Proper Plyometrics: How to Box Jump, Vertical Jump, and Broad Jump Correctly
Training with plyometrics can be the difference between being an average athlete or a great athlete. Some coaches tend to shy away from plyometrics as they assume the movements can be dangerous, hard to teach, and not worth the trouble. This is not the case. By not implementing plyos into your athlete’s routine, your athlete will never become nearly as explosive as he or she could.
Plyometrics work on hip explosiveness and leg drive, and can tremendously improve flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back. I am going to share a couple useful technique-oriented tips that you can use and share to make sure your athletes are performing plyometrics the correct way. Athletes of all levels can properly perform most plyos as long as you teach them correct form and the exercise is modified to their own ability level.
Box Jumps for Height
Many athletes will perform box jumps and try to jump atop the highest box possible. This is not safe and form will be compromised. A good rule of thumb is to pick a box in which the athlete can jump onto and get both feet completely onto the box. This ensures the athlete won’t miss the box and become injured.
The athlete should also be able to land in the same position from which they took off. Most athletes you see will land in an extremely deep squat. This means that the box is too high. This also translates to performance on the field. When will an athlete ever jump in competition and land in a full ranged deep squat? Almost never. The athlete will usually land in a half squat athletic position. This is what we are looking for when an athlete completes a box jump. For your more advanced athletes, single leg box jumps can be performed following the same protocol.
Being able to jump vertically is extremely important in such sports as basketball, football, and volleyball. Many athletes I have worked with will ask me how they can increase their vertical jump. They ask, “Should I squat and power clean?” “Yes you should,” I say, and then ask, “But are you actually practicing your vertical jump?” In most cases, the answer was no.
The vertical jump involves a lot of technique. There are some easy corrections that can be applied to increase your vertical jump based on technique alone. Starting at the feet, we want them to be shoulder width to slightly less than shoulder width apart. As the athlete descends to begin the jump, make sure he or she is pushing the glutes back (similar to how you would when you perform a squat). This will enable the athlete to use maximum power from the glute and hamstring muscles, which will enable the highest jump. The arms should work simultaneously with the rest of the body on the ascension/descension.
As the athlete begins to jump we should focus on three key issues:
- First, make sure the athlete’s eyes and head are looking to where they are trying to reach. This will make sure the athlete’s entire body is working to ascend.
- Secondly the athlete’s arm that is reaching upwards should be directly in line with their ear. Too many times athletes will reach too far forward or too far backwards. This will throw off balance and shorten the jump.
- Lastly, make sure the athlete is jumping straight up and straight down. This seems obvious, but many times we will see athletes landing six inches in either direction of where they started. This means they are sacrificing height for distance, which is obviously not what we want.
- Just by coaching these points, athletes can improve their vertical jump height within minutes.
Standing Broad Jumps
The standing broad jump is a great test of leg power. It also contains more technicalities than simply standing still and jumping as far as you can horizontally. The feet should be slightly less than shoulder width apart. Some athletes like to sway their arms and hips back and forth before they begin to jump, others will begin the jump immediately. I have found no athletic difference between the two as of yet, simply preference.
Most athletes will sway their arms and hips forward, from what I have seen. You then want the athlete to bring their arms back and begin to go into the quarter squat position, activating the glutes and hamstrings once again. The athlete should then drive forward with the hips and arms while jumping out as far as possible, landing in a good athletic position.
The biggest mistake I see with athletes in regards to the broad jump is poor hip movement. As a coach, you should really emphasize to drive the hips through when you jump, similar to how a power clean is performed. Your hip power is what is going to enable you to jump as far as possible since you are jumping in the direction your hips are moving. Once you get your athletes to utilize their hips and glutes, their jumps will really start to take off.
These were some general, easy to use tips on technique that we as coaches can implement into our plyometric routine for athletes. Be able to communicate to your athlete not only what they should be doing in regards to technique and muscle movements, but also why.