NFL and NCAA Football Plyometrics | Jump Training For Athletes

Skill position football players need to be explosive. On the field performance is highly dependent on how fast athletic tasks can be performed. Getting going and demonstrating reactive strength in both unilateral and bilateral movement patterns is unavoidable on the field. Plyometrics are a robust part of any training program worth its merit in athletic performance. 

Rotational Focus With Plyometric Jumps

At Garage Strength we utilize a variety of jumps for plyometric training to drastically improve on the field performance for football. We consistently have skill position football players do rotational jumps, both bilateral and unilateral. For instance, at the beginning of a program, we have athletes perform a depth drop, land, immediately do a box jump that forces them to rotate 90 degrees to land on the box; this is done as a bilateral movement. We recommend doing this jump series in a manner that forces the rotation to occur in both directions equal times. We will then couple that jump series with a box jump from a knee (we call this a Gwiz jump) that requires the athlete to demonstrate unilateral coordination. From the knee, the athlete lifts and then plants the foot of the forward leg into the ground to jump, again spinning 90 degrees to land on a box. This movement is then repeated on the opposite side to promote symmetry. These are complicated movements, but it is not extremely difficult. This is just how we start skill position football players off. 

We have skill position football players perform this style of plyometric jumps because it forces the mind and body to think about how to produce explosive forces from different angles, which is paramount to football training--it is paramount to any field sport really. We want the athlete’s brain to be thinking and performing in a realm that is similar to what is needed when they are on the field angling for a tackle, bursting through an opening to score six or applying tremendous amounts of force as quickly and as explosively as possible.


It is our belief that this is one thing that is missed in traditional strength training. What we mean is that traditional strength training can forget to understand what the mindset and technique needed to achieve a rapid rate of coordination on the field. And plyometric jump training through bilateral, unilateral, rotational and explosive coordination can help achieve this perspective.

Unilateral Focus With Coordination Demands

Another series of jumps we will utilize in training skill position athletes for football requires small hurdles and large hurdles. We will ask athletes to jump over a series of three small hurdles on a single leg. Upon clearing the third small hurdle they will land on both feet and leap over two successive high hurdles as a bilateral movement. Here is the tricky part. Upon jumping over the second high hurdle the athlete needs to land on the opposite single leg of what was used to clear the first three small hurdles. Landing on this opposite leg, the athlete will immediately hurdle on the new foot over another small hurdle, landing on a single foot to then perform a concluding low box jump with a single leg landing on the same foot bound from. We then have the athlete perform the jump series again to switch the single leg order. This jump series can be coupled with bilateral stair jumps to lessen the demands of landing and technical coordination required. 

This style of jump series transfers well to jump cuts and sudden stops into change of directions. The combination of switching from unilateral and bilateral energy expenditures also creates a lot of neurological noise. As the skill becomes more aesthetically pleasing, looking smooth and buttery like a slab of unsalted ice on the sidewalk, it will then reveal that neurological adaptations have transpired and that the athlete is now receiving and sending signals at a more efficient rate to better coordinate muscle for explosive power output at the drop of a grand. This is important, as a coach, when observing athletes perform the movements. Notice how the athlete learns the skill, thinking, “How long does it take the athlete to learn the skill?” We need to understand how the mini-hurdle in the series is transferred over to maximal speed and that putting in an obstacle with the bilateral jumps that demands a lot of dynamic trunk control when grounding with the single leg landing.


Just as a word of advice, we recommend having athletes use the ‘bad leg’ for the first time through any jump series that requires unilateral work. Athletes need to be thinking, “Knee up, toe up” with ample dorsiflexion to initiate greater ground forces.

Bilateral Focus With Coordination Demands

Finally, we will have football skill position athletes perform what we call Reckless jumps, which are tough. Reckless jumps begin with a little depth drop, hop forward, jump, turn in the air, land and then execute a broad jump for distance with height. This forces the athlete to prepare, organize in the air, ready from multiple different angles (again, do both sides) and then only to have this jump series super setted with single leg stair jumps.

Single leg stair jumps help improve the drive phase and acceleration for the athlete. It requires the athlete to react quickly. A big thing with single leg stair jumps is that the athlete exhibits dynamic trunk control with an upright posture so they are not falling side-to-side in an unbalanced state. In addition, stair jumps are a little easier on the athlete’s knees. 

Recap

Plyometric jump training is integral to any robust sports performance program, especially the training of skill position players in the sport of football. Sports performance coaches need to be using plyometric jumps that utilize bilateral movements, make unilateral demands, ask for rotational skills to be performed and increase neurological coordination to exacerbate athletes’ abilities to be explosive on the field. Properly combining said principles will lead to a robust plyometric jump program.   


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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