Training Boost Muscle Strength and Muscle Power for your Verticals

Published on March 15th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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4 Tips to Boost Muscle Strength and Muscle Power for your Verticals (and why these two are not the same thing!)

Vertical jumping terminology and nomenclature can be a headache, especially with all those (mis)informational guides and programs out there. One of the least understood subjects (up there with plyos) is none other than the distinction between muscle strength and muscle power, and this is what I am going to explain today while giving you GOLDEN tips on how to boost both.

First of all, muscle strength and muscle power may be two terms that are often used interchangeably but in fact they are NOT the same thing!

In general terms, muscle strength is more closely related to endurance than muscle power, while muscle power is more closely related to flexibility and “explosiveness” in your performance. Therefore, muscle strength refers to the capacity of a muscle to keep working at MAX level while muscle power measures how far a muscle can contract and with how much force it can propel you high for your vertical.

With the above in mind, let’s see some tips and essential info about muscle strength and muscle power below.

Tip #1: Dissecting the Perfect Jump (muscle-wise)

OK, imagine the perfect jump. How is it like? As we know, the main muscles involved in the vertical jump itself are the hamstrings, the calves, the quadriceps and the glutes. Other muscles may be involved for balancing your body (lower back muscles) and other minor functions (toe muscles) but the main work is done by these four.

Muscle strength starts playing its role first, before the jump actually happens. Muscle strength holds everything in place and is the foundation of endurance and correct positioning. When preparing for a jump, the muscles I’ve listed above initially contract simultaneously, bringing you downwards in preparation for the jump as the muscles slowly lengthen and here is where strength is paramount.

Now, when you begin to rise up, muscle power comes into play to make your muscles explode with MAX power at the least possible amount of time, this will lead to reaching maximum vertical height. As you begin to jump, all muscles explode, rapidly shortening in length and generate power to propel you off the ground for your vertical.

This is how the perfect jump plays out ideally, knowing that, you know the importance of strength VS power and why both are necessary for that perfect vertical.

Tip #2: Workouts for Developing Muscle Strength

Strength training is the obvious choice of workouts to boost your muscle strength on your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and glutes. Seemingly obvious (due to the same name!), it is surprising how many athletes and coaches ignore strength training for vertical workouts.

The best course of action is to aim for strength training workouts at least two or three days per week, especially when you are in the development phase of your muscles and haven’t achieved peak vertical capacity. (However, other muscle groups should never be neglected while strength training.)

Some solid strength exercises:

  • Step-ups
  • Squats (all kinds)
  • Walking lunges
  • Calf raises

And many more.

Generally most strength training for vertical jumping follows the same pattern (more or less) Perform six sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise and allow your muscles groups a MINIMUM of 24 hours (2 full days recommended) of rest before focusing again on muscle strength training. The reason these recovery periods exist is to avoid injuries, allow your muscles to adequately recover and avoid losing flexibility and muscle power because of overworking.

Tip #3: Workouts for Developing Muscle Power

Muscle power and explosiveness for vertical jumping equal plyometric exercises and we’ve covered those to some detail in a previous post. All plyos are ideal for boosting muscle power that will explode your vertical to new heights.

Some solid muscle power/plyometrics exercises:

  • Lateral jumps
  • Squat jumps
  • Tuck jumps
  • Box/bench/platform jumps
  • Reverse platform jumps

And many other plyometric exercises.

To improve your vertical leap with these exercises make sure you focus your workouts on plyometrics at least two days of the week. For best results, try to do all repetitions with as little downtime between them as humanly possible (that is, don’t wait between reps). You really don’t need more than 6 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise (otherwise you risk overworking because plyo is INTENSE). Always allow your muscles two full days of rest before focusing on plyo again.

Tip #4: Balance Muscle Hypertrophy and Muscle Hyperplasia

Muscle growth is what ultimately will see your vertical improve, but not all muscle growth is desirable and not all muscle growth leads to the same results. There are RIGHT ways to boost your muscle mass and muscle fiber count, and there are wrong ways to do so. In the previous sentence also lies the secret behind this tip; muscles actually grow in two completely different ways. Balancing those two ways is KEY to maximizing your vertical performance.

The two different types of muscle growth are muscle hypertrophy and muscle hyperplasia. Hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of the muscle fibers, while hyperplasia refers an increase in the number of muscle fibers.

Muscles have parts that contract and parts that doesn’t. When it comes to muscle hypertrophy you need growth in the contractile portion of the muscle, otherwise you lose flexibility. (That hypertrophy always involves growth to all parts of a muscle in different ratios, depending on your training, so there are in fact wrong ways to train a muscle). Hyperplasia results from the splitting of muscle fibers and you need to wear down your muscles by training to achieve hyperplasia (and then recover to allow them to repair themselves).

To balance hypertrophy with hyperplasia for your vertical, you must focus more on hyperplasia and less on hypertrophy.  Too much focus on hypertrophy may make you look like a bodybuilder but unable to jump, while too much focus on hyperplasia eventually leads to muscle damage!

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