Plyometric training must be included in your jump training workout if you really want to optimize your vertical jumping ability. Any respectable vertical jump program will emphasize the use of plyometric exercises in order to improve the participants vertical jumping ability.
There is both an art and a science to effectively incorporating plyometric training into a jump program.
Let’s take a closer look at how "plyos" can be used to help you jump higher than you ever thought possible.
What Is Plyometric Training? How To Use Plyometrics To Increase Vertical Jump Height Like The Pro's
When you observe the world’s highest jumpers in action you will notice their smooth, almost effortless movements and freakishly explosive abilities.
It is this efficiency, elegance and power of movement that separates these elite athletes from the average Joe's.
So what is the secret recipe for pro explosiveness and reactivity?
You guessed it...
The answer lies in plyometric training, otherwise known as "shock training".
Plyometrics and Vertical Jump Training
Plyometrics are commonly referred to as vertical jump training.
However, If you are one of our regular readers you would know that jump training is a multifaceted process and plyometric training should be considered as just another piece to the puzzle rather than an isolated concept.
"Only when plyometric training is combined with other aspects of jump training such as strength/power development and technique training will a jump program become truly effective"
How Does Plyometric Training Work To Increase Jump Height?
Plyometric training is designed to activate power producing and elastic properties of specifically targeted "jumping" muscles in the body.
To put it simply plyometrics are specific vertical jump training exercises that force the muscles to exert maximum force the shortest possible length of time.
The ultimate goal of plyometric training is to increase power (speed-strength) and reactivity (springiness.)
A well designed plyometric training program will use specific exercises to emphasize and develop the conversion rate of muscle extension (lengthening) into muscular contraction (shortening).
Plyometric training can be applied to all major muscle groups involved in jumping, however the following article will only be concerned with lower limb plyos and their effect on vertical jump height.
The History of Plyometric Training?
Plyometrics gained mass media attention after the Soviet Olympians dominated track and field with their plyo enhanced training in the 1970s.
Russian scientist Yuri Verkhoshansky is known as the godfather of plyometrics and is the mastermind behind what is known as “ the shock method”.
Mr Verkhoshansky’s shock method required the athlete to drop from a certain height (eg bench) and absorb the “shock” upon landing.
This process is a simple plyometric exercise now known as the depth drop.
This depth drop can be progressed to a depth jump by simply adding a jump after the landing.
Controlled force absorption of the muscles supplied through an automatic eccentric contraction is then converted into an explosive concentric contraction as the athlete jumps vertically.
Emphasis must be placed on minimising the duration of the entire jump movement.
This “shock method” has been adapted since the 1980’s to keep up with the latest developments in sports science.
"Plyometric training has evolved since it's humble beginnings however the principles stay the same. Plyos simply train the entire body to jump higher efficiently with intensity"
Understand Your Current Abilities and Limitations Before Starting Plyometric Training
In order to optimize the effectiveness of a plyometric training program one must understand their current physical limitations and abilities.
Any decent jump program should include plyometric workouts that can be completed by athletes with any starting skill or strength level.
The best plyometric training workouts tend to focus on developing the athlete's greatest weaknesses first.
Some people may have a poor ability to absorb force, others may not be able to convert the absorbed force into vertical jump height.
Others may lack speed of movement or general leg strength.
To gain a better understanding of your current plyometric abilities you can undertake a reactive strength test...
Follow these simple steps:
1) Measure your standing vertical jump height with an accurate vertical jump testing method.
2) Record your vertical jump height for later referencing
3) Setup a series of stable boxes that are around 5 inches in height
4) Stand on the box, then step off, land and as quickly as possible jump as high as you can.
5) If your jump height is higher than your standing vertical jump add another box on top of the first.
6) Keep adding more boxes until the height off the jump off the box is lower than your recorded standing vertical.
Note: If you are after plyometric training gear (plyo boxes etc) be sure to check out our roundup of the best vertical jump training equipment.
So what does this simple test tell you about your plyometric ability?
Well, if your standing vertical jump is 24 inches and your jump off a 5-inch box is only 20 inches then you have very poor plyometric and reactive abilities.
But the good news is, you will gain a lot from a simple plyometric workout.
On the other hand if your jump off the box is 5+ inches higher than your standing jump then you already have very good plyometric abilities and will probably not benefit much from further plyometric training.
If this is the case, and you still want to jump higher you would be better off focusing your efforts on following a jump program that involves weight training to help you gain jump specific strength and power.
Do you already have excellent plyometric abilities? If so check out The Flight System to help take your jump to the next level!
How Do the NBA Pro's Use Plyometric Training to Help Them Jump Higher?
Sure there are NBA players with ridiculous vertical jumping abilities who are simply genetic freaks that are “natural born jumpers”.
However, chances are for every one of these guys in the pros there are 9 others who have increased their vertical jumping ability through plyometric training.
Many professional NBA players will use the off season as a time to further develop physical aspects of their game such as explosive abilities.
NBA strength and conditioning coaches commonly prescribe strength training program that will also drip feed in plyometric training at a greater volume as the weeks progress.
This will then begin to taper off as it becomes closer to the beginning of the season where more skill based training will take precedence.
This common progression has been shown to be the best way for athletes to optimize their jump height.
In fact, this is the exact protocol that the best selling jump program of all time The Jump Manual uses throughout it’s 12 week program.
Plyometric Training Workouts Will Only Get you So Far.. You Also Need Strength!
Plyometrics themselves will enhance explosive ability and power.
However, an effectively programmed concurrent strength training program will raise the threshold of the benefits that can be derived from plyometric training.
Plyometric Workouts Are Not Cardio or Endurance Workouts
Plyometric workouts should not have you huffing and puffing.
They are not a cardio workout and are not designed to help you increase endurance.
Plyometric workouts should be purely designed to help you become better at singular explosive movements.
That is why any decent training program will keep repetitions low and intensity at 100%.
Many trainers get confused with the concept that an exercise can be performed at 100% without been physically exhausting.
In the case of plyometrics we are referring to the intensity of the individual jump movement.
From the landing to the concentric contraction everything must be focused and intense.
Plyometrics are meant to be performed fast and with long rest periods to emphasise intensity and recovery for further max efforts.
Too often you see athletes trying to do 6 sets of 15 depth jumps with 30 seconds rest in between.
Don't fall into this trap. Train with intensity while letting your nuero-muscular system recover.
How Many Plyometric Training Sessions Should I Do and How Often Should I Do Them?
Dr. Verkhoshansky originally recommended that plyometrics should not be performed for more than a total of 40 depth jumps per workout.
He is also recommended that no more than 3 plyometric workouts should be performed per week.
"Rest between sessions is vital. This gives the nervous system time to recover and the body time to build new fast twitch muscle fibres"
Most leading jump programs do a fantastic job of prescribing the correct volume and load to rest ratio that ensures optimal return on jump height.
The exact volume of plyometric exercises vary depending on an individual's goals and current athletic ability.
We always encourage athletes to follow a proven science based plyometric jump program to ensure optimal safety and faster results.
Remember it is not just the plyometrics that are important for jumping higher but a combination of plyometric workouts plus strength training, core development, technique training, recovery and nutritional factors that will get results.
Here are some of the best jump programs on the market. We believe these particular programs successfully incorporate all of these vital plyometric training aspects into an affordable package. However, some do a better job at this than others. Check out #1 and #2 on the list!
Is Jump Rope/Skipping Classed As Plyometric Training?
Skipping or jumping rope is not technically classed as plyometric training.
We previously mentioned just how important intensity and max effort is when performing plyometric exercises.
After all our end goal is to become more explosive and jump higher.
Skipping is an endurance exercise that will help you become better at doing lots of low jumps.
Many poor jump programs on the market make the mistake of prescribing solely high volume low intensity exercises such as jump rope.
Avoid these programs at all cost. They will have you spinning your wheels and even worse may cause overuse injuries.
However, don't write jump rope/skipping off completely as part of your training regime.
"Skipping has been shown to increase ankle strength and reactive abilities in beginners"
Just remember to cater for other factors such as total ground contacts, rest and recovery.
2 Of The Most Popular Plyometric Training Systems Currently Available
Can Plyometric Training Workouts Be Completed During The Sporting Season?
Plyometric training can be added to in-season training for further vertical jump development, and can go along way to helping you achieve your first dunk, however there are risks involved.
The number one risk is that of overtraining.
If you are in the middle of a basketball season and then add extra jumps to your dunk training you may increase the likelihood of injuries such as achilles tendonosis.
If you want to improve your plyometric ability during the season then definitely consult with a local exercise professional or an experienced online jump training expert.
Periodised plyometric programming is a multifaceted process that must cater for a range of variables. Don't be afraid to follow the advice of an expert rather than trying to "reinvent the wheel".
What Is The Best Plyometric Exercise?
Depth jumps are the original plyometric exercise and still remains the best plyometric exercise you can do today.
During this exercise the participant experiences a “shock” primarily through the tendons, musculature and neural structures of the hip, knee, and ankle extensor muscles.
The participant will then try to convert this eccentric contraction into a vertically directed concentric contraction and max vertical jump height.
Depth jumps develop the stretch shortening cycle (SSC).
Plyometrics are based on the principle that the SSC can create much more power than a normal muscle contraction. The muscles are able to store the tension from the stretch for a short period of time, causing the muscle to react like a rubber band.
The greatest force can be achieved when the stretch is performed as fast as possible.
If you want to learn more about the stretch shortening cycle please read out ultimate guide on HOW TO JUMP HIGHER.
How To Perform Depth Jumps?
To perform the depth jump, the participant will stand on a platform usually around 15–45 inches high.
The participant will then step off the platform and make contact with the floor.
It is vital to start with a low platform initially in order to reduce the forces applied and potential injury risk.
Remember force = mass x acceleration.
Force production is a good thing. However it must be CONTROLLED FORCE.
It is also very important to make a conscious effort to focus on form and body position during step off and upon landing.
Absorb the force of impact with a slightly flexed knee, hip and ankle joint.
As soon as you land jump into the air as high as you can as fast as you can.
Increase your depth jump height slowly but surely to derive the most benefit.
How To Do Depth Jumps Video
Why Should You Start Doing Plyometric Training Today?
Plyometrics are often the missing link that can transform you from an average athlete to an explosive athlete that excites the crowd.
"If you want to dunk then you must incorporate plyometric exercises into your training today"
Plyometric Training Exercise List: Plyo Exercise Examples
Here is a list of some of our favorite plyo exercises:
How To Do Tuck Jumps
How To Do Box Jumps
How To Do Lateral Box Jumps
Plyometric Training For Basketball Players
In addition to the aforementioned drills, here are some more specific and helpful plyometrics for basketball players.
How To Do Weighted Jumps
How To Do Single Leg Bounding
How To Do Lunge Jumps
Plyometric Equipment For Jump Training
There is a variety of different plyometric equipment that you can utilise in your plyometric workouts.
Plyometric equipment is by no means necessary, however some of these innovative devices have been shown to enhance results.
Below we have listed some plyometric training equipment that can help you take your training and vertical jump results to the next level.
Best Plyometric Boxes: Top 3 Plyometric Box Styles
Plyometric boxes provide you with a stable and safe base to perform your box jumps and depth jumps.
We suggest purchasing plyometric boxes of at least 3 variable heights.
1) Hardwood Multi-Height Plyometric Boxes
Hardwood plyometric boxes have different length side, height and width which allows for 3 different box heights. These plyometric boxes are strong and built to last. Here is an example of one for sale on Amazon.com
2) Solid Steel Plyometric Box Sets
Solid steel plyometric boxes come in sets to allow the user to bound to multiple heights in a row. These popular plyometric boxes are usually offered in heights of 12", 18", 24", 30" and can be stacked for storage. This style of plyometric boxes are strong and come with non slip grip on the platform. Here is an example of one for sale on Amazon.com
- PLYO BOX SET: 12", 18", 24", 30" set with NO ASSEMBLY required
- INDESTRUCTIBLE DESIGN: Heavy-duty steel construction, durable non-slip vinyl...
3) Adjustable Plyometric Boxes
Adjustable plyometric boxes are a great space saving option. This style of plyometric box can be be adjusted to 12"|16"|20"|24". Here is an example of one for sale on Amazon.com
Best Plyometric Shoes
There are two ways we can approach our search for plyometric shoes.
Firstly, some people want to find the best shoes to wear during plyometric workouts for comfort and support purposes.
Others may be searching for a plyometric training shoe that can add extra training stimulus.
We have written two comprehensive articles on this topic that you may like to check out.
We comprehensively reviewed the controversial Jumpsoles plyometric shoes. Find out the truth about Jumpsoles.
You may also enjoy our epic post regarding shoes that can make you jump higher. Yes. They do exist. Check out the post here. In that article you will also learn a few more pro hacks that you can apply to your plyometric training workouts.
Best Plyometric Training Equipment Accessories
There are also a number of additional pieces of plyometric equipment that can enhance your plyo training.
1) Vertical Jump Resistance Trainers
Vertical jump resistance trainers are essentially a belt that connects resistance bands to ankle straps.
This innovative piece of plyometric training equipment enhances the eccentric phase of plyometric jumps and then provides resistance against the concentric contraction.
Weighted vests provide a great way to add load to your plyometric workouts. Load can be added in small increments over time to ensure your body continues to adapt in a safe a manner.
Weighted vests are great for exercises such as rim touches as the load is distributed around the body evenly. This allows for better jump technique.
We hope that you enjoyed our guide to plyometric exercises. Hopefully you have learnt a few tips that you can start to apply to your own plyometric workout.
If you have any tips that you would like to share with the community on plyometric training techniques that work for you we would love to hear about it. Please comment below.