Over the past month, I’ve had lots of conversations about how to jump higher with coaches, players and parents. These have focussed on situations when a dedicated S&C coach isn’t available or “the weight-room isn’t an option”. My answer has been the same across the board, and it won’t be a new thought process to most coaches… Break the movement down and train each element individually.
There are 3 main phases to any jump; Eccentric, Amortization and Concentric phases. However, I prefer the less scientific and more literal Load, Change and Explode phases. What this describes is;
Imagine throwing a volleyball into the floor… If it maintains integrity (and doesn’t burst!), the harder you throw it down, the higher it will bounce back up. This idea applies to the jump too. The more force you can control during the loading phase coupled with the ability to maintain body position as the floor pushes back at you, the more force you’ll be able to store/apply throughout the jump, and the higher you will spring upwards!
There are two main mechanisms the body uses to apply force; muscular contraction and/or storing and releasing energy through tendons and connective tissue.
Storing and releasing energy in connective tissue allows the body to apply force very quickly. Applying muscular force is slower, but perhaps more appropriate for different situations. Playing sand volleyball is an example of this, where storing and applying force rapidly will just move the sand, rather than moving your body against the sand.
By training the different phases of the jump, you’re training the different mechanisms the body uses to produce and apply force. This can lead you to develop more targeted jump training strategies for each athlete based on their physical and physiological strengths and weaknesses.
The aim of this phase of the jump is to maintain integrity for the later phases. The added benefit of beginning here is that it challenges both the muscular and tendinous mechanisms of jumping.
You can isolate and train this phase in many different ways, which require almost no equipment! We’re looking to create a situation where the athlete can step down from a height and land in a safe and controlled way. The higher the height, the faster their body will be travelling when their feet hit the floor, the higher the load will be, and the more challenging the exercise becomes. Landing with 2-feet at the same time can be progressed to landing on 1-foot, which effectively doubles the load.
Time to get creative! With a few benches, hitting boxes, fixed seats, etc… You can create a training space on- or around-court that allows you to differentiate across the group and challenge each player based on their own competence. Not pushing anyone too far or too little. Here are a few example exercises from PBJumps, with key coaching points to use.
Ultimately, jumping looks like an aggressive drive upwards. However… jump height is about how much force you apply down into the ground! Training the Explode phase focusses on how the player applies force down. Our aim is to take away the effect of storing energy in connective tissue and focus on muscular contraction. Do this by taking away the drop… This limits the body’s ability to load the connective tissue and store energy for rapid release.
Starting a jump from a seated position, or from the bottom of a squat, places emphasis on the athlete’s ability to produce rapid muscular force. Potentially something for beach / sand volleyball athletes to consider.
The height of the seat or squat can mimic the depth of the athletes drop during a normal jump, but the lower you go the greater the range the lower body muscles work through. Here are a few more example exercises, with key coaching points.
Going back to the ball metaphor, the firmer the ball is the more rapidly it recoils when hitting the ground. Picture the difference between a fully inflated volleyball and a flat volleyball. When linked to the jump, the inflation in our ball represents the ability of connective tissue to store and release energy effectively. The aim of training the Change phase of the jump is to focus on developing the capacity of the tendon and connective tissue to store and release energy.
Loading and unloading the body rapidly stimulated adaptation towards this ability. Here are a few simple example exercises, with key coaching points.
As with any physical training, consistency and frequency of training are fundamental to development. We should attempt to tailor progression to the ability of each athlete and their goal, avoiding a broad general approach. I hope considering the jump in a phase-by-phase way gives you another tool to be able to differentiate jump training across a large group simply, pushing each athlete individually.
If you enjoyed this information and you haven’t already read the first article in our How to Jump Higher series go and check it out! You can find it here.
I’m always here to help you to grow more physically competent volleyball players. Reach out in the comments below with any questions, comments or situations you’d like to discuss or get advice on.
P.s. For more support tailoring jump training across your squad of athletes, from juniors through to adult players, take a look at our VolleyScience Jump Training Program, PBJumps. Register for free to access your own personalised Movement Screening! Check out the link for more details.