Expert Panel Responds: Getting Faster, Jumping Higher

by | July 26, 2011, 3:13pm 0

Last week, Skyd introduced our panel of training professionals and elite level athletes (Tim Morrill, Phil Johnson, and Leslie Wu) for our training topic of the month. If you have follow up questions, please ask them in the comments. We have encouraged our panelists to respond there.

And now for the questions and responses:

Question 1
SunnyD wants to know:

What particular types of weight lifting and plyometric exercises are best tailored to maximizing height while jumping off one leg at a sprint? Also, is there a best form for getting the most height in that situation?

TIM MORRILL, Strength & Conditioning Specialist

RLESS & Single leg SLDL (straight legged deadlift).  Once strength is developed, you can do some single leg ballistics. As far as form, work on using your arms for momentum and trying to fine tune your steps leading into the single leg jump. Grooving a 3 step approach works best.

PHIL JOHNSON, Human Performance Specialist

I’ll address the second question first: I would recommend practicing drills that emphasize an aggressive / ballistic knee drive such as Power Skips or High Knee Running much like football players and sprinters do.  This will strengthen the hip flexors and reinforce proper mechanics, which will assist you in maximizing height in single leg jump. Single leg ballistic jumps on a Shuttle MVP emphasizing hip flexion/knee drive are also beneficial for improving technique.

Back to the first question:

…this is a great question and not an easy one to answer w/o going into great depth…so for sake of brevity lets get right to the bullet points…

  • if you are weak, get strong (if you cannot perform an ATG squat with at least 2x your bodyweight you are weak)
  • when you squat, squat deep…im talking ATG deep…if you don’t know what that means watch videos of Chinese Olympic Weightlifters squatting on Youtube.
  • learn Olympic weightlifting movements (regardless of the fact that they are performed on two legs this is still the best way to improve explosive strength / power)
  • train the posterior chain…daily!
  • if you don’t have much time to train just squat
  • if you have even less time, just do rear-foot elevated bench squats
  • if you have lots of time do both!
  • utilize a variety of plyometric exercises in your training including single leg and lateral plyos and perform them at the beginning of your training after your movement prep.
  • yes its important to train in a single leg position …especially if you have a large bi-lateral deficit.  Perform SL RDLs (Romanian deadlifts), SL Hip lifts, SL squats, etc every workout and also include these as part of your movement prep / dynamic warmup.

LESLIE WU, Mobile Health

Bilateral jumping tends to recruit more quads compared to unilateral jumping, which requires more hip extension and glute strength. Two useful strength exercises here are the RFESS (rear-foot elevated split squat, or Bulgarian split squat) and the Barbell hip thrust. Bret Contreras has some useful guides to both lifts online.

In order to develop power (specifically rate of force development), it’s also important to move (body)weight quickly. Close-grip hang barbell snatches are easy to learn and don’t overload the knees or shoulders. If you can squat > 1.5x BW, then BB squat jumps could work here, otherwise bodyweight is fine.

If you have a TRX, you can also try the TRX lunge with hop. Also consider split jumps, jumping forward over cones, and don’t forget to practice jumping forward from a sprint.

Question 2
Plimpy asks:

What are the best ways to increase top sprinting speed? I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of how to build up endurance, but am constantly looking for ways to get faster. Do you recommend some sort of weight program, track workouts, plyometrics, or a combination of those three?

TIM MORRILL, Strength & Conditioning Specialist

I like the combination.  Sprinting speed is about the expression of force in a short amount of time. We call this quality Rate of Force Development (RFD).  Force generating capacity is developed through resistance training and expressing that force quickly is developed through plyos.

In addition, it is necessary to train the leg pattern seen in top end speed, the cycle kick.  First groove this cyclic pattern then opening up into full sprints…and….BOOM you will be amazed how much faster you feel.

PHIL JOHNSON, Human Performance Specialist

I hate to answer a question with a question but…how important is top-end speed in Ultimate? Yes you might use it more than sports like football or rugby but I.M.O. your time would be much better spent training acceleration and change of direction.  But to answer the question when I train sprinters for 100m I emphasize strength development w/o the loss of R.O.M.  I met Louie Simmons last year and asked him this very question and he said “the best cure for slowness is strength” and I tend to agree.  In addition, mobility of the hip and proper sprint mechanics would be an area of emphasis.  I suggest studying the work of Charlie Francis to learn more about technical execution.  Staying relaxed is a key component and learning linear P.A.L. (posture, arm action, leg action) mechanics.  Sled work, repeated 10 yard sprints, and as you mentioned a quality weight program and a dose of plyos.

LESLIE WU, Mobile Health

I’m a fan of Barry Ross’s program for top sprinting speed. He describes the rationale in an eBook, but a simpler form can be found in Tim Ferriss’s latest book.

After a dynamic warmup and a set of pushups:

Deadlift 2-3 reps @ 95% of 1RM (one-rep maximum), some plyometrics right away, then five minutes after plyos, 5 reps DL @ 85% of 1RM.

The five minutes gives your phosphocreatine (PCr) pool a chance to regenerate. Plyometrics may include 10-15m sprints, box jumps, or jumping rope.

Afterwords, do torture twists, 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps (30 second rest). 3x a week–Barry actually suggests Sumo rather than conventional DL and dropping below the knees to increase ground force and minimize time, which Weyland’s study suggests is critical to sprinting speed.

Do actual sprints 2x a week, but keep distances shorter rather than longer.

Question 3
AlloyMatt wants to know:

In a game of Ultimate, the disc moves really quickly from time to time. At times, players would ask themselves if they could have reached for the disc earlier and faster, and because of their reaction time and lack of explosiveness, they fail to get the disc. What would be the right type of training for better reaction and explosive power, so that your legs will be able to jump of at it’s peak at will?

TIM MORRILL, Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Reaction: just program the pattern and time your jumps. Get out and huck discs, snatch them out of the air in every possible angle and variation so that in a game, you subconsciously call upon the right pattern and BAM it just happens.  Use the single leg (R & L) and double leg (R & L). Emphasize arm action.
As far as explosive power. this video on increasing vertical jump discusses the necessary exercises and for those interested in the science behind power, check this out.

PHIL JOHNSON, Human Performance Specialist

Reaction time is an area of current research and there are some cool (but expensive) gadgets on the market that claim to improve reaction time.  It appears from current research that reaction time is trainable to some degree but is very specific to motor skill being performed.  To be honest your time would be much better spent focusing on the explosiveness factor and for that I refer you back to the answer for question #1

LESLIE WU, Mobile Health

For explosive power, I like close-grip hang snatches and power cleans. For general strength, since the first 10 yards of a sprint tend to be more quad-dominant, you can work your way up from DB goblet squats to BB front squats.

For reaction time, consider actual movement drills where you need to respond to some visual or auditory stimuli, such as a partner who signals go by saying “green” or no-go with “red”, or even using a disc behind the back–pulling out the face means go, the bottom means no go.

Beyond 10 yards, hip and glute strength/power become more important, and generally hip hyperextension (as is found during the gait cycle / sprinting) are undertrained. Pushing a weighted sled (or a wheelbarrow sled from Home Depot if you want), as Mike Boyle points out, is a very specific leg press in the forward direction.

Question 4
Dave asks:

How much truth is there to the belief that distance running will reduce top sprinting speed? What would be the best way to improve endurance without sacrificing top speed?

TIM MORRILL, Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Guys, Ultimate is an EXPLOSIVE SPORT!!  STOP doing triathlons in the off-season!  If you want to be fast, train fast. Simple.
To increase endurance, run repeat 10 cuts or 300 shuttles. Increase the volume (reps) decrease the rest.  If you can crush repeat sub 1 minute 300 shuttles on 2 minutes rest, you have great endurance.

PHIL JOHNSON, Human Performance Specialist

This debate has been ongoing for many years in the exercise physiology circles and the argument goes something like this…if you do too much endurance training you risk fiber type transformation in which muscle fibers take on more “slow-twitch” (for lack of a better term) characteristics.  Honestly this type of research is lacking due to the complicated task of muscle biopsy and attempting to distinguish slow vs fast twitch properties.  Yes, histochemical staining techniques have shown that muscle fibers can become more oxidative in nature but to what extent and how this impacts performance is debatable. I.M.O. I think it’s less about some type of physiological interference or fiber type transformation and more about allocation of training time.  My recommendation would be to spend a very small percentage of training time toward distance activities and instead focus on repeated acceleration drills, change of direction skills, weightroom training, and acquire metabolic conditioning via playing more Ultimate!

LESLIE WU, Mobile Health

I think there’s truth to this, given the SAID principle–specific adaptation to imposed demands and the different kinds of fast-twitch versus slow-twitch muscle fibers.

That said, endurance is a useful trait for long tournaments, and I actually think in the women’s game, endurance is a stronger component since points are often longer.

Two recommendations would be to 1) do aerobic training–longer distance running–on days you don’t do sprints or weight training and 2) consider lactate threshold training, where you run / row / bike hard for 3 minutes at a time, then take rest intervals.

There’s also an argument that interval training is always superior given that anaerobic training also has aerobic training effects, but I do think that running longer distances does have specificity re: mental conditioning, muscle and soft tissue adaptations.

In sum, I’d recommend a mix of longer distance running, lactate threshold intervals, with sprint training on other days.

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