Q: What is the optimal volume of plyometrics training during a phase dedicated towards increasing reactive ability? I have heard recommendations as low as 30 total reps per session to as high as 300 per day every day.
Yes there is a lot of crazy stuff out there that's for sure. I've seen recommendations for people to do 150 reps per exercise of 6-7 different exercises 7 days per week! Plyometric overtraining is more the rule then the exception. What's funny is that 90% of athletes I know who dramatically improve either their leaping ability or speed do so with either very limited volumes of plyometric training. The real key is the volume of this loading that already occurs in the sport. With the training the focus is on performance which doesn't take much volume.
Ok to answer your question, how much volume do you need? If you go to the horses mouth, to the guys who invented plyometrics, you will find recommendations of 350-400 total foot contacts of high intensity plyometrics (depth jumps) over a 4 week dedicated period. This would be preceeded by a phase dedicated towards strength improvement. So you'd complete a strength phase and then move into a reactive phase. This volume of plyometrics breaks down into roughly 100 ground contacts per week or 30-40 per session performed 2-3 times per week.
Keep in mind these are high intensity plyometric variations otherwise known as "shock" methods. For lower intensity variations you can do more volume, however this is rarely necessary. Plyometrics are "performance" exercises and training them to the point of noticeable fatigue or in a fatigued state is worth nothing at all. Always stop at the first signs of a noticeable dropoff in performance and if todays performance is worse then your last session then you're probably already doing too much.
The use of 200 foot contacts per week of "total" plyometrics is a good guideline during an offseason reactive phase. Zero is the recommended volume during your season. Less than 100 is the recommended volume during a strength training phase.
Other forms of plyometrics are countless but here are a few:
1. Jumping up onto a box
2. Jumping over a barrier
3. Jumping in place and lifting your knees to your chest
4. jumping back and forth over a cone or barrier
5. bouncing around on one leg
Q: For an athlete like a tennis player what do you recommend to improve speed and agility on the court? Would you include a lot of specific agility drills or more plyometrics?
It depends on how much the athlete is already on the court and how they move. Tennis players get a lot of agility training just playing their sport so typically we would build up their general physical preparation and improve the motor functions they need and then let the sport itself take care of the majority of the specific agility training they need. It's not uncommon for tennis players to get beat up in the lower body from too much agility training particularly when their coach not only has them on the court several hours per day but also adds in additional agility and plyometric drills.
So the general progression would go like this:
1. Make sure the athlete can move effectively and with coordination. Get light on your feet and learn to move efficiently. I was watching a group of female tennis players recently. Their coach had them jog a lap around the track and about half these girls looked like they'd never run a day in their life their coordination was so bad.
2. Integrate the ability to be light on your feet with the ability to use your hips and posterior chain efficiently. This means strength training for the larger muscle groups.
3. Build power through a full range of motion. Bend your legs and descend into a full squat or a lunge. Now pay attention to the position your in. The more efficient you are in that full range position the beter you'll tend to move in tight quarters and the more potential you'll have to be explosive. The point is that you want to get powerful down low and be able to absorb and transfer force there so that you can change direction and decelerate efficiently. This will also make you more explosive when you move around with less knee bend. This step is extremely important for agility development.
4. Carry that power up high.
It's also useful to train these athletes for straight ahead speed out to around 30 meters or so. You see, agility is just a component or an expression of max acceleration or speed. The faster you can accelerate out to 30 meters the bigger "base" you have to draw from for agility development. So, if we improve your base, or get you faster running straight ahead, - with all things equal you will also be more agile or at least have more potential. Training straight ahead linear acceleration and speed can be an advantage because you can do so without putting the same level of stress on your hips, knees, feet, and ankles like if you were to do a ton of extra agility drills.
Q: I signed up for this free newsletter from the vertical
project and they sent me the below information. It sounds like from this newsletter that diet and supplements are a very
important part of increasing your vertical leap. Do
you believe this is true? Have your ever heard of the
verticalproject.com web site? I did look at the sit
and it is quite impressive. Tell me what you think.
That's a good question. The relevance of diet is that the lean to fat ratio does make a difference. You definitely want to be under 10% bodyfat. However, nearly ALL top athletes in major sports, particularly young athletes, eat like crap yet it doesn't affect them. Sleep, recovery, bodyfat % and consistent progress are the important things. The main thing with nutrition for a young athlete is quantity. Either too much or not enough is detrimental but the body can run on virtually anything as long as a "minimum" level of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, etc. are taken in. Young athletes usually don't have a problem meeting the minimum requirements but go to far in either direction and you run into problems. Try to diet much at all and it will show in a lack of energy and consistent progress. The body does't like to be starved. Overeat and you get fat. So no diet and supplements aren't all that important for vertical jump development outside of their potential effects on body composition.
As for resources I don't know if the site you mention falls into this category or not but I don't pay attention to anything that has the word "vertical" in it because the information is rarely legitimate. You would think people would figure out that if any of this stuff worked like they said it was that athletes in olympic sports, who often have teams of researchers and scientists behind them, would be using it. But no. There are no secrets and there is enough information already on this site to progress 90% of the people further then they're gonna go with any gimmick.
The trouble is everybody wants shortcuts and nobody wants to work. The majority of these vertical jump sites are put together by people who have limited knowledge of sound and proven scientific training methods and have little or no experience coaching athletes in any sport. They make up a bunch of gimmicks just trying to make money and use examples of guys going through puberty who could get results sitting on their butt playing X-Box. It should come as no surprise that supplements are now being marketed in the same way.
Q: Should I be able to run and jump off of either leg and achieve the same height? I am right handed but I jump much better off my right leg which makes it kind've difficult to dunk. I'm wondering if I can improve the proficiency of my left leg jump and make it at least equal to my right leg
It depends on which leg you kick with. People will have one leg that they are more efficient with when they balance or plant, and then one leg that they are more comfortable kicking with. The leg opposite the one you kick with will be your dominant plant leg when you jump (or the leg you push off of). You can bring up the performance of that leg but it will probably be a lot like learning to throw a harder punch with your left hand if you're right handed.....Difficult but not impossible!