This doesn’t happen in other advanced fields like physics or math because those are hard concepts to grasp. On the other hand, anyone can read a book on nutrition or fitness and feel fairly knowledgable and become overconfident in their knowledge. The simplicity of diet and exercise leads to this. We make things worse in our highly social media dependent culture where more likes and views means more expertise in the area.
At 1RM we do sports performance and we are pretty darn good at it. So although that article was geared towards general fitness/nutrition, it made me want to dive into the why’s behind some of the things we do at 1RM. People in general have the opinion that if it worked for me, then it should work for everyone. I’ve seen this many times with parents - they think their kids need be doing what they did 30 years ago whether that be jumping on trampolines to jump higher or not lifting weights because they didn’t when they played college volleyball.
What makes us different at 1RM is that we don’t use what made us better. We use scientifically backed research that has been proven by hours of practical application in our gym. We don’t use an old school program that we used 10 years ago to help us increase our verticals or get faster or get leaner. We are consistently diving into the science and tweaking things in our general programming but also in how we approach the individuality of athletes. Here are just a few of the things we have been working on lately:
1.) Force/velocity profiling of all our athletes
We have been doing a series of vertical jump tests to ascertain whether an athlete is more force dependent or velocity dependent. In a nutshell, when an athlete favors force instead of velocity, they would benefit most from high-velocity strength training exercises with lighter loads. When an athlete is more dependent on velocity instead of force, they would benefit more from lower velocity strength training with heavier loads. If an athlete has a long history of strength training, they tend to need more velocity work in their programming. We have written about this before (here) so I won’t get into that at length.
One of the tests we use in our force/velocity profiling is the countermovement jump (CMJ). Research has shown that a countermovement jump should be about 10% higher than a static jump (it eliminates the stretch shortening cycle). If the CMJ is not 10% higher, then we need to add more elastic work into their programming. The CMJ has an eccentric movement followed by a concentric movement - the jump results mainly from the use of elastic energy produced by the stretch shortening cycle. In the squat jump, there is only concentric work, so the jump performance results from neural recruitment capability of the athlete (since the SSC is eliminated).
There are so many factors that go into this, but we have been working on tweaking athletes programming to add in more velocity work or more strength work. One of the ways we have been doing that is through our Gym Aware and our new Flex Gym Aware. By using this, we can track the speed of the bar during lifts. It has been well researched and documented that by monitoring bar speed, we can gain desirable changes in vertical and speed. If you want more info on this one, you can read about it (here).
2.) Emphasizing upper body strength for increased vertical
This is not new to 1RM, but I have been emphasizing the why’s behind this one to our athletes. There’s some recent research comparing vertical jump performance in all levels of volleyball and also between men and women. Several things stuck out to me, one of them being increased arm strength in boys played a large role in higher verticals. Obviously there are other factors here, but studies have shown 10% improvement in vertical jump in females by just adding in 3 upper body exercises - an overhead medicine ball throw, benching, and pullovers. Part of that vertical jump assessment we have been doing involves a countermovement jump with hands on hips compared to a countermovement jump with arms. It’s been interesting to see the differences in numbers here for all athletes.
3.) Getting stronger is still a non-negotiable
There are many programs floating around the internet that claim to increase vertical by 10 inches (or some crazy claim). Most of these programs have a high volume of jumping (plyo’s) and that’s about it. As said before, for some of our strength reliant athletes, we may need to add more elastic work into their programming. This doesn’t mean we neglect strength work, because that is the base for all other things. However, we may start their training with some more “springy” type work - think pogo jumps, hurdle jumps, band assisted jumps - anything with a quick contact off the ground that can help maximize the SSC. We also may emphasize the speed-strength zone and train from .7-.8 m/s using a velocity based tracker during their lifts.
A side note, with our club level volleyball players, we have to decrease volume of plyo’s fairly often in the weight room because a typical week they will have 3 practices where they take about 60-80 hitting reps each practice, and then most of these athletes do a private volleyball lesson each week where they will take another 100 hitting reps. That’s a total of 280-340 jumps (hits) in a week. That is a lot of reps for growing athletes who don't have an off season to build the strength necessary to support that kind of volume.
4.) Emphasizing sprint performance for our volleyball players
We have been timing 10 and 20 yard sprints for ALL our athletes no matter what position they are. There's some really cool content and research lately comparing elite level sprinters to elite volleyball players. The most intriguing part is that elite sprinters actually have higher verticals then volleyball players. How could this be when volleyball players spend all their time jumping and sprinters spend all their time sprinting? If you look at the training of elite sprinters, they spend time sprinting but they also do a fair amount of plyo’s and they are powerful athletes. We do vertical jump testing in all our athletes because it is the proven standard for how explosive an athletes lower body is. A sprinters focus is on creating an efficient SSC to have a quick yet powerful contact with the ground. These are the same principles that make an efficient jumper. Improving an athletes speed will have great carry over for hitters, setters, and liberos. All volleyball players need good lateral movement and speed, however we do emphasize horizontal power more in libero's and setters. We don't have them do completely different programming, rather we will just change their accessory movements so that instead of doing vertical jumping they pair their strength work with horizontal jumping or lateral movement.