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Strength Training for the Vertical leap by Peter Mundy
Let’s face it, no matter what level you play at or how strong you think you are. There is always room for improvement. With this being said, you’re going to be wondering how you can improve. First off you have to realize you are not everybody else, so stop performing mediocre training programs you purchased from the internet. I take it you are wondering why you should listen to me? Because I am going to explain basic vertical leap anatomy, show you how to expose training errors and how to effectively train for the vertical leap.
Vertical Leap anatomy
The topic of muscle fibres is often discussed, but not many people actually know their role in strength training for the vertical leap. Fibre types have been categorized by the rate of fatigue and their oxidative capacities. (Ian King 04)
The vertical leap is primarily performed by Type II fibres which are also known as white fast twitch fibres. Type II fibres react best to low repetition, heavy load training.
Type II fibres are activated in the performance of high intensity activities taking place over minimal periods of time. For example performing a maximal effort vertical leap.
Vertical Leap biomechanics
The posterior chain’s role in vertical leap
The posterior chain consists of the Erector Spinae, Gluteals and the Hamstrings. During the vertical leap if the muscular cross section motor neuron firing pattern has been altered or is inefficient, the hip flexors overcompensate and prevent the gluteals from being effectively activated during the vertical leap. Compound posterior chain exercises allow the correct muscular cross section motor neuron firing pattern to take place during the vertical leap.
The core’s role in vertical leap
The core is composed of intrinsic muscles deep inside the torso usually connected to either the spine or the pelvis. A great example of this is the transverse abdominals. The muscles of the core stabilize the body and cause energy to be efficiently transferred from the upper body to the lower body. Strengthening of the core is vital during vertical leap training as correct and efficient movement patterns are induced along as correcting posture imbalances.
The calves’ role in vertical leap
They may not seem as important as other muscles during the vertical leap but you have to train your body as a unit, not as pieces. If neglected the body will become inefficient and you will be limiting your vertical leap potential.
The gastrocnemius (gastroc) is composed of two heads, the medial head and the lateral head. But most power in the lower leg is produced by the Achilles tendon (Calf Insertion Point) rather than the gastroc. The calves can not be used efficiently or to full potential during vertical leap if the tiblias anterior (antagonist) is too weak. This leading to imbalances (agonist/antagonist strength ratio out of proportion) resulting in the gastroc having to hold back on exerting maximal force to protect the body from injury during vertical leap execution.
But do we need to train the calves directly after they reach a certain strength limit? As really calves get indirectly trained from nearly all leg involved compound movements! Example: squats or dead lifts.
Common training errors
Exercise Form and Technique
Possibly the most common training error out there! Performing exercise repetitions with to much weight usually results in poor form and bad technique. As many athletes sacrifice good form for repetition amount. For example if your have to bounce the bar of your chest to perform your last repetition on the bench press, then you lost good form and technique possibly two repetitions ago!
Bad form and technique results in injury! Need I say more? Visit a personal trainer or experienced coach and make sure your technique is correct!
This error is quite simple, but it is commonly overlooked by athletes. Your workout should start with a warm up. One set performed for body parts present in the workout with light weight and moderate repetitions to get the blood flowing. After your warm up is completed you should start with the more taxing compound movements then moving on to finish with the smaller muscle group movements. This allows peak performance for the more demanding movements while fatigue is at its lowest.
Lack of protein and Excess protein
As some of you may already know, protein is our body’s main nutrient used for muscular regeneration. Without protein our body can simply not regenerate! The average man should only intake 37 grams of protein per meal. This is simple to obtain with a good diet but excess amounts of protein can lead to serious problems. When we consume more protein than our body can use, our body has to burn it as a fuel. But the problem is that the protein bond has to be broken down by hydrochloric acid. This is not a problem BUT if the blood absorbs too much hydrochloric acid after digestión, toxins form in cellular tissue due to over-acidity. Meaning metabolism is disturbed and the pancreas is forced to overwork.
Hydration is important because water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells in the body, helps convert food into energy, cushions vital organs, lubricates joints and regulates body temperature. Dehydration also causes fatigue as electrolytes are imbalanced. Is this not enough reasons to stay correctly hydrated, not only during exercise but during the day? Dehydration can be simply prevented by drinking at least 2 liters of water throughout the day.
Muscular Strength is the ability of muscle groups to produce maximal amounts of force at high intensities over short periods of time.
Increasing Strength - Sets and Repetitions
A set is x amount of successful repetitions performed with no rest period, while a repetition is the number of times you perform a specific exercise/movement during a set. For example if I asked you to perform 3 sets of 6 squats, you would perform 6 successive squats then take a 180 seconds (3 minute) brake before performing another set of 6 successive repetitions.
Why 3 minutes? Our body requires energy to perform absolutely anything; there is no exception during strength training. During heavy strength training (up to 6 repetitions) our body relies on energy from the ATP (adenosine Triphosphate Phosphocreatine) system. The ATP system produces energy rapidly using phosphagens without the use of oxygen. This is known as anaerobic respiration. But our body only has tiny phosphagen reserves which can be used for up to 15 seconds. Therefore resting 3 minutes in between sets allows our body to fully replace the phosphagen stores. Due to correct amounts of phosphagen during sets your body can perform repetitions efficiently meaning you will see more strength gains in shorter periods of time performing training programs. Your vertical leap will also increase as one side of the equation has been strengthened.
But a longer rest time may be considered as the Central Nervous System, composed of the brain and the spinal cord. At 3 minutes will only have recovered up to 90% depending on the individual. If the central nervous system is not at or near 100% then muscular co-ordination is affected, fatigue is induced resulting in concentration loss and also technique is affected as motor neuron control is decreased which can only lead to injury!! The central nervous system also controls the amount of force exerted from the target muscle areas. Thus meaning if your central nervous system is not working effectively you will not be able to perform the specified repetitions per set. Some athletes rest up to 10 minutes between sets!
Load per Repetition
The load is the overall force which is to be subjected to you, the supporting body during a repetition. Basically the amount of weight you will be using for each repetition during a set.
Correct load? You can load anything between 80-120% to train for strength but loading 80% onto the bar to perform repetitions with will only allow athletes to perform 4-6 repetitions over the correct amount of sets. During the 4-6 repetition range neural efficiency, also known as myofibril hypotrophy takes place. Meaning intramuscular co-ordination, the ability to recruit motor neurons efficiently is increased. (Increased force production)
What is 80%? Example: The most you can squat is 100kg; therefore 100kg is your 1 rep maximum for a repetition. This meaning your 80% load for a squat would be 80kg. (80% of your 1rm)
While training for strength you should ALWAYS perform compound movements. Isolation lifts can be good to fix a lagging body part, BUT if you have never performed isolation lifts and only compound lifts. Then there would be no lagging body parts. Therefore isolation lifts wouldn’t ever need to be performed. This is just a theory I have put together over my year (I know it’s not very long but I have spent countless hours researching and performing every method I have came across) of training and research.
There really is no debate whether compound exercises are more efficient for strength and size increases compared to single-joint isolation exercises. Virtually every lifter who has any training experience at all will know that compound exercises recruit the most muscle groups for any given body part. Take for example the squat, while performing one simple squat repetition you are using over 550 different muscles in your body to complete the lift!
When training for strength you must choose exercises that allow for the greatest load. One of the main reasons why squats are superior or should I say a better selection than leg extensions for quadriceps would be the fact that the load you can apply to the quadriceps is much greater with squats.
Your workout should consist of push and pull exercises to prevent muscular imbalances. All of which exercises would happen to be compound! There are many different ways you can go about applying this to your workout, you can have a push and a pull day. Or you can have 2 push exercises and 2 pull exercises per workout! There are many ways you can go about this you just have to use your imagination.
There are hundreds of push and pull compound exercises. Below I have listed some effective yet simple exercises to place into your program.
Push Lower Compound
ATC Squat - Hack Squat - Front Squat - In fact any Squat variation!
Front Lunges – Side Lunges – Rear Lunges – Once again any lunge variation!
Standing Calve raises – One Legged Standing Calve raises (Read Calves role in vertical leap in anatomy section)
Pull Lower Compound
Glute Ham Raises
Deadlifts – Straight Leg Deadlifts – Snatch Grip Deadlifts – Any variation Dead Lift
Reverse Calve Raise (Toe raises)
Push Upper Compound
Bench Press – Incline Bench Press – Decline Bench Press – Any variation of Bench
Shrugs (not compound but you can’t neglect muscle groups)
Crunch – Russian twists – leg raises – vacuums -Any Core variation.
Pull Upper Compound
Barbell Bent over Row – Dumbbell Bent over Row
Chin Up – Close Grip Chin up – Wide Grip Chin up – Any variation of chin up
Pull Up – Close Grip Pull Up – Wide Grip Pull up – Any variation of pull up