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Increasing My Vertical Jump?
I am a serious basketball player and have been my whole life. My high school coach got me into weightlifting and I loved it right from the start. I have become the most dedicated weightlifter at my school and have made some great gains in the 6 months that I have been training. I was lucky enough to play varsity as a freshman this year, and I discovered one glaring weakness in my game. I'm only 6' 2" and my vertical is 25 inches. The whole year I was being outjumped for rebounds and block shots. I read your article on increasing my vertical. I have been doing plyometrics for a while and have seen some improvement, and I was wondering if you knew if strength shoes worked. Some of my friends have claimed great gains but I'm not sure. Also I was very interested in how high the olympic lifters could jump, despite their reat size. Could you please tell me where I can find information on the lifts used to achieve these great results?
You should be very proud of your accomplishment of playing varsity when you are a freshman. Your vertical is not too bad, especially for an athlete your age. I somewhat wonder if some of your inability to rebound and shoot more effectively does not have something to do with gaining a better understanding of the game as well? Having coached many basketball players from junior high to professionals, I can tell you that skill and technique can often overcome physical weaknesses. I think Larry Bird is the perfect example of this principle.
Strength shoes do very little if anything to improve one's vertical. In fact, because of the unnatural distribution of weight, it can cause faulty motor patterns to be developed, as well as overuse injuries. As I have stated previously, the majority of the power comes from the hips and trunk. This is where having strong hamstrings, glutes, low back, and abdominal muscles come into play. Not only should you have some good strength in these muscle groups, but use varying speed of movements to develop forms of strength such as speed-strength and strength-speed. This is where Olympic lifts can be very helpful (Note: I am currently finishing the first in a series of articles on how to perform the Olympic lifts and their variations).
I become very skeptical when athletes tell me they have been performing plyometrics. There is a distinct difference between plyometric action (which occurs with all running and jumping activities) and plyometric training which is a specific system of training. Simple jumping drills like jump rope, bounding, etc. are not true plyometrics. They are considered supplementary forms of plyometrics as true plyometric training relies on a significant eccentric action to take place before the jump. This is the whole idea behind using techniques like depth jumps. What basic jumps like those mentioned accomplish is proper foot contact and strengthening of the soft-tissues before more significant loads are stressed. Many texts in the field even recommend being able to squat 1.5 - 2 times one's bodyweight before undertaking true plyometric training. The reason is the huge eccentric forces the body experiences during these jumps are so much greater than anything else the body can be placed under. This includes any Olympic lift or Powerlifting movement. So, it should be obvious a significant amount of strength in compound movements should be built before true plyometric training is performed.