How Often Should Athletes Do Jump Training? And How Many Reps Should They Do?

All the 'little stuff' that can often be overlooked has a massive impact on the effectiveness of your plyometric and jump training.

This piece is the final installment of a series on plyometric and jump training. Direct links to the previous pieces: 1, 2, 3, 4.

We've covered a lot of ground in this series. As a reminder, these are just a few of the topics you can find discussed in previous entries:

Now, it's time to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. Today, we'll be talking details. Frequency, intensity, volume, tempo, work-rest ratios—all the "little stuff" that can often be overlooked but in reality has a massive impact on the effectiveness of your plyometric and jump training.

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This piece is the final installment of a series on plyometric and jump training. Direct links to the previous pieces: 1, 2, 3, 4.

We've covered a lot of ground in this series. As a reminder, these are just a few of the topics you can find discussed in previous entries:

  • Why field sport athletes should do jump training
  • The difference between plyometric activities and jumping
  • How an understanding of ground reaction forces can save you from injury
  • The three main ways to increase exercise intensity beyond the beginner level
  • How direction of force production affects game speed
  • Why unilateral and bilateral jumping produce different training outcomes

Now, it's time to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. Today, we'll be talking details. Frequency, intensity, volume, tempo, work-rest ratios—all the "little stuff" that can often be overlooked but in reality has a massive impact on the effectiveness of your plyometric and jump training.

Frequency

Training frequency has become a heated topic of discussion in strength training circles in recent years. Although I'm a big proponent of high-frequency training for getting strong, I don't think it's very effective for speed/power development.

As a general rule, you'll want to rest 48-72 hours between two jump workouts for full nervous system recovery. This averages out to a max of 2-3 jump training sessions per week.

At least one study has demonstrated that high frequencies are not any better than lower training frequencies when it comes to getting faster and more explosive. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

The study I'm referring to compared the effects of a low-, moderate- and high-frequency Depth Jump program over a 7-week period. The low group performed Depth Jumps once a week, the moderate group twice, and the high group four times per week. [1]

So what happened? The moderate group (2x/week) reported similar enhancements in Countermovement Jump and 20-meter Sprint performance as the high group (4x/week), even though they did 50% less volume. Now that's what I call training efficiency. Why would you do more work when you can get the same results by doing less while also placing less overall stress on your nervous system and joints?

The same study also provided this little gem: Despite doing only 25% of the volume that the high-frequency group did, participants in the 1x/week group improved their 20-meter Sprint time as much as the other two groups. They also increased their Countermovement Jump height slightly, although not as much as the others.

Bottom line? Moderate-frequency beats high-frequency jumping for speed and power improvements. For a field sport athlete, there really is no benefit to doing more than 2-3 weekly jump workouts. You're not getting any faster from the additional training. All you do is increase joint stress that could contribute to an injury down the line. Plus, by taxing your nervous system more often, you're cutting into your recovery.

The takeaway here is to do less, but do it better. When seeking speed improvements and pinched for time, you could bring jump training frequency down to once a week and still get faster.

Intensity

Unlike in strength training where low and high reps both have merit for strength and muscle development, the effective rep range in jump training is much more narrow. Since we're seeking power improvements instead of increases in muscular size or endurance, you should stay in the 1-6 rep range per set. Low reps done explosively is the best way to cause neural adaptations that improve your power.

Because the number of reps is effectively capped at six to retain high power outputs throughout a set of jumps, we must use progressively more challenging movements to overload an athlete to witness greater gains in power over time.

The intensity of jumping should always be progressed or regressed based on the athlete in question. Take continuous Hurdle Jumps with 20-inch hurdles, for example. They're a warm-up drill for any intermediate athlete. But for a beginner or overweight individual, that's a high-intensity exercise.

So, be sure to choose exercises that are intense enough to lead to positive adaptations—but not too intense to cause technical breakdown or injury—based on your skill and experience levels. Here's one way to progress absolute beginners to advanced status in Vertical Jump exercises while gradually increasing intensity:

  1. Depth Drop
  2. Low Box Jump
  3. Vertical Jump With Stick Landing
  4. Continuous Vertical Jump
  5. Depth Jump

Volume

We touched on this above when talking about training frequency. In short, low- to moderate-volume jump training reigns supreme over high volumes.

Renowned strength and conditioning expert Mike Boyle has correctly said that failing to control the number of foot contacts per day is a surefire road to overuse knee injuries. He recommends keeping foot contacts at roughly 25 per day and 100 per week. [2]

Some programs out there involve 200-plus weekly foot contacts, which I believe is way too much. A good rule of thumb is to perform 1-3 different Jump exercises per session, with each being done for 3-6 sets of 1-6 reps. We have seen very good results using this approach with my hockey players.

Here's an example week for intermediate athletes with two training sessions, each containing two Jump exercises:

Day 1

  • Hurdle Jump 4x5
  • Lateral Bound 4x5

Day 2

  • Trap Bar Jump 5x3
  • Forward Bound 4x5

Total number of weekly foot contacts: 75

And here's another example for more advanced athletes:

Day 1

  • Lateral Hurdle Jump + Broad Jump 4x (3+1)
  • Hurdle Hop + Long Hop 3x (3+2) per leg

Day 2

  • Depth Jump 4x5
  • 2-Way Hurdle Jump + 20m Sprint 6x (2+20m)

Total number of weekly foot contacts: 78

Tempo

Unless you're working on perfecting your landing skills by pausing/sticking the landing, jumps should be done with a rapid eccentric and explosive concentric to achieve maximal velocities.

Rest Periods

How long you recover between sets is determined by a proper work-to-rest ratio based on the volume and type of drill performed.

Since we're targeting the phosphagen system by training for maximal power, all our work periods will be short (≤ 10 seconds) by default. Consequently, our work-to-rest ratios will then range between 1:12 and 1:20. [3]

For example, five continuous Vertical Jumps will take you around 5 seconds to complete. Thus, you should rest between 60-100 seconds before your next set according to the above work-to-rest ratios. Because vertical jumping with your own body weight is not a super intense activity neurally, the subsequent rest period would be on the lower end of the spectrum (around 60 seconds).

On the other hand, a high-intensity combo drill such as the Depth Jump + Hurdle Jump + 10m Sprint may take the same five seconds. In this case, rest periods should be on the upper end of the spectrum (closer to 100 seconds).

Exercise Order

Exercise order prescription comes down to the intensity of exercise. This guideline often used to organize training in the weight room also works for Jumps: Perform the neurally most demanding exercises at the beginning and less neurally demanding exercises later.

What if your program calls for Vertical Jumps and Lateral Bounds in today's session? Which one should you perform first? Both movements are pretty much equally intense, so it's a toss up. A hockey player might do Lateral Bounds first because it's more specific to developing a powerful skating stride. Likewise, a soccer player could opt for the Vertical Jumps to kick off their session since improving his vertical leap will allow him to win more headers.

However, if you were supposed to perform Depth Jumps and Lateral Hurdle Jumps, you'd start with Depth Jumps, due to them being the higher intensity drill.

Summary

Now that we have discussed the main training variables in detail, let's recap effective guidelines for programming jump training for intermediate to advanced field sport athletes.

  • Frequency: 2x/week
  • Intensity: High (1-6 reps per set)
  • Volume: ≤100 foot contacts per week
  • Tempo: Rapid eccentric, explosive concentric

Rest periods: 60-90 seconds, on average. Longer rest periods can be used with very high-intensity Jump exercises (think: Depth Jump variations), or when a series of Jumps is combined with a Sprint. For example, 120-150 seconds is a sensible recovery period following a set of three Hurdle Jumps into a 20-meter Sprint.

Exercise order: Neurally most demanding (high-intensity) exercises before less neurally demanding exercises.

We have covered a ton of jump training information in this article series. Before we wrap things up, I want to leave you with three key tips that will maximize speed and power gains, as well as safety, in your jump workouts.

1. Start with exercises you can perform with textbook form.

If a certain drill or movement feels way too easy, go ahead and move on to a more demanding exercise. But don't rush into Depth Jumps or Long Hops for maximal distance on your first day in the gym. That's just asking for trouble.

2. Low-volume, high-quality jump training blows high-volume, low-quality out of the water.

Power development requires high-quality training. For this to happen, the length of a set must remain short while rest periods remain long enough to facilitate full nervous system recovery. In addition, athletes should apply maximal effort to generate high velocities which is key in maximal power production.

In contrast, excessive volume leads to submaximal effort and submaximal velocity thanks to fatigue accumulation. Training when tired can improve work capacity but it's not suitable for maximal power development. As the saying goes, garbage workouts give you garbage results. Do less, but do it better.

3. Don't neglect unilateral Jump exercises.

Sports is chaotic and plays unpredictable. Elite athletes are capable of expressing power and handling their body in different positions whenever a situation calls for it. To best prepare yourself for the demands of what takes place on game day, use both single- and double-leg movements in your Jump workouts.

If you're a hockey player looking to improve your explosive power through jump training, you will discover exactly how to do that in my Hockey Jump Training System. It's available for download here.

References:

[1] de Villarreal, ESS et al. "Low and Moderate Plyometric Training Frequency Produces Greater Jumping and Sprinting Gains Compared with High Frequency." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008 May; 22(3):715-725.

[2] Boyle, Mike. New Functional Training for Sports. 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics. 2016.

[3] National Strength and Conditioning Association. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 4th Edition. Human Kinetics. 2015.

Photo Credit: Pekic/iStock

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Topics: PLYOMETRICS | JUMPING | VERTICAL JUMP