By Clay Norton
Increasing an athlete's vertical jump in boys high school basketball can be a difficult task for a coach. In today's basketball arena, players just want to jump higher – some without putting in the work to achieve their goal of increasing the height of their vertical jump.
The goal should be for the player's preseason strength and conditioning program to reflect and simulate as much of the actual game situation as possible. One of the main areas of focus should be increasing each player's vertical jump through the use of plyometrics, along with some weight resistant training. In basketball, the vertical leap can be used quite often to measure an athlete's power and explosiveness (Baggett, 2006).
Coaches want their players to benefit from training programs; however, basketball coaches are challenged to find training programs that motivate players to become more active and increase their strength and conditioning for success (Stein, 2008).
Success in many sports depends greatly upon the athlete's explosive leg power and the overall strength of their muscles. Increasing power gives an athlete the potential to improve their performance in sports where speed and strength is sought (Rahimi & Behpur, 2005). In general, having great leg muscle power that enhances vertical jump performance is considered a critical element for successful athletes (Markovic, 2007).
According to Stein (2008), the game of basketball is already influenced by plyometrics by the very nature of the game. Basketball is perhaps the greatest opportunity for athletes to exhibit explosive power in the team setting (Smith, 2008; Stein 2008). Baggett (2006) says the vertical leap of a player can indicate to coaches the potential athletic ability, and there is a direct correlation between the quality of the player's vertical jump and the quality of the training program. As the vertical jump improves, there is greater speed, power and quickness. Also, plyometric exercises are widely recommended for the power enhancement in jumping (Kotzamanidis, 2006).
Great improvements can be made for basketball players by implementing a plyometric workout (Stein, 2008). Adding plyometrics to a training program produces gains in explosiveness, as well as foot speed, quickness, power, agility and overall speed (Asp, 2007). Today, players are involved in basketball year-round without an offseason. The average basketball player will perform an estimated 450 to 500 full-speed vertical jumps per week (Stein, 2008).
While basketball practice alone is sufficient to improve the vertical jump in high school boys, greater improvement can be made by using plyometric training drills (Brown et al., 2008). Training programs that include plyometrics usually involve different types of drills. These drills include stopping, starting and changing direction in an explosive manner which helps in developing lower body strength, speed, power and joint strength (Miller et al., 2006).
Plyometrics also focus on the speed of muscle contraction (Fee, 2005). The more proficient a player becomes, the less time it takes for his or her muscles to contract because plyometric drills improve neural response time, which is the essential component of quickness. Plyometric drills help an athlete maximize force while minimizing the time it takes to generate that force.
There are thousands of plyometric exercises. Two of the most frequently used drills in basketball are box jumps (Faigenbaum & Chu, 2001) and jumping rope (Faigenbaum, 2008). Jumping rope produces a stretch-shortening cycle to the quadriceps every time the feet make contact with the floor (Faigenbaum & Chu, 2001). During box jumps, the quadriceps at the front of the thigh stretch eccentrically when the athlete lands and then that muscle group shortens concentrically when the athlete jumps (Faigenbaum, 2008).
Training programs can include movements that concentrate on a very specific and precise result (Faigenbaum et al., 2007). According to Stein (2008), there are five areas in which plyometric drills will help a basketball player. Plyometrics can improve a player's strength, power, flexibility, skill proficiency and conditioning level.
Many high school and college coaches have selected plyometrics as the best training for increasing the vertical jump of their players. A basketball player lifts his entire weight in a vertical plane; therefore, we incorporated the use of plyometrics by adding box jumps, heavy jump ropes, light jump ropes and bleacher jumping to our strength program.
In the past, our training consisted of weight-resistant lifting only. The training routine we use for Clinton Basketball is based on many different plyometric workout routine examples. As a coaching staff, we developed the "explosion" routine based on studies done by Faigenbaum and Chu and Stein. These studies stated that muscles are shortened and lengthened quickly during a workout, which are plyometric in nature (Faigenbaum & Chu, 2001; Stein, 2008).
The workout consists of five major stations, with four workouts within each major station, and a rest time at each station (see Appendix A). The workouts at each of the major stations are timed at 30 seconds. The players are to get as many "explosions" or jumps as they possibly can achieve during the 30 seconds. When moving from spot to spot within a major station, there is a 30-second move/rest time. Our players move forward within the major station they are working. When the major station is complete, players rotate right, moving up on each box, to the next station with a one-minute rest. We use this vertical jump workout three days a week during the preseason strength and conditioning period.
A player always jumps a less heavy rope in a major station as he jumps a higher inch jump box. Obviously, a coach can create the stations in any manner to best achieve the desired outcome. If a player cannot jump on a particular inch jump box, then a five-pound heavy rope is used as a substitute for that spot within the station. A five-station workout can be completed in a 30-minute setting. If there is no one on the team who can successfully jump the 42-inch jump box, then that major station can be completely taken out of the routine.
On days we do not use the "explosion" routine, we jump bleachers. The bleacher jumping is done in sets of 10. Each set is done differently to put more stretch on the legs. The sets consist of every step, every two steps and every three steps. The jumps are done in a "leap frog" concept, exploding forward and up.
In conclusion, coaches are always looking for workouts that will help their players perform at a higher level. In all cases, plyometric weight training can be beneficial for athletes. Every athlete can perform at a higher level; however, the capacity for improving varies among athletes. Plyometric weight training, like any other technique, can only be successful if athletes are open to take an active part in the workout routine and exhibit discipline in their efforts.
Plyometric Workout Setup
Each player does a thirty-second "explosion" at each station. An "explosion" is to try to get as many jumps as possible during the thirty seconds.
About the Author: Clay Norton is the athletic director and head boys basketball coach at Clinton (Mississippi) High School. Norton earned his bachelor’s degree from Belhaven College and his master’s and doctorate from Mississippi College. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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