Q: Your step by step disection of the two legged jump was very helpful. I was wondering if you could do the same for the one-legged jump. I'm by far way better jumping off 1 leg, but i still don't think i have very good technique.
I've always wondered when the correct time is to swing your arms, and kick the non-jumping leg upward.
Also do you have any other tips for perfecting technique? for example i've heard that focusing on the top of the backboard will help do something to the back and help you jump better.
A: With a unilateral jump the easier it feels the better the result. If you "try" to press to hard or make a loud slap against the ground with your plant leg you tend to screw things up. It's more of a reflexive jump that occurs smooth and natural. If you try to push too hard your center of gravity will lower too much so that you can gain leverage. Your plant leg will then bend too much, and you turn what should be largely reflexive or involuntary muscle action into pure voluntary movement and end up detracting from the end result. The best leapers don't waste any time on the ground going from down to up in this style of jump and they don't try very hard either. It's a very smooth process. The foot hits the ground and they immediately rebound back up without having their hips sink excessively or having to gather themselves.
Swinging your hand up and lifting your leg is just something you'll have to practice to get the feel of. It may not make a big difference either way. Your plant leg should plant more under you instead of ahead of you so that your hips don't lower too much and you don't lose your forward momentum. Don't take too big of a step out and don't use too much of a wind up. A lot of people tend to do better at this style of jump when they do it without thinking about it. Get them going in for a layup in a crowd of people or have them run downfield and knock a pass out of the air and they'll do fine. Yet tell them to run and jump as high as possible and they'll screw it up. If that sounds like you then your problem is you are letting your hips drop too much, taking too big of a step out, and "trying" too hard to push.
The most important thing for this jump is the ability to absorb force with the plant leg. You need to be strong enough through your plantar flexors, hamstrings and hips to absorb the force in the plant with your leg fairly straight. What happens after that is mostly natural. The way a person is built will greatly influence this. Those with long legs and long achilles have a huge advantage and posture also makes a huge difference. If you tend to walk with bent knees and excessive dorsiflexion (your heel hits the ground first), then this style of jump will probably be a struggle for you. If your quads are a lot stronger then your hamstrings then it'll also be a struggle for you because this jumping style is much more hip and hamstring dominant.
Q: I just wanted to know how effective a plyometric weightlifting style could be for inducing muscle hypertrophy. I read one of your articles that said speeding up the eccentric increases recruitment, but on the other hand it lessens time under tension and requires less actual muscular work because of the elastic energy and stretch reflex boost. If you did enough total reps, would it be possible to get the same muscle hypetrophy stimulation as using a slower eccentric with a pause between the eccentric and concentric, or is a plyometric style just for enhancing rate of force development and recruitment capabilities? Also, since the force-velocity curve states that force increases as the speed of eccentric increases, does this mean that for any given load you will create more intramuscular tension and thus a greater growth response from a fast eccentric assuming total time under tension is high enough?
A: That's a good question you ask. Generally plyometric training targets a lot more of the involuntary neuromuscular processes. Like you said the tension is so short that the protein structures don't receive the same length of tension, nevertheless, if you do enough volume or if you embark on a plyometric program and you're not used to the movements you'll definitely stimulate some muscle growth due to the magnitude of the tension. You're able to hit higher threshold motor units that aren't normally hit with weight training and even though that tension doesn't last for long the fact that you're hitting new muscle cells can have an effect. This effect will be very noticeable at first but doesn't last very long.
This is why a lot of bodybuilders will notice there legs get bigger when they start sprinting....and why guys can do calf raises for months on end and not see any results where they might do a few sets of depth jumps and spark some immediate growth. The effects are pretty short lived though and if you try to continously use this style of training as a hypertrophy program the volume necessary to stimulate growth would be more volume then the nervous system can handle. I hope that helps a little bit!
Q: I read something recently that until you're able to jump higher than your
best countermovement jump by doing a depth jump from a height...you should just stick
with building reactive ability. Something about that seems funny however,
since what if you lack enough strength to properly absorb the force so you
CAN react? Maybe I'm confused.
A: Yes you're exactly right here. Even during a plyometric movement such as this there is still a muscular contraction that takes place at the switch from down to up. Your weight is coming down and you have to be strong enough to absorb those forces before you can go up. Basically what happens is the foot hits the ground, a lot of force is created, the knees bend, and the muscles begin to extend, - however, in order to reverse direction the muscles have to be strong enough to lock up against that resistance. When they aren't then one isn't able to transition out of the depth jump at all and the muscles shut down - or if you're doing something like a sprint the hips drop, the heel collapses etc.
You can identify this when someone does a depth jump. There will be a loud thud, a loss of balance, and you'll be able to tell there nowhere near able to use the impact to gather energy.
On the other hand a lot of people are strong enough to absorb the force, but they lack proficiency in the entire process. They'll be unable to come out of the transition point with any power or fluidity. These people will be able to stick a landing and "freeze", and stay quiet from a fairly high box height, but they'll be unable to absorb and transfer that energy efficiently and quickly out in the opposite direction. If you watch football compare the way a lineman runs down the field vs the way a running back or receiver runs down the field. Watch how slowly the lineman transitions out of ground contact when his foot hits whereas the receiver tends to appear like a spring bouncing down the field without any wasted momentum.
So on one hand you have those who need to increase their reactive ability by getting stronger. While on the other hand you have those who are strong enough yet need to get more proficient at using their reactive ability. The way you can identify each, other then by measuring there strength, is by having them do a depth landing from a box equivalent to a vertical jump height. The first group will be unable to "stick" anything - They'll be clumsy and unable to freeze at impact. The 2nd group will be able to easily stick a landing from a high box yet won't be able to rebound out of that impact, or make any sort've proficient move when you ask them to transition out into a change of direction.
Keep in mind that depth drops, landings, etc. are more of a strength type move then depth jumps are. So one who is weak can use those in conjunction with strength training.
What I do is use a squat as the standard and then use another test to investigate further. Until one can squat 1.5 x bodyweight properly then they are too weak for high high intensity plyometric work. They will focus on strength work, lots of low intensity movement and plyometric work like line hops, low box jumps, agility drills, quick feet drills etc. Then they will progress into performing depth drop landings from a fairly low box, along with movements done with a focus on accelerating from a dead stop.
Now, if one can squat 1.5x their bodyweight or more then I use another test to determine what's going on. If they can't step off an 18 inch box, hit the ground, rebound up, and get up higher then a standard down and up VJ then they lack reactive ability and they will progress into plyometric variations with an emphasis on rebounding out of the transition point.
Q: You talk about powerlifters taking a week to 10 days off prior to a meet and noticing significant strength gains, yet I have seen training hall tapes from the Olympic Weightlifting World Champs and they were training heavy 2 –3 days prior so who is right?
I would say from my experiences the model coming from powerlifters and sprinters is more transferable to the average person. Keep in mind a sprinter at the world class level will also use a 10 day taper....a high volume workout 10 days out and the final days just very low volume stuff up to the meet. The same type of deal is also ideal for the powerlifter. Maybe it might not be ideal for them to sit on their butt the entire time but to take the final heavy session for squat and deadlift 10 days out..maybe a few easy sets like performing the opener on squat a couple of times before the meet. The bench requires less recovery time like 5-7 days so it can be hit heavy 7 days out and light a few days out.
The olympic lifters are used to training 6 hours per day so even with what they're doing it would be a huge volume reduction for them. You also have to consider that the olympic lifts are strength-speed lifts and not absolute strength lifts. These lifts can be done at higher frequency as they don't involve as much systematic stress. Those lifts also require a huge skill component and these lifters can't let themselves get rusty. However, I doubt if you would see an olympic lifter doing max 1rm sets of squats or deadlifts every day the week before a meet. It would be interesting to see if the o-lifters would fare better with more recovery though. All in all I tend to think the best o lifters train so much because they come from government sponsored programs and have to account for their time. They don't have anything else to do and that's all they've ever known. Maybe drugs have something to do with it too.
I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that when he was in the military in his homeland he got caught escaping to go attend a bodybuilding contest. He won the contest but the military caught him on his way back. They (the military) decided that he was a good bodybuilder and should become a really good bodybuilder to represent his country. So they set up a small gym for him and gave him the title of "bodybuilder". Although he was still in the military his "job" was now to train all day. They set up guards outside his gym who would walk by and make sure he was training. When he was resting they told him to go back in there and train. They didn't understand the process of recovery and thought if he wasn't training every minute of the day then he was just lazy. I get the feeling a lot of the government sponsored o-lifting programs evolve from that sort've thinking. :)