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Skilled, experienced basketball players know: It’s not always about how high you can jump, but about how quickly. Sure, if you want to clean the glass by soaring for rebounds, be our guest. But if you get there after the other quick-footed big men in the paint, you’re out of luck. The depth jump is a way to build quick-footed explosiveness – a way to put as much distance between you and terra firma in as little time as possible. And it can also help you load the bar with more weight on your core lower-body lifts.
The depth jump is one of the most advanced plyometrics that you can do. They are definitely not for beginners. There are a few things you must look out for – your own personal qualifiers – before you start to perform depth jumps.
1 You should be able to perform both a squat and squat jump and make sure that your knees do not go valgus (knees in) or varus (knees out) and that you have a rigid and stable foot.
2 Make sure you are not suffering from any tendonitis, tendinitis, knee or ankle pain.
3 You have a good lifting background.
4 You can perform a proper squat jump and box jump.
If you are confident in all of these areas, then get ready to build an explosive and powerful lower body.
Start with a depth jump from a box at 12 inches in height. As you advance, you can increase the box height to 24 inches. Step off the box landing on both feet and jump off the ground as fast as possible. You can jump in a vertical motion for vertical height, straight forward like a broad jump, onto another box, or over a hurdle. I suggest the following progressions.
The depth jump has been a popular exercise with Russian track and field coaches as well as Olympic lifting coaches for years, mainly because it can increase explosive power and improve performance. But if you look at the leg development on all of these athletes, you will also notice the huge amount of muscle they carry. Not only that, they are also incredibly lean.
The depth jump involves minimal ground contact time with maximum power output. This in turn activates some deep fast-twitch muscle fibers that cannot be hit with traditional weight training. Also, landing places a huge eccentric demand on working muscles. This can lead to additional muscle fiber breakdown, which leads to more muscle. Due to the depth jumps ability to increase muscle activation, nervous system priming and improvement in explosive movements, this will also transfer over into the weight room, leading to more weight lifted and increase output.
Since the box jump taxes the nervous system at a high capacity and requires a good amount of technique, allow yourself 2-3 minutes between sets of jumps for optimal performance. Strive for 2-4 sets of 10 reps, for best results, or terminate your set sooner if your form begins to degrade.
The depth jump is best done after your warm-up and at the beginning of your leg routine. You want to be fresh before you perform depth jumps to optimally perform this movement. Placing it at the beginning of your routine fires up your nervous system and sets the tone for the rest of your weightlifting workout. I have also programmed depth jumps before Olympic lifts or a heavy squat routine and had some of my best lifts that day due to its ability to prime the nervous system and activate muscle tissue. This effect is known as post-activation potentiation, which was discussed in our previous article on broad jumps. (NOTE: Link to the plyos/broad jumps piece, if it’s up yet)
With any plyometric activity, you will quickly use up your explosive energy stores. When this happens, form begins to deteriorate and your muscles cannot generate the same amount of power or force. Always strive for a lower target number of reps – here, we recommend 10 – but if you notice power output starting to fall off significantly, cut the set short and rest up for the next set. This will be different for every athlete, so feel it out the first few times if you’re new to plyometrics. Log your progress and always strive for more jumps, or to simply jump, higher, faster or farther.
Justin Grinnell, CSCS, is owner of State of Fitness (www.mystateoffitness.com) in Michigan. For more training info from Justin Grinnell, CSCS, you can visit his gym’s website, his Facebook page, or check him out on Twitter.