Jumping is one of the most innate things we can do as athletes. But, we cannot talk about jumping without talking about squatting, and you cannot talk about squatting without talking about quadruped (hands and knees) exercises, and prior to quadruped exercises there are supine positions that must be fulfilled. Let me quickly connect the dots so it makes sense later.
These pictures represent basic movement perquisites to jump well. In order to jump functionally (there are MANY dysfunctional jumpers out there, if you have pain when you jump, that means you) you must be able to squat well. To squat well you must be able to preform quadruped exercises well. In order to preform quadruped exercises well, you must be able to support are your arms and legs while supine. If you look at every picture, the body position is pretty much the same. The only difference is how much you are fighting gravity.
The staples throughout all of these pictures are:
- Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). To be able to create IAP, the diaphragm MUST be parallel to the pelvic floor, i.e. no arched or rounded backs.
- Mobile hip. If you have immobility in the hip and are asked to squat or jump, your body is amazing at adapting and finding that needed mobility elsewhere. Wherever that mobility will divert to is the wrong place (often times it is the lower back, but it could other joints).
Jumping optimally is a by-product of loading the legs and core properly (just so there is no misinterpretation – of course other things are happening in the body when jumping, but to keep everything simple I am only addressing legs and core). Every anatomical part has a purpose, and they are all co-dependent. NEVER do we move in pure isolation. If you lift your big toe, there is a cascade of muscular events that coincide with that movement. So how can athletes prepare to improve their biomechanics? If you think that you can keep improperly squatting and jumping with high volume/intensity and the mechanics will work themselves out, you are wrong. Training fitness on top of dysfunction will only create more dysfunction and a higher susceptibility for injury.
You have to find your weakness and address it. Nearly everyone’s issues are caused by dysfunction at the hip or core. There are reasons why we crawl before we walk, and walk before we run. It is a developmental checklist for proper movement. Have you met someone who skipped crawling as an infant? Chances are they do not move quite right, and/or have pain.
It is funny what people chose to focus on when training for the squat/jump. Most everyone focuses on the concentric contraction (muscle contracted while shortening), when the perquisite to that is the eccentric contraction (muscle contracted while lengthening).
How you load is how you unload.
If you cannot control your descent you will not be able to control your ascent. If you bend forward excessively when you load, your body will attempt to extend your knees and hips simultaneously, but will not be able to. Your knees will extend first, then you will extend at the hip, but most likely the back because you never loaded your hip to begin with. Dysfunctions like this are prevalent with athletes everywhere. There is a chicken or egg battle within these dysfunctions too. For example, did the knees extend first because of a quad dominance? Or did the inability to load the hip correctly cause a quad dominance? I could go on and on, but that does not serve a purpose to you in this post. Again, the important thing is to fix your dysfunctions/weaknesses.
Rules to live by:
- Quality ALWAYS precedes quantity. One good squat is better than one hundred bad squats at 225 pounds.
- Again, how you load is how you unload.
- When squatting/jumping, torso and shin stay as close to parallel as possible. This helps ensure appropriate loading through the body.
- Big calves DO NOT mean you can jump high. Calves are certainly part of the equation but they are not the whole equation as many may think. More often than not, when I see big calves, I find a big dysfunction somewhere else.
- Pain is not some obstacle to be fought against. It is a beautiful signal of something going wrong. Don’t ignore it, embrace it. It is the check engine light that comes on before your
ACL explodes, I mean, car dies. Your body will do whatever you want it to as long as you move correctly. (Here is a GREAT read on treating your body right – click here).
Concepts to think about:
- Find and address your weaknesses/dysfunctions. Test, add corrective exercise, and re-test. If you do not see a change, your corrective exercise is not addressing the issue. Most of the time, movement patterns can dramatically change with the correct neuromuscular activation.
- Put yourself through the progression. Can you create intra-abdominal pressure? Can you keep a neutral spine via the IAP throughout the gambit of movements?
- Whatever is most sore after playing/training is what you are predominantly using. For example, if you are doing olympic lifting movements to improve explosiveness in your jumping, and you are always complaining of back and upper trap soreness, let me introduce you to Mr. Reg Flag, because you two are obviously not acquainted.
- Lastly, ponder this: there are no strong or weak muscles in the body, only strong or weak muscle patterns. (If you want more information on that statement, email me).
Train Smarter to Play Harder
Please comment or feel free to email me with any comments, critiques, or questions.
Austin Einhorn, CSCS
Volleyball Skills & Conditioning Specialist
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