a step another 2 and 1/2 inches. That means in two weeks my one step vert has gone up like 4 and 1/2 inches and my standing by 6 inches. With still being able to potentially increase my strength and then adding in more reactive work I think with the vert bible and individual testing as a guideline I could reach 48+ vertical by the time I peak at 26 years old! thanks kelly!
- Zack Diamond
Just finished reading the book and I think it's great. Really liked the analysis of jumping technique too and already immediately put a few inches on my two foot takeoff just fixing my technique and concentrating on keeping my jump stop like a low skip as you said. Put together the low skip with the relaxed legs and power off through the balls of my feet and I can throw down two handed on soft slippy grass with a few steps run up! I am salivating at the prospect of training when I'm 100% healthy again!
I have done 2 workouts of the program and I gotta admit I'm already gaining more then I ever have before. It's great to gain about an inch or so after only a couple workouts, got 4 more to do so thas tight.
I'm finishing up the first week of the workout and nutrition plan workout and my hops have gone up very quickly. I can dunk now sometimes and I'm currently 5'9 with a 7'7 reach.
“Hey Kelly, I just wanted to congratulate you for doing a great job on the Vertical Jump Bible. This was the best 40 dollars I have spent in a long time. I feel like you did a great job bridging the gap between a book like Supertraining without, watering the info down too much. Even though this book is intended to improve vertical jumping the basic principles you outlined can serve as the foundation for pretty much any training program. Trust me man, I ain't the type to go around kissing butt. But, these books you put out are some of the best I have ever read. Keep up the great work and please continue to put out more products.”
- Aaron Walden
Kelly is the undiscovered diamond of performance training for speed and vertical jump in the United States. I’d take him over any of the people I studied because (a) Kelly knows how to get results. Has your trainer increased his vertical jump over 19 inches?? Can your trainer squat over 2.5x his bodyweight? Has your trainer knocked .5 + off his own forty time?? Kelly has. There’s a lot of real world knowledge that has come to Kelly from "walking his talk" like this. Don’t you want a speed/jump trainer who practices what he preaches?? Even more importantly, don’t you want a trainer who had to TRAIN himself to improve rather than only be a physically gifted freak of nature? ??(b) He’s street smart. He may not have a PHD after his name, but why should he waste his time getting one?? He’s taught himself from the books…and in the real world training many athletes over many years. Why would you trust anyone who hasn’t done both? (c) He’s understandable. He keeps things simple. He communicates clearly.
Last week my son dunked easily at practice and was very proud. Not in a game situation (yet), but a one step clean one handed dunk in front of his friends and at 15 yrs old that felt pretty good to him. I have to give Kelly a lot of the credit.
Here are my 2 month results:
40 yard dash: 4.53 seconds (with some wind at my back) to 4.49 sec. (a little wind to my side)
Vertical jump: 24 or 25 inches to 32.5 inches.
agility: 4.5 seconds to 4.16 seconds.
-David Pratt - Division I prospect
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