Aug 30, 2017
Jumping for Power

Have you noticed that your running back is struggling at quickly changing directions? Or maybe your soccer players are not winning their share of headers. If this is the case, consider adding depth jumps to their workouts. As an exercise that teaches muscles to produce maximum force in a small amount of time, depth jumps can be used to enhance any athlete’s performance.

According to an article for The Athletic Build by strength coach and personal trainer Justin Grinnell, the depth jump is designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness. As athletes jump, their quadriceps are rapidly stretched (eccentric phase) and then rapidly shortened (concentric phase).

“The depth jump involves minimal ground contact time with maximum power output,” writes Grinnell. “This in turn activates some deep fast-twitch muscle fibers that cannot be hit with traditional weight training. 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.”

In an article for, Andy Haley, CSCS, explains that during the initial drop, athletes’ muscles create elastic energy as they absorb the force of their body weight. The muscles then go through a transition period and explosively contract into a jump.

“Depth jumps train this process to become faster and more efficient,” writes Haley. “The more elastic energy your muscles can store and the faster they convert that energy into a contraction, the faster and more explosively you’ll move when playing your sport.”

Because it is an advanced exercise, Grinnell suggests that your athletes be confident in certain movements before attempting the depth jump. They should be able to perform a squat or squat jump without their knees going in or out while also keeping their feet stable. Athletes should not do this exercise if they are beginner lifters and or are suffering from tendonitis or knee or ankle pain.

Once you know that your athlete is ready for the depth jump, it is important to make sure that they understand the correct movements. Haley suggests starting with a 12-inch box and gradually increasing the height of the box as you improve:

  1. Stand on top of the box and step off with one foot, and then the other. Do not hop off of the box.
  2. Land softly with both feet on the ground at the same time, with your knees and hips bent.
  3. Explode up as high as possible into a jump.
  4. Land softly with both feet on the ground.
  5. Perform 3-4 sets of 5 reps, resting 15 seconds between jumps.

If the athlete is not able to jump up quickly, Haley recommends lowering the height of the box. When implementing this movement, Grinnell says it is best done after a warm-up and before your leg routine.

“You want to be fresh before you perform depth to optimally perform this movement,” he writes. “Place it at the beginning of your routine so, you ‘fire’ your nervous system up and set the tone for the rest of your weightlifting workout. I have also paired 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.”

To see the depth jump in action, check out this video from Wil Fleming, CSCS.

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