To the casual onlooker, the long jump might seem like a fairly straightforward even. From the athlete’s perspective, though, an immense amount of focus, control and strength is required. First, you have to explode forward into a full sprint to gain as much speed as possible. At the same time, that speed needs to be controlled enough that you can time your forward leap perfectly. For the actual jump, of course, another burst of power is needed. Clearly a variety of skill need to be developed for you to excel at this challenging event. However, building up your explosive power will go a long way in improving your long jump. Plyometric training is an ideal way to achieve this effect.
Characterized by dynamic jumping movements, plyometrics training is all about teaching your muscles to exert their maximum amount of force in the shortest time possible. This is achieved using the rather surprising fact that when a muscle is stretched before contraction, the contraction is more powerful than otherwise. Think about how you naturally dip your weight low before jumping upward. This reflex stretches the muscle to prepare for the leap.
Plyometrics capitalizes on this phenomenon to increase your explosive power. For a long jumper, the increase in power can translate to an impressive increase in your jump length. You will also notice and improvement in your sprint speed.
Exercises For Long Jumps
- Split Squat Jumps – Start in the lunge position with you left leg behind you, bent at the knee. Your right thigh should be parallel to the ground. In one motion, jump upward and switch the position of your legs so that you left leg is now leading. That’s one rep.
- Tuck Jumps – Stand with your hands at your sides and your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and then jump upward. While in the air, bring your knees to your chest. Repeat the motion immediately, without resting between reps. Land on the balls of your feet to reduce the force of impact when you hit the ground. To make this more challenging, perform the jump-and-tuck movement with only one leg. This single-leg variation will build not only your power but also your balance.
- Depth Jumps – This deceitfully difficult exercise begins with you standing on a 12in box with your toes close to the edge. Step down with both feet and land lightly on the ground. Immediately jump upward. You should spend a minimal amount of time on the ground. Gradually increase the box height to make this even more difficult.
The exact number of reps and sets that you perform will depend largely on the rest of your training schedule. Because of the dynamic nature of plyometrics, though, they come with an increased risk of injury and should only be done a maximum of twice per week. Make sure your form is perfect and keep your landings light.
This extra emphasis on form, though, could also benefit you during competition. Your landings will be lighter and, by extension, your steps will be faster.
Have you used plyometrics in your training? What tips do you have?