There was a guy that I knew named Neil.
When I was 13, Neil was 5’7″ in his junior year in highschool and could dunk a basketball.
Off 2 feet.
With 2 hands.
I wanted to be like Neil. Neil to me, could fly like Superman.
That summer and every summer after that, I dedicated all my spare time to researching and training on how to improve my vertical jump. I was literally OBSESSED. Which in retrospect was a better, healthier obsession than most of the guys my age at the time – GIRLS.
That was probably the beginning of my career in the fitness industry.
Going through plyometrics, olympic lifting and training for brute strength, in addition to doing bodypart splits like a bodybuilder (what a waste of time that was), I managed to get my vertical jump up to an impressive 38″ by my senior year in highschool. (Although training like a bodybuilder, I don’t think, had anything to do with it).
The problem was that I had to do the groundwork and figure what worked for 7 years before I actually figured it out. I used my body as a lab and did a lot of things that didn’t work before I figured out what did.
Now that I’m 35, I’m still obsessed about vertical jump, just not for myself anymore but more for the athletes that I work with who are mainly volleyball players.
So a few years back I started playing around with my vertical jump formula and came up with this sequence…
-Plyometrics or Olympic Lifting should be done first*
-Follow that up with a full body strength exercise (squat or deadlift)
-Assistance Work should be next in the form of unilateral leg work
-Sprinkle in some bodyweight or kettlebell upper body exercises (chin-ups, rows, dips, vertical presses)
-Finish with some abdominal or torso work (ab wheel, back extensions, glute-ham raises, hanging leg raises)**
That’s pretty much the formula right there.
But, I’ve since learned that there are 2 other “Dark Horse” methods that you need to make sure that you remain BOTH explosive and athletic:
It’s not sexy or cool or anything like that at all, but MOBILITY, especially in the athletes that I train, is the missing link between hanging on a basketball rim and barely swiping at the mesh.
Because of the demands of everyday life and sport, we need to be mobile – especially in our hips.
Hip (joint) mobility will allow you to perform athletic moves – like jumping – with ease. Without it you’ll feel tight and “creaky”. This is part of the reason why guys & gals like me who are a little older and a little more banged up need an extended warm-up.
Fire-hydrants, leg swings, toy soldiers, inch worms, Cosack Lunges and prying squats (RKC style!) are all exercises that you should be doing prior to your workout to increase mobility. Add those to your warm-up and you should see a marked difference.
2. **Overspeed Eccentrics
I’ve spoken about Over-Speed Eccentrics in previous posts and they have to be mentioned because, well, THEY WORK.
I first learned about them at my RKC weekend back in October of 2010. I immediately applied what I learned to 2 of the athletes that I was training at the time who went on to be World Junior Beach Volleyball Brozne Medalists.
Basically, after teaching them how to swing a kettlebell properly (which took a few weeks), I taught them how to forcefully use their lats and “throw” the kettlebell down between their knees on the downswing. This created an elastic effect in the hip extensors (their hamstrings & glutes) that immediately allowed them to get a more explosive hip extension.
Think about forcefully pulling a rubber band quickly and letting it go.
Using this technique – even as a finisher – to your workout will allow your hip flexors to relax further and will result in a more forceful explosion when you jump.
THAT, in a nutshell, is the formula for getting explosive.
It also won’t do you any harm to have the genetics of Spud Webb (or my buddy Neil, for that matter). But if you’re not blessed with perfect tendon placement (like me) or if you have the genetics of molases (again, like me), it is possible for you to train to be explosive and still get very impressive results.
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