Friday, August 10, 2012

How to Jump Higher! Vertical Leap Secrets from the World’s Best Strength Coaches: Part 1

For years I've used stair training to maximize my power which lead me to using them with the hundreds of athletes I've trained including players from Major League Baseball and the Women's National Basketball Association. And because of my work with professional athletes and my love for basketball I get many questions from people all over the world on vertical jump training. And since I don't know it all (far from it) I know it's in my best interest to learn from other strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, nutritionists, doctors and so on. And I'm actually pretty lucky as I can pick up the phone or email many of the best trainers in the world and pick their brain on performance enhancement.

So in late 2006 I decided to get on the phone and grill over 13 world class strength coaches on their vertical training methods. How can you go wrong when you have over 13 of the nation's best experts teach you first hand what they know on vertical jump training?

And the best thing for me was the learning experience. I learned so much from these world class coaches and here is my chance to share what I learned. I must warn you though: There is a chance you can bang your head on the rim by following these vertical jump tips!

The first group of guys I will speak of are Jason C Brown, Steve Cotter and Brett Jones. Besides being gentlemen and world class strength coaches they also share the unique distinction of being kettlebell training experts.

I must admit when I first learned about kettlebells years back I never really gave it much thought because I thought you could do kettlebell exercises with a dumbbell. As I quickly learned, you can not do exercises that are specific to kettlebells with a dumbbell. It's not the same. Try a kettlebell swing with a dumbbell and they are very different. Now this is not to say that dumbbells are bad. This is just to say that each piece of equipment has a specific use and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

In speaking with the gentlemen a few things ring through with kettlebell lifting that make them excellent tools for vertical jump training.

1. It is very hard to find an exercise that mimics the motion of vertical jumping better than the kettlebell swing. Further more is that you can perform the exercise explosively. Now this is not to say that power cleans or snatches are not great exercises that teach explosive hip extension but they are more technical and harder to teach. This is simply not the case with the kettlebell swing which makes it excellent for working with large groups. Our weight room workouts have over 40 student athletes working out at once and introducing the kettlebell has been a blessing because I find it much easier to teach the movements than power cleans. And even easier than teaching the hang clean. Does this mean I'm lazy? No, I just happened to find a better tool for teaching athletes explosive hip extension. Will I abandon the power and hang clean? No. Now I have even more exercises in my tool box which makes it easier not to be married to a set a certain exercise.

So what's the lesson here? If you can add kettlebells into your training programs you have an excellent vertical jump training tool that is hard to beat.

2. Another great thing about kettlebells reiterated by Steve Cotter is that there is a unique quality in the shape of kettlebells: The shape I believe and many other trainers will agree is that they actually guide you into proper form. Because of the round shape any deviance from bad form and you automatically feel it so you get right back into the correct groove. This is key and something I've never really experienced with barbells and dumbbells. Furthermore, a big premise of kettlebells is that training is practice and practice develops your skill. The more skilled you are the stronger you will be and the higher you will jump. I mean do you ever really see guys that can jump or are really fast not run or jump with excellent form? Not really. Fix someone's technique and form and that in itself will help them jump higher.

3. Keep things simple. Read that again and again. All three guys alluded to this. We know what works and have known for a long time. Don't try to reinvent the wheel and just use what we already know. Basics like the dead lift, squat and its variations combined with explosive lifting, actually jumping, and of course excellent technique will take you very far.

4. Another big point to drive home from this panel was keeping the reps low (3-5) when strength training. A great vertical requires excellent strength and that means to train movements like the dead lift, squat and pull-ups with low reps to develop that strength. No need for higher reps as that can lead to weight gain and possibly using bad form. Simple enough right. 5 sets of 5 reps on big bang exercises and

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