In strength and conditioning, a key component to any athlete's training program is power development—and to that end, one can find endless examples (good, bad and ugly) of movements and modalities intended to generate increases in power. However, a key step is often overlooked.
Considering that the amount of force absorbed through even the most basic jumping movements can be as high as 10 times body weight, it is wise to start the development of power training by first learning how to receive this force. In other words, before you start increasing the amount of force you generate, be sure you are capable of handling that which is being created.
One of the ways to do this is by focusing on the final eccentric portion, or the landing phase.
A Jump Squat is a good learning tool, because the movement is fairly straightforward and lacks additional implements (e.g., hurdle, box, barbell, etc.), which can confuse a client/athlete. Of course, it goes without saying that before you start increasing complexity or adding load to the movement, you need to ensure that your client has quality mechanics on the basic Squat.
Assuming this is the case, progress to the Drop Squat. Have your client start with their arms overhead, and "drop" into the squat position with force, driving their arms back (see figure below). Have them hold the position and check the finish—soft knees, tracking with little to no valgus collapse and maintaining a strong posture.
Once the Drop Squat is mastered, move to Box Drops. Have the client/athlete stand on an 8- to 12-inch step or box, then step off. Cue them to land as softly as possible and hold (see figure above. Check the same markers that you checked for their Drop Squat (except for their arms, which no longer need to drive back). Continue working with the Box Drop until the finishing position is consistent. Once achieved, have them start on progressively higher boxes (over weeks, not within the same hour.) Once they reach a height of about 18 inches, they are ready to progress to a Jump Squat and counter-movement jump.
It's important to keep the quality high, and without an adequate recovery period between repetitions and sets, you'll see a decrease in the standard the client/athlete is able to maintain.
Remember, these drills are focused on learning to manage the forces that will be generated by higher level power drills by working on the eccentric portion. But there are other drills that can be run simultaneously within the program (though not necessarily on the same day), such as Box Jumps, Wall Ball and loaded Squats. As your client/athlete proceeds into higher levels of complexity, these same drills can continue to be used as part of their warm-up.
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