Power Development

Date Posted: 2013-02-12

So I am often asked how to increase power or jump distance, this article will explain some of the basics about how to do this. It will not include every exercise for improving your jump, far from it. There are many different approaches and workouts to do this, read what is here but look around on the internet for yourself.

Initially it is important to understand exactly what you are trying to achieve on a physical level.

To be able to jump further you need more power.

Power is the ability to exert maximal muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movement. The two components of power are strength and speed. Having one without the other will not result in a large jump, someone who spends all their time in the gym squatting enormous weights and not training the speed aspect of their jump will not see noticeable gains and vice versa.

Strength is the best place to start if your legs are not strong you won’t be jumping very far and more importantly may be risking injury.

Muscular system

The most efficient way to train strength is to do an exercise that is very hard a small number of times. For example a squat is an excellent exercise for the legs, to build strength it must be performed with a weight that is so heavy you can only perform between 5 and 10 reps maximum. Any more than this and you’r moving into the realm of endurance (which is also important for Parkour athletes but will not increase your power.) This process applies to any exercise for any muscle group if you want to build strength.

In any workout it is important to firstly warm up and then to work your chosen muscle group in a few different ways each session. Here are some examples of leg exercises, choose 3 exercises performing them at a heavy weight/resistance 3 sets of 6 - 10 reps. This would be a good start to increasing your strength.

Weighted Squats - Using something heavy, if you do not have access to a gym try filling your backpack with rocks or getting your friend to sit on your shoulders (use your imagination.)

Weighted Squat

Pistol Squats - Initially you may not need any weight for these at all, as they need a lot of strength. As your ability increases you can gradually add weight to this exercise.

Pistol Squat

Bulgarian Split Squats - Again you may only need a small amount of weight to begin with, as long as you are working at your maximum by the time you reach repetition 6 - 10 you are using enough weight.

Lunges - Can be done holding dumbbells, with a barbell or again using a weighted backpack, small child sandbags etc.

SAFETY NOTE - If you have not lifted weights before it is ill advised to dive straight in squatting for your life, performing exercises with heavy weights incorrectly can result in debilitating injuries. Work your way down from a medium weight at 15 or so reps without straining too much down to the desired 6 - 10 reps over a few sessions. It is hugely important that you gradually increase the load on your legs ensuring your technique for the exercises is spot on, if possible find an experienced gym monkey to help refine your technique before piling the weight on. Luckily all gyms come equipped with these known as “gym instructors” (they tend to be super peppy and lean or stern and built like Arnie, either variant will do.)

That brings us to the other aspect of power; speed. Speed allows us to apply all the strength we have in an instant. Which is what we need to be able to jump long distances and also land safely. Remember having good power also allows us to absorb greater impacts, as it is the same muscles that must contract quickly to decelerate the body upon landing a jump.

Again there are many different ways to train speed these are just a few.

The same as strength training we are not aiming to do something until we are dead on our feet. We’re training our muscles to contract as fast as possible so we do not want to be performing drills that last for long periods of time with no rest.

Jumping - Yes practicing jumping will improve your jump =0. Simply practicing your standing precision with your focus being on exploding from your take off with speed and sticking your landing is a very simple way of training speed.

Plyometrics - Many variations of plyometric jump training will improve the speed of your muscle contractions. There is the obvious Parkour view of plyometrics using 3 or more well spaced objects. With plyometrics you are increasing the load on the muscles improving the elastic response of your fibres to reverse the downward force into upwards.

Depth Jump - This is another plyometric training method. Find an object you can stand on, between floor level and waist height, step off landing with two feet immediately rebounding into the air as high as you can (if you have 2 walls of similar height you can drop from one bounce from the floor onto the other.) Ensure you are controlling your landing and not letting your heels touch the ground, if this happens find a lower object. Working 3-5 sets of eight in a training session would be sufficient.

Height Drops - As mentioned above landings use the same muscles groups as jumping so landing from height (without a roll) forces your leg muscles to contract with speed. Find a sensibly sized object between knee and head height, jump and land. Again 3-5 sets of eight would be a good place to start. Ensure the object you have chosen is relevant to your ability dropping from a story high roof and slamming onto the floor will not do you any favours.

Sprints - Unsurprisingly sprinting involves repeated contractions of the legs at speed. Mark out 100 m distance Perform between 6 and 10 sprints. Ensure you allow your body to return to resting before starting each sprint otherwise you will be training your endurance. This is surprisingly strenuous and leaves you with exceedingly achy legs! Try on sand to increase the difficulty, avoid sprinting on concrete love you knees.

When training strength or speed ensure you are being sensible and operating within your limits while pushing yourself. I would not advise doing a heavy strength or speed session and then going out to train Parkour. Ensure after a hard session you intake protein (not a protein shake/bar they suck and are made from the waste product from the cheese industry bleugh! Fish, beans and nuts are good sources of protein) let your muscles repair (this means rest.) Constantly training on achy muscles doesn’t allow your body to build and repair and may in fact inhibit progression.

Remember this article is just an overview of some ways to increase your power that I have found beneficial for my jump distance. Remember to record your progress by measuring your broad or vertical jump every week or 2 when you are fresh, then you will see how well your chosen training methods are working.

Train hard, train safe.

Happy jumpings, Neil.

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