Power - Strength Training and the Horizontal Jumps
By: John M. Cissik
Originally Published in Techniques Magazine – Official Publication of the USTFCCCA
The horizontal jumps are challenging events for which to develop strength and conditioning programs. Both require strength, speed, power and technique. This article will review the aspects of the horizontal jumps a strength and conditioning program can assist, describe several considerations for the coach when designing a program and will include a sample program.
Aspects of the Horizontal Jumps
Borrowing from the language of periodization, strength training is both a general and a special tool for the training of the horizontal jumper. It is a general tool to develop the physical foundation required for success in the events. It also is a special tool used to enhance aspects of the event and specific phases.
In terms of general training, there are several things for which strength training can be used. First, by increasing the athlete's strength it improves their ability to apply force against the ground. This is achieved by focusing on exercises such as squats, lunges and pulls requiring the athlete to exert force against the ground. Second, it can be used to help prevent those hamstring injuries common to sprinting athletes. This is accomplished by strengthening the hamstrings in the lengthened position. Third, strength training teaches athletes how to use their strength explosively through exercises such as the Olympic lifts, speed squats and plyometrics. Finally, both events involve significant ground reaction forces on the body (Hay and Miller 1985, Panoutsakopoulos 2009). Strength training programs assist with strengthening the athlete's bones to resist these forces. This is done by focusing on those exercises involving exerting force against the ground.
With regards to specific training, there are several aspects of the horizontal jumps a strength and conditioning program can enhance. First, the long jump and triple jump both require an approach run critical to performance. The greater the run up velocity the athlete can achieve and transfer to the take off the better performance will be. Depending upon the caliber of the athlete, it is not unusual to see approach run velocities of 8-10 meters/second (Hay and Miller 1985, Miller and Hay 1986, and Panoutsakopoulos and Kollias 2008).
When it comes to the approach run, strength training can be used to enhance several aspects. First, it can help train the athlete to exert force against the ground. Second, it can improve the athlete's ability to maintain their posture during the run. This is done by improving the athlete's total body strength.
Both the long jump and the triple jump involve a plant and an attempt to translate the horizontal velocity of the approach run into distance jumped (long jump) or distance hopped (triple jump). The desire is to maintain posture, minimize the loss of horizontal velocity and exert force in the appropriate direction. In the long jump the plant and take off takes between .1 and .2 seconds ((Bridget and Linthorne, 2006, Graham-Smith and Lees 2005, Lees et al 1994). In the triple jump, the hop represents the first jump - there are two more all of which typically involve noticeable decreases in the athlete's horizontal velocity (Hay and Miller 1985, Mendoza and Nixdorf 2011, Miller and Hay 1986).
Strength training can assist the plant, take off, hop, step and jump in several ways. First it can develop the strength to assist the athlete with maintaining his or her posture during the plant, this can reduce the loss in velocity that occurs during this phase. Second, it can help the athlete propel himself or herself forward by developing strength and power. All of this can be done by focusing on one leg at a time, since the athletes are not performing these parts of the jump with both feet on the ground at the same time.
Strength and Conditioning Considerations
When it comes to a strength and conditioning program for a horizontal jumper, the coach should keep several things in mind. These include:
• It's only a tool
• Athletes need to be strong
• Athletes need to be able to exert force horizontally
• Athletes need to express that strength quickly
• Develop one leg
• Strengthen the hamstrings
• Complement training
Strength training is only a tool, only one of many. It's important to keep this in perspective. Jumpers are not power lifters, body builders, Olympic lifters or any type of athlete that competes using strength training. Ideally strength training should be focused, brief and should not cause injury or otherwise interfere with the athlete's performance.
Jumpers need to be strong, to a point. They need to be strong enough to exert force against the ground, propel themselves forward, maintain their posture and resist ground reaction forces without becoming injured. However, this always must be done while minimizing the extra mass on the athlete and ensuring the quest for strength doesn't cause everyone to lose perspective about why the athlete is training.
Athletes need to be able to exert force in a horizontal direction for the jumps. This is important because it is something the weight room does not train very well. Squats, deadlifts and the Olympic lifts are all training the athlete to exert force in a vertical direction. This means athletes are going to have to perform movements such as plyometrics, medicine ball throws and even kettlebell swings.
Strength is great, but it's useless if the athlete does not know how to use it. This means athletes have to train themselves to be able to express strength quickly. This is where plyometrics, variations of the Olympic lifts and other explosive movements come into training. The Olympic lifts are commonly used because the athlete moves the bar at 2-4 meters per second and the explosive phase of the lift takes about the same amount of time as the plant and take off in the horizontal jumps (Akkus 2012, Haddi et al 2012, Harbili 2012).
Sprinting, planting, taking off, the hop and the step are all done off one leg. For this reason it is a good idea for a jumper to increase their one-legged strength and power. This can be done via lunges, step ups, split squats, one-legged Romanian deadlifts, split variations of the Olympic lifts and even one-legged variations of the Olympic lifts.
The hamstrings should receive some focus during strength training, but this should be approached carefully. The hamstrings should be strengthened in the lengthened position, which is where a lot of sprinting-related injuries are believed to occur. This means exercises like Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, reverse hyperextensions, etc.
The final consideration is a complicated one. Strength training should be integrated into an athlete's larger training program in a way that ensures it complements, rather than conflicts, with the other aspects of his or her training. This is best done by training the same qualities on a give day. For example, training for maximal strength, acceleration and jumps all require short, all-out efforts. Doing this gives the body and nervous system the best chance to recover between workouts.
The following program is organized around training five days a week. It is outlined in table one. The first day has a short-duration, all-out effort focus. This means a short run up (usually a few steps) when practicing the event, shorter sprints that focus on acceleration primarily, plyometrics, and total body maximum strength training (i.e. heavy weights, low volume).
The second day is a recovery day. This is a great day to get in mobility work, core training and bodyweight exercises like calisthenics. This workout is repeated on day four.
The third day of training involves longer training but still a maximum effort. The approach run for the jumps are longer on this day so that the athlete is able to build up a greater velocity. Maximum velocity sprinting is used in training. This is combined with horizontal plyometrics - this would be a great day for hurdle hops or bounds. The weight room focuses on the Olympic lifts and their variations.
The final day of training involves jumps performed with the longest approach runs. The sprinting focuses on speed endurance. Strength training is high volume with short recoveries. Plyometrics have a vertical focus. See table 1.
The program outlines in table one aligns training so that the same kind of qualities and energy systems are trained on a given day. Day two and day four serve as recovery days.
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