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You would be hard pressed to find an athletic activity that doesn't require you to run or jump. Most athletes that perform at an elite level can generate exceptional speed, and jump higher than their competition, giving them the edge they need to win. Think about how many athletes you know that can run fast but can't jump, or vice versa. None? Thought so. Running and jumping are both posterior chain dominant and lucky for you they require pretty much the same glute and hamstring power development so they can be combined into one training program.
In order to significantly improve your sprint speed and vertical jump you need to develop three different types of strength:
1. Foundational Strength
2. Explosive Strength
3. Plyometric Strength
This series will explain how each of these strength types work to improve your power development and share two exercises in each area that will help you jump higher and run faster than ever before.
1. Foundational Strength
In the same way your house is built on a strong concrete foundation, all of the power from your lower body is produced from the foundational strength in your legs. Put simply, this is how much you can lift. All of your explosive strength and plyometric strength is built on top of the foundation you have in your leg strength so without it there isn't much point training the other types. The two lower body powerlifting movements, the squat and the deadlift, are the simplest measure of your foundational strength.
- TEMPO FRONT SQUATS
Squats are the favourite go-to exercise for most athletes trying to improve their leg strength. And for good reason! No other exercise can give you the bang for your buck gains in full leg strength that a squat does.
Tempo squats are an awesome way to improve your leg strength without utilising the bounce at the bottom of the squat. This helps develop strength throughout the full range of the movement. I personally prefer front squats for developing my jump because of the stronger core and upper back engagement and more upright position. I have chosen a rack squat using kettle bells but you can use a barbell, dead ball or pretty much any heavy item you like. Ideally use a barbell because you can adjust the load easily and incrementally.
Programming the Squat:
5 sets x 3-5 reps at about 70-80% of your 1RM
Tempo: 4 second lower - 4 second pause at bottom - 1 second raise
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Deadlifts are another awesome high value exercise for developing leg strength. Deadlifts focus on the hip hinge movement and typically require higher trunk stability than a squat making them awesome for developing lower back strength as well. Again I have chosen kettle bells for simplicity but if you have a good foundation you would be better off using a barbell so that you can load it up to the heavier weights required for greater strength gains. Deadlifts offer an awesome posterior chain workout and I challenge you to find a sprinter or high jumper without a killer booty!
Programming the Deadlift:
5 sets x 3-5 reps at about 80-90% of your 1RM
Make sure your back stays nice and straight through the full range
If you're wondering what a good weight to aim for in your leg training the following is a good initial target to aim for:
Deadlift - 1.75 x bodyweight
Back Squat - 1.5 x bodyweight
Front Squat - 1.25 x bodyweight
The above strength to weight ratios should be achieved as a minimum before you think about moving on to explosive training and plyometric training in Parts 2 and 3 of this series.
If you can't lift these figures as a minimum you will get much greater gains in your sprint speed and jump height by improving your squat and deadlift and with lower injury risk than explosive and plyometric training.
In Part 2 I discuss how you can use your foundational strength to develop explosive power. Check it out here