heavy weighted jumping FOR POWER
Can Heavy Weighted Jumps Replace Olympic Lift Variations Entirely?
Alec Enkiri | 10/28/20
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Since everyone wants to know! The loadable weight vest that I've been using for these jumps and for my weighted push-ups recently is the Kensui EZ-Vest. The vest has really opened up some doors for me in terms of my training and I will be putting together a review of it in the next few weeks!
I've started doing heavy weighted box jumps these last few months. I began the experiment wondering if there was a way I could further simplify and condense the benefits that Olympic lift variations have to offer when it comes to improving power performance, enhancing explosiveness, increasing raw athleticism, etc. I've talked about this concept in the past in my article covering snatch grip high pulls. The gist of it is that true Olympic lifts are very beneficial for athletes (as well as average Joe trainees), however they are also very, very technical. Because of this it can be difficult to glean all of the benefits they have to offer without putting in substantial work getting good enough at them to be able to adequately express the strength you already have when performing them.
If you don't get to this point then you certainly won't be improving your ability to produce power by performing the Olympic lifts.
The first work around to this problem here is to stop squatting all the way down to catch the bar and perform the "power" versions of the lifts instead. This makes things a little bit less technical. The second work around is to simply perform the lifts from the hang position above the knees rather than trying to start the lift from the floor. This removes another highly technical variable as traversing the transition over the knees and still finding the optimal power position to explode into the barbell can be quite difficult. The final simplification is to stop worrying about catching the barbell altogether and just perform high pulls from the hang position instead. This is the simplest form of Olympic lift in existence because it allows you to heave against the barbell with all of your might without having to worry about what comes next. I have found great success with this exercise.
My best set of snatch grip high pulls. 300lbs for 3 reps.
Still, as simple as it is, it's not without its own set of problems. Some people simply are not able to conceptualize and re-enact the act of exploding into the barbell with the idea of imparting maximal force into it. They just start doing weird things with their hips and knees and they lose the "pop" that they would otherwise have. But everyone knows how to jump. And this is where my most recent idea was born.
My original theory was based on the snatch grip high pull. My max snatch grip high pull is 300 pounds for 3 reps. I reasoned that during a high pull I displace the barbell roughly 13 inches. So what if instead of displacing a heavy barbell 13 inches I displaced my body roughly 13 inches instead? The caveat being that my body has to "weigh" close to 300 pounds in total weight to create the same effect, so if my body weight is currently 170 pounds then I need to be able to displace my hips approximately 13 inches into the air while holding an extra 130 pounds of external weight on my back or in my hands.
If I can do this then the training effect on my legs and hips, in terms of power and explosiveness, should be about the same as the training effect I can get when doing high pulls or power cleans, but the movement is much, much simpler (everyone knows how to jump!). And after experimenting with the exercise for a couple months now, I can say that the overall negative stress placed on the body is also much lower than during Olympic lift variations as well. I can basically do these all day with little ill effect as landing on the box removes pretty much all of the impact stress that would otherwise be involved here from falling back down to the ground with all that weight in your hands.
240lbs weighted box jump onto a 13" box. Total system weight of 410lbs.
Since I originally started my experiment I have also begun doing lighter jumps onto a higher box as well. On my heavy day I'm using the 13 inch box and on my lighter day I'm using a 20 inch box. The goal is the same every time: maximal acceleration in order to achieve maximal hip displacement against the particular resistance. This is the same concept one would use when training the simplified Olympic lift variations for general performance enhancement: a heavy day in the 85-90% range and a lighter day in the 70-75% range, and that's exactly where I got the idea from.
150lbs for 3 reps onto a 20 inch box.
In the case of these heavy weighted jumps, my "max" is about 410lbs (170lbs body weight + 240lbs external weight). So when I perform 8 sets of 3 jumps onto the 13 inch box using 180lbs of external weight that's a solid heavy workout at right around 85% of 1rm (170lbs bw + 180lbs = 350lbs / 410lbs = 85%). As well, when I perform repeat triples onto the 20 inch box using an additional 120lbs of external weight then that's a solid 70% workout right there (170lbs bw + 120lbs = 290lbs / 410lbs = 70%).
The difference here, however, is that there is true accountability. If you're jumping onto a box then you have to put 100% effort into every single rep otherwise you're going to clip your foot on the box and fall. On the other hand, when doing a submaximal Olympic lift you can get away with a little bit of half-assing as you are not forced to truly accelerate the bar to 100% on every single rep.
I think that's an important distinction that will possibly have large ramifications in regards to the long term efficacy of this exercise. I'm not an Olympic lifter, and athletes are not Olympic lifters either. Jumping is just easier. It's less stressful psychologically, it's less wearing on the body physically, and it's much easier to really GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT. To put every last ounce of explosiveness into every jump. The muscles used here are the same - the hips, knees, and ankles; the action being performed here is the same - explosive extension; and the loading is either equivalent or greater when you factor in body weight + the external resistance.
The real question is: is the training effect the same or better? That I can't really speak to just yet, but in theory it should be, and so far I'm very hopeful. I'm able to move far more weight through comparable distances by simply jumping than I am by performing Olympic lift variations...simply because I'm not very good at Olympic lifting. I'm able to better express the power that I already have because jumping is a much simpler movement pattern to execute, as well as one that I am very familiar with executing (like all athletes). This should lead to better gains in power over time because you are taking the parking brake off (for some athletes possibly for the first time ever), and just going all out while executing a primal, natural and familiar movement pattern.
But still, I need more time to experiment with the exercise and just see what happens before I would EVER be comfortable even prescribing it for any of my clients. It obviously carries with it quite a bit of risk, so there needs to be quite a bit of reward in order for that to be outweighed. To remove the risk, you could simply remove the box and just perform weighted jumps into the air, but then you also remove the accountability aspect of the exercise. As well, you would also then be forced to eat EXTREME impact forces with every rep you do, and I'm honestly not sure that that tradeoff is worth it because the risks involved here are very calculated and as such can be highly mitigated...basically don't be stupid - if you don't try to overreach past what you're capable of and you don't work into high levels of fatigue then there really isn't much of a risk present at all. I trust myself and know myself and my capabilities well enough to accept that risk and safely work around it in order to determine if the exercise is otherwise going to be valuable and have the same sort of carry over as the Olympic lift variations.
And the answer right now is we'll see. I'm doing a lot of sprinting of varying distances at the moment. I'll also test my vertical jump, high pull, and hang power clean or hang power snatch when I decide my experiment is coming to an end. When that day comes we'll have our answer. If those metrics improve then we're likely on to something here because the biggest change that I've made to my training in recent history is incorporating these heavy weighted jumps. I've never done anything like this before as in the past the heaviest weighted jumping I've ever done was with a paltry 80lbs. But this is a completely different game and I think the results are going to be completely different as well, probably in a good way!
But what do you guys think? Does my theory sound valid here or am I completely off base? Or is it all moot anyway because the exercise is so risky that no one should bother with it regardless? Comment on the Blogger post and let me know!