Depth jumps are the premier plyometric exercise for increasing vertical jumping ability. There are tons of derivatives, such as altitude drops, depth jumps over hurdles and up to targets, but the ante is really, truly upped when the overload of eccentric velocity, or rate of acceleration, comes into play.
Many coaches do this on a basic level with dumbbell jumps, where an athlete will set up a vertical jump, often up to a box, with dumbbells held in the hands. The athlete will “drop” downwards holding the dumbbells to create an eccentric overload, and then drop the dumbbells when reversing the movement back upwards to jump on the box. See below for a simple representation.
There are a lot of really bad demonstrations of this exercise on YouTube, this one was one of the more decent videos.
Although this has an interesting premise, as well as research to even back it up RES, I’ve felt it awkward and a bit clunky, especially for high-level jumpers. Regardless, there has been some research backing it as effective that has come out recently through the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research to validate this method of jumping with dropping dumbbells.
I believe there is something out there that is far superior, which is band-aided eccentrics into a jump.
In performing the utter gamut of all plyometric variations over the years, I by far favor AMT depth jumps, as popularized by “DB Hammer” of Inno-sport as the ultimate “cherry on top” plyometric to perform in a sequence of training.
AMT (Stands for “auxometronic” or some intellectualist jargon) jumps involve two partners who are standing on jump stretch bands that are attached to the belt of an athlete. The athlete will climb up on a box, and drop down, sped up by the bands. When the athlete contacts the ground, the partners release the bands, and the athlete feels an extreme sense of “lightness” in the transition to vertical jumping.
Below is a great way to do the AMT depth jump without partners to assist.
It has been argued, why not just drop off a higher box, since the velocity you hit the ground would be the same being banded vs. just dropping from a little higher; however, I believe that the difference is found in the way that the vestibular system processes the downward acceleration, and the associated training response that comes from trying to preserve the takeoff in light of this drop. It is a total hindbrain activity, which is exactly what we want out of plyometrics.
In using these types of jumps personally, I’ve always found that they can offer a 1-2” boost to an athlete’s jump, especially when athletes have adapted to other methods. These are not jumps you would want to use to kick off a training cycle, or with novice athletes.
As a final treat to this Plyo of the Week, Roger Nelsen wins the ingenuity award with this blast from the past, on how to do the jumps yourself.
If you enjoy this series, and want to see how to put these exercises together in context of a complete program, check out our books and training groups, particularly “Vertical Ignition” and “Legendary Athleticism”. Be a part of the revolutionary training systems that are getting dozens of athletes to lifetime bests in speed, jumping and explosive power!