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Plyometric drills are not equally taxing on the body. There are different levels of plyometric drills that athletes can complete. A simple bound is easy on the body but can still develop the hips and increase speed. A tuck jump is more advanced, but still not as difficult as a one-legged obstacle leap. The depth jump though, is considered one of the highest intensity level plyometric exercises and the amount of stress put on the body is above most all other plyometric drills.
Depth jumps are known to improve vertical leap and force output for athletes. It is important that athletes be sure to be able to squat at least one and a half times their body weight to truly reap the benefits of the depth jump. A weak body will only crumble under the additional force put on the joints. To complete a successful depth jump athletes must be able to immediately accelerate off the ground as soon as their feet hit. If the athlete cannot squat one and a half times their body weight, more often than not, they will not be able to immediately jump off the ground. This stretch contraction sequence is what improves vertical leap. Every time the athlete’s muscles are stretched followed by an immediate vertical leap, they will be increasing neurological response time and muscle contraction potential. In layman's terms, by stretching a muscle with additional load that is immediately followed by muscle contraction then the body will slowly learn how to explode at maximum potential.
When choosing a box height there are a couple things to remember. Using too high of a box will only diminish the results. Using too low of a box will also leave athletes with little results. A general rule of thumb is to find a box that the athlete can step off and jump to a maximum height. Too high of a box will leave athletes hesitating at the bottom because the load is too great. Too low of a box will not give the body optimal load to maximize muscle contraction. Another way to choose a box height is to use a box that the athlete can jump on top of. Be sure that this box is the maximum height the athlete can jump. Mess with the box heights before starting a work out. As the athlete improves increase the box height. Just be sure that there is no hesitation between landing and jumping.
Using leg resistance bands during the depth jump can be very beneficial. Often times weaker athletes will allow their knees to shift inwards upon landing. This can cause many problems. ACL and even meniscus problems can occur with instability upon landing. Leg resistance bands allow the body to work against the resistance inward. In doing so, the body will strengthen hips and glutes. These two sections of the body are in charge of center of balance, as well as joint stability. Leg resistance bands will increase the strength in the legs needed for a higher vertical as well as improve stability in the knees. Each of these are major contributors to jump height, as well as athletes’ safety.
Athletes again should never use plyometric exercises as endurance training. Each athlete must maintain a high level of explosiveness to benefit from each drill. The depth jump should be completed 6 to 8 reps for beginners and 8 to 10 reps for more advanced athletes. As athletes become more advanced with the depth jump they must be sure to increase box height. 3 to 4 sets is plenty when it comes to the plyometric depth jump. Each rep should be very challenging.
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