In order to adequately train for power, you need to understand some basic periodization principles for strength and conditioning. Periodization is the systematic method of changing sets, repetitions, and exercises in order to achieve the goal of a stronger, faster, more stable and powerful athlete. Typically, simple periodization programs contain 3 phases and progress from one to the next over a period of 8-12 weeks. Most programs include:
- Hypertrophy Phase: By definition, muscle hypertrophy means “to increase muscle size.” While it is not completely necessary, there is a positive correlation between muscle size and strength. Meaning, larger muscles tend to be stronger muscles. Muscle size is best improved by performing relatively large amounts of volume (3-5 sets of 10-15 repetitions per exercise) with short recovery times between sets (1 minute or less). Another advantage of the hypertrophy phase is that the large amounts of volume will improve your fitness and capacity for work.
- Strength Phase: Improving your strength will help you move a maximum amount of weight during an exercise with no worry as to how much time it takes you to complete the lift. Maximum Strength is achieved by performing 3-6 sets of 5-8 repetitions per exercise. Sets and reps in this range will allow you to train with loads which are near your maximum level, but won’t fatigue you too much between sets.
- Power Phase: Now that you have improved your muscle size and strength, you will be able to produce power. If you skip the first two phases and go right to the power phase, you may see some short term improvements, but you will lose those gains rather quickly because you are only training the nervous system, and not improving all areas which are important for jumping. Training in the power phase should consist of low volume (3-6 sets of 2-5 repetitions) with lots of rest. These exercises should be performed with a maximum effort and maximum loads as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind when designing your program that nothing in sports happens in a vacuum. That means that just because your focus may be on one area of training, that you shouldn’t completely ignore the other areas of your game. So, even though you may be in a hypertrophy phase, don’t be afraid to throw in an exercise or two to train power or strength. The same is also true of the other phases of your training. Variety is what drives your body to improve.
Many exercises can be used to train in all three phases, however, because of the speed component of the power phase, there will be some exercises that you will only be able to perform with power in mind. Below is a short list of some sample lower body exercises to help improve your jumping:
- Back Squat: This is a traditional squat exercise performed with the bar on your shoulders. This is likely the best lower body strength exercise that you can perform.
- Front Squat: The Front Squat is a variation of the traditional back squat where you hold the bar on the front of your shoulders instead
of on your back. The front squat has a lot of the advantages of a Back Squat, but with less risk. With this exercise, you won’t have to use as much weight to get a training effect because of the location of the bar, and if you start to lean forward accidentally, you will lose the weight instead of hurting your low back.
- Lunge: There is a large number of lunge variations; all with their advantages and disadvantages. Mix in variations from time to time to keep your workouts fresh.
- Split Squat: The split squat is similar to a lunge, except your feet don’t move. This will help you isolate the quads and glutes in a controlled exercise.
- Romanian Deadlift (RDL): The RDL is the best exercise to develop strength in your hamstrings and glutes. Proper technique can be a little tricky, so make sure you focus on the details and start with light weights.
- Box Jumps: This is a great opportunity to work on triple extension and landing technique in one exercise. Focus on jumping onto a box and landing as softly as possible with your weight on your heels.
- Squat Jumps: Just as it sounds…Squat and Jump. Train like you want to play by jumping as high as possible.
- Scissor Jumps: Perform a squat jump from a lunge position and switch your feet while in the air.
- Hang Cleans: This is a very difficult exercise to learn, but when done right, it is probably the best exercise to overload the body from a power perspective.
- Weighted Squat Jumps: Basically use the same technique as with regular squat jumps, but place a weighted bar on your shoulders. To ensure this is a power exercise and not a strength movement, limit the weight to 30% of your one rep maximum weight on a back squat.
- Depth Jumps: This is a pretty advanced movement that should only be performed when you have a solid strength base from which to work from. It is performed by stepping off of a small box, landing with both feet on the floor. Very quickly and explosively jump off of the ground and land on a tall box. The key to the exercise is spending the least amount of time as possible on the ground.