Speed and jumping power.

By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Spring 1997
Stretching hard everyday is a key component to jumping higher.  The vast majority of athletes and coaches stretch to avoid pulling a muscle or to prevent an injury which is a secondary reason at BFS.  Our primary reason for stretching is for speed and jumping power.
The BFS 1-2-3-4 Flexibility Program is designed specifically to increase speed and jumping power.  Shown below is the Adductor Stretch.  (Pictures will be added at a later date)  The muscles involved in jumping are the entire back leg including the calf, hamstrings and achilles tendon area.  Also involved are the quadriceps, glutes, abdominals, hip flexors, lower back and to some extent the pectorals and lats.  The goal is to stretch these muscles hard every day with every joint in perfect sprinting alignment.  Our flexibility video is an excellent source in helping you to stretch for jumping power.
Increasing strength in the above areas named is an absolute key component to jumping higher.  The stronger your legs, the higher you will jump.  The best way to do this is to use free weights.  You must also use multi-joint movement lifts like Parallel Squats and Power Cleans from the floor.  When you jump all the muscles, joints and tendons must work in a coordinated maximum summation of force.
What happens if you isolate the muscles like a bodybuilder or use a machine?  You will get some results but not optimum results.  In the highly trained athlete who has worked with free weights correctly, there is a strong likelihood that jumping pwoer would be negatively affected by isolating and/or using primarily machines.
The Parallel Squat, Box Squat and Front Squat are excellent core lift multi-joint lifts that strengthen the important body areas.  The Straight Leg Dead Lift, Lunges and the Glute Ham exercise are important auxiliary lifts for jumping power.  I don't recommend Jump Squats because of the way we do our Power Cleans.
Power Cleans, if done as we prescribe at BFS, will develop explosive power.  There is absolutely no question that transfer of power developed in the weight room to the Vertical Jump or Standing Long Jump will occur.  We always get into a jumping stance with toes straight and bring the bar in a controlled manner just above the knees.  The lower back, hips, legs, head and upper torso must look the same as a Vertical Jump.  Then we jump straight up as high and as explosively as possible.  The legs, especially at the knee joint, should look exactly like a Vertical Jump.  We are merely using the overload principle.  We do a Vertical Jump with a weight and gradually add more and more weight.  As this is done, we can anticipate dramatic increases in an athletes Vertical Jump.
CHALLENGE:  I believe Power Cleans from the floor are superior than Hang Cleans in developing jumping power.  I know many Division I schools do only Hang Cleans thinking they will get the same results.  I think not.  What a great study!  Notice I said, "tthink." I am not positive.  I would love to see some research on this subject.
There are three levels of ploymetrics that help jumping power. First is lower level drills of skipping, hopping and jumping drills with no accessory apparatus.  Second is medium level drills using some form of apparatus, starting and ending with feet on the ground.  The third level is Plyometric Box Jumping.  We start with low intensity Box Jumping drills that any high school athlete can perform.  Our drills increase in intensity and skill but over half of our nation's high school athletes can complete all of our drills in the first week. 
At BFS clinics where Plyometric Box Jumping is included, we select about ten athletes to demonstrate.  We always try to choose a wide variety of size and skill in these athletes.  They stretch well and then give each athlete three Vertical Jump attempts on our "Just Jump" measuring device and three Standing Long Jumps.  These attempts are recorded.  Next, the ten athletes go through the BFS Box Jumping routine.  What do you think happens when we retest?  You guessed it.  Nine out of ten make significant improvements. 
I know there are some strength and conditioning coaches who believe plyometrics are a waste of time.  Those coaches and athletes who go through a Box Jumping routine at a BFS Clinic would be amused at such a philosophy.
I believe in measuring the Vertical Jump and Standing Long Jump once or twice a month.  This is especially true at the high school level.  I have two reasons:  First, is that sheer practice will help an athlete learn jumping skills.  Second, an athlete needs to have this feed back for motivation.  If he/she is working hard on strength, flexibility and ploymetric drills, frequent feedback will demonstrate that all the hard work is paying off.  A jump increase of one or two inches can be rejuvenating and keep your championship vision alive. 
I highly recommend our "Just Jump and Run".  You can get a highly accurate Vertical Jump measurement about once every five seconds.  All you have to do is read the result.  Kids can even test kids.  The "Just Jump and Run" can certainly stimulate a lot of interest in jumping and it's a whole lot of fun.