What is the most specific plyometric exercise in terms of fluid, variable transfer to multiple aspects of athletic performance? Double-Bounce Hurdle Hops are one of top choices in this regard, and today, I’ll explain why.
In the world of plyometrics, every conceivable exercise is pretty much “out there”, and if you go digging long enough, you’ll find so many exercises that it may be hard to figure out exactly where to start.
I’m in a place now where I don’t look for, or care about “new”, or trendy plyometrics. As far as I’m concerned, if you have a great understanding of the underlying concepts that drive human movement, any jumping or ballistic activity can be a plyometric and tweaked according to athletic need and outcome goal.
In this realm, however, I have noticed, in a new light, a plyometric exercise I’ve seen commonly done, and had done myself even at age 16, but didn’t think about the mechanisms until now.
That exercise is the double-bounce hurdle hop. The double-bounce, or jumping high, landing low and stiff, and then repeating the process, it actually reflective of a number of athletic movements, and within it, encapsulates the stiffness needed for a great single leg jump, and more of the raw explosion for running double leg jumps. Here is an example of the movement.
The double-bounce hurdle hop alternates ankle-locking stiff landings, into explosive second jumps, and has a wide transfer to many jump movements. This plyometric exercise also makes a nice diagnostic tool. Here is the exercise below with an athlete much more dynamic than me, performing it.
Where do we see this movement occur in sport? Team sports are always the best place to look, since they are the epitome of natural athletic movement. Think of what might happen if a track coach started telling Zach Lavine to make his last step shorter, or LeBron to stop and gather himself more before taking off. Team sport in it’s purest form is one of the most beautiful things to watch in terms of how the subconscious brain orchestrates human movement.
What if coaches started telling LaVine to shorten his last step like is so often told in track jumps? We may have a different dunk champ if the top athletes start to take to robotic, isolated movement cues.
In terms of athletes with great feet and natural bounce, you see it all the time in jumping sports. Athletes will land in a “bounce” format after shooting a ball, many times this will simply be in place after landing, but other times you’ll see athletes effortlessly redirect energy out in the next direction they need to go after the landing. One of my favorite videos in the realm of “higher end” performance, in this case, dunking, is Taurian Fontenette, or “The Air Up There”, who is one of the greatest pure jumpers basketball, or any sport, as seen. One of the things that’s always amazed me about Taurian’s jumping is how easy and controlled it is, as well as how stiff he is on his landings, to the point where he often does a little “bounce” coming down off the rim.
In these situations, there are many other athletes who tend to absorb or take the landing with a lot more knee and hip bend. In Taurian’s case, every landing is a “plyometric”.
In the same vein of raw athletic feats, we more often see the quick hop into the big jump. This is often the end goal of stiff hopping, which is integrating the rhythm, arm motion, and stiffness transfer of a horizontal hop to a vertical one as shown in the videos below.
I’ve also utilized plyometrics in the past that emulate this type of motion, such as what I call “Strand Hurdle Jumps” as I learned them from high jumper Staffan Strand who was kind enough to post a large volume of training videos.
If I was using this drill with athletes now (I used it occasionally as a college track coach, and would use it more if I was in that role now), I would look to also use it with prescriptions on the last landing as well, such as a controlled bounce out in good posture.
In my own training, I took a liking to these even more than depth jumps, since they weren’t quite as taxing on the nervous system, and seemed to have a bit more rhythm, transfer and also fun to them. My best final hurdle hop height was 4’8”, or 54”, and this was done around the time I jumped my personal best of 7 feet in high jump.
To me, the double hurdle jump is almost infinitely scalable, starting with low banana hurdles for youth athletes, moving up to higher hurdles, and eventually, doing the “Strand” drill, which works a slightly different mechanism, but puts a huge premium on the final hop to explosion transfer.
No plyometric is magic on its own, but this movement lets a coach with an eye for athletic rhythms and movement create great progression, assessment and context in their training program.
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!