Without question, the most common question any strength coach gets is, “I want my son (team) to jump higher. Can you put together a plyometric program for them?”. Wrong question.
The real question should be: “Are plyometrics the most effective method for improving a vertical jump in a basketball player?”
Once again, we’ll take a look at a presentation from the 2010 BSMG’s conference, in which the presenters analyzed a typical basketball game.
Average heart rate: 165-170 bpm
· High intensity sprints occur every 20-30 seconds
· 100+ high intensity sprints per game
· 40-50 maximal jumps per game
· Change in movement every 2-3 seconds
· 30% of time is spent defensive sliding
· 15% of time is in high intensity
· Movement patterns: Jogging – running – jumping/landing – back pedaling – planting/cutting – pivoting – defensive sliding
· Categories – Offensive, Defensive, and Transition movements
· Breakdown of categories – Guard specific, Wing specific, Post specific
Look at the amount of plyometric activity that occurs in just one game of basketball: 50 maximal jumps, 100+ high intensity sprints, and change of movements every 2-3 seconds.
In most S&C programs that volume of plyometrics would be spread over an entire week or more, not in a 45 minute session. So the new question becomes: “Do basketball players need more plyometrics?”
Strength is King
Probably not. The large majority of players should be spending time in the weight room, bringing their deadlift and front squat numbers up. In fact, until an athlete can squat/deadlift at minimum 1.5x their bodyweight (we prefer 2x bodyweight), they really have no business starting a plyometric program.
I guarantee if athlete “A” works on her squat all summer long (and increases it by 50lbs) while playsing in 2-3 pickup games each week, she’ll out jump athlete “B” who just performed a plyometric program jumps summer long.
For athletes that aren’t blessed bio-mechanically (the spring jumpers as I call them), strength is usually their weakest link. I fell under that category. When I was in high school, I tried every plyometric program I could (Air Alert, Jumpsoles, etc), and rarely would I add more than 3-4 inches on my vertical jump. Finally I sucked it up, and started squatting. 6 months later I was squatting 300 lbs, and throwing the ball off of the back of them rim. It was exhilarating. Basketball players NEED strength!
So why was there jumping in your program
We used jumping primarily for injury prevention. We wanted to teach the athletes how to land correctly. Look at our volume for jumps. If I remember correctly, the most jumps we performed in a session was 15. And those 15 jumps were performed in a non-fatigued state under the watchful eye of a coach so the athlete could really focus on technique. We never raised the height of the hurdle unless the athlete could land all reps perfectly. Even though we put our jumps under the “power” component, we did that primarily because of the longer rest periods we use in that component. We were more interested in minimizing potential ACL injuries.
We tried to avoid the mistakes of your typical athletic training program: all power, no brakes. We were putting big engines in our athletes (strength and power), but we were also putting big brakes on them too (landing technique and deceleration). That’s the key to a holistic athletic program, and it’s also a great way to prevent injuries.
“Can you put together a plyometric program for my team?”
No, but I can give you a great strength program that will have synergistic effects with the jumping your athletes are already doing in practice and games.