Being able to jump high following a sporting injury is a common goal for many people. Ankle, knee and hip injuries can limit jump height for quite some time which impacts athletic ability nd performance. Do you have aspirations to dunk a basketball, take more contested marks in footy or perform better headers in soccer? It’s all possible with the right treatment and some specific exercises following an injury.
Jumping is a really powerful movement, performed through applying high strength at a high speed. The equation STRENGTH x SPEED = POWER illustrates it well and shows that the stronger you are, the more powerful you can potentially be with your movements.
Whether you are jumping from a standing start, or a running start will determine the muscles that are used to jump.
● Jumping from a standing start: Greater force is needed from the quadriceps, patella tendon, hamstrings and glute muscles. Usually, you take off from two legs, with sporting examples being basketball, netball, soccer and volleyball.
● Jumping from a running start: In this movement, greater force is needed through the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. It usually involves taking off from only one leg, such as in football and basketball.
Physiotherapists see the ability to jump high and absorb high landing forces as a sign of good hip,knee and ankle joint and tendon health, and it is possible to regain this health following an injury.
They are also qualified to tailor a specific training program to suit you depending on your injury and current fitness level.
There are different specific exercises that sports physios recommend to focus on targeting the required muscles for jumping, and they are broken into 3 groups – strength exercises, functional exercise and plyometric exercises.
Some of the best strength exercises for jumping are the barbell squat, barbell deadlift and dumbbell single leg calf raises, performed on the edge of a step.
For each of these exercises, the 3-10 rep maximum range (often the 3-5 range) shows the best results for gaining strength. Gradually increase the weight or resistance until you achieve ‘failure’ within this range for optimal strengthening.
Keep in mind however, that considerations should be made for your training experience, technique, any old or current injuries and total volume (reps x sets x other exercises). If you are still recovering from an injury, the 8-10 rep range is better suited to help minimise any further damage.
Perform the specific exercises once or twice weekly to ensure the muscles, joints and tendons have recovered. Avoid training through delayed onset muscle soreness as that means the muscles are yet to fully recover from the load.
Because jumping is an upright activity, the best functional exercises for jumping will be standing exercises. They will provide a better transfer to jumping than exercises that involve lying on the ground.
Mid-thigh pull and load and lift with a band are two that are recommended by physios. The mid-thigh pull trains the ‘triple extension’ (hips, knees and ankles) all at the same time, as they would be working together when jumping from a standing start. It involves using a barbell and pulling up onto your toes.
The load and lift also trains the triple extension but has a specific focus on the Achilles tendon. The side being trained remains planted on the ground, with a band around the hip. A forward propulsion of the other leg should be relatively quick, with the return to start position being a slow movement with a stretch felt in the Achilles tendon.
Finally, countermovement exercises have been found to improve jump height. They are upwards or forwards movements immediately after a downwards or backwards movement. An example is a squat jump – where a normal squat jump starts from a stationary position, a countermovement jump involves jumping before being stationary.
Countermovement exercises include a range of movements including sideways jumps, jumps up onto a platform, a jump after dropping off a step or jumping or hopping over hurdles.
For more details on these and other exercises, contact the professional team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy who can guide you through them to ensure a good technique and training level. They will have you jumping higher in no time, safely and with confidence.