Updated: Jul 25
You're frustrated, disappointed, and tired of all the conditioning - and your jumps are still barely off the ground. "How can I improve my jumps" is probably the most asked question we've received over the last ten years. Even though we could give you a few dozen drills to try at home - there are some key reasons why your jumps (as a team or an individual) are not improving. With over 12 years specialising in conditioning and sports performance for cheer and dance, our team of sports performance experts and biomechanists are here to explain why you might still be struggling.
1. YOU'RE CONDITIONING STRENGTH, NOT ENOUGH SPEED - Jumps are a power skill, not a strength skill. This means you need to work on leg speed rather than strength to explode into a leap or jump. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: You can use the drills below, jump on high boxes or train using a high intensity / explosive power workout such as INTENSITY Power.
2. YOU'RE OVERTRAINING - Jump skills rely on power training and plyometrics, NOT endurance. Yet we still see the majority of teams training jumps with ankle weights and/or doing so many back-to-back jump repetitions. Not only you are fatiguing your power, but by conditioning strength and endurance, you are recruiting the wrong muscle fibres and training the incorrect energy systems. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: If you want to improve jump explosivity, you need to focus on fewer repetitions at maximum power, with at least 60 seconds rest in between. Ideally, you want to train 10 seconds on (jumps) then 90 seconds off (rest). In a team environment, all you have to do is take the jump reps in turns.
3. YOU'RE FOCUSED ON PASSIVE rather than ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY. You can do the splits on the floor, but can you hold a scorpion or spike? If you can hold a straddle on the floor but cannot hold it in the air, you could be lacking ACTIVE flexibility (the ability to hold and use your range of motion without anything holding it). OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: Focus on eccentric strength training or active flexibility endurance training such as a gymastics conditioning program or barre workout.
4. YOUR TIMING IS OFF: Before jumping out, you need to jump UP to get enough momentum. Timing in your jumps and leaps are essential to achieve dynamic power. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: Instead of counting out loud, train to music and work on timing drills for your body to develop timing and rhythm.
5. YOU ARE NOT ENGAGING YOUR CORE: Your entire body is jumping, not just your legs. Your upper body needs to be fully engaged, upright and connected to through your core. If your core lacks stability and correct engagement, your entire physical structure will be compromised, and you will NOT be able to jump at your full potential. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: Test if you have a strong /stable core using the quick test below. If you see a gap in your lower back, focus on developing core stability and strength before pushing your jump skills harder.
6. YOU HAVE LONG LEGS: In the world of gymnastics, those with shorter limbs are truly blessed because they have a natural mechanical advantage. Shorter limbs = less force on the joints = less force required. If your long legs server you well for your figure, when it comes to jumps you will be at a disadvantage: your joints and muscles will have to work much harder to get the strength, stability and power for your jumps. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: With this one, there's not much that can be done.. except for accepting the fact that you'll have to train harder to achieve the same skills than your lucky shorter-limbed buddies! COACHES: acknowledge the physical differences on your team. Biomechanics and individual bodies will respond differently to training and drills. Consider splitting your team in smaller groups to make team conditioning more specific and useful overall.
7. NOT ENOUGH HIP ROTATION: For the jump to work biomechanically, the top of your thighs need to rotate inside your hips. This keeps your hips "under" and your chest upright, giving you enough rotation to lift your legs up with power and speed. If your legs don't rotate inside your hips your legs will struggle to lift above the hips. OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: Focus on training external rotation in your straddle conditioning and kicks (heels rotate up to the ceiling) Understand the full mechanics of the jump to visualise and master the technique. CCA members can watch the "jump optimisation" video that fully explains the mechanics and movement optimisation for jumps HERE.
STILL STRUGGLING with jumps despite implementing the changes above? In this case, your problem with jumps is not something you can change with more conditioning because:
8. YOU ARE LACKING STABILITY: Imagine driving a car with busted tires. You can fuel up the car with gas, step on the pedal hard but it still won't drive straight, fast, or safely. This is what is happening to your body if your hips or back are not working as they should be. Conditioning your body harder before you fix some of these issues means you'll be training hard for nothing, and you could be making things worse for your jumping and tumbling skills. 1 out of 7 women and 1 out of 10 men experience the issues below, children too! They can be caused by several reasons including sitting for long hours of the day, genetics or just simple muscle imbalances that can get worse by overtraining:
difficulty holding static shapes up in the air
Difficulty holding inverted skills (handstand)
A bad posture
Neck, shoulder or back pain
Feeling urgency to go to the bathroom
"Accidents" when sneezing, tumbling or being on a trampoline.. or having to dash to the bathroom as soon as you walk through the door!
Feeling pain in the lower abdomen or the pelvis
All of the above are signs that the stabilising muscles in your joints are not doing their job correctly. Whereas shoulder instability in your shoulders and knees mean that you will find it more challenging to hold your skills, a problem with your posture or the muscles in your pelvis can have a more severe consequence on your day-to-day life. MOST PEOPLE (young through to adults) LIVE WITH POSTURAL AND PELVIC DYSFUNCTIONS and choose to ignore it. Worse, they overtrain and condition on top of these "bust tyres"... and then you wonder why your skills are not improving!
OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING: First of all, listen to your body.. if training is not improving your skills, an exercise or drill is not "clicking" or you feel any pain or discomfort, it may be a sign that there is an imbalance somewhere in your body. It could be your shoulders, knees - but if you're having trouble with jumps, it probably will be in your hips and muscles of the pelvis. Before beasting your skills with more conditioning, speak to someone you trust (a parent, your doctor, a coach or school counsellor) and ask to see a physiotherapist that can help you to iron out the issue... If you take the time to fix the problem, your "tyres" will be fully pumped, stable and ready to jump with plenty of bounce!
COACHES: Learn to recognise signs of muscle and joint imbalances in your team. Even though diagnosis is a job for professionals, you can learn to notice the signs of imbalance so that you can minimise the damage of overtraining, and if necessary, suggest a quick checkup with a physiotherapist. Most injuries happen because of overtraining, or training skills on physical imbalances - so instead of risking injury, start thinking PRE-HAB and optimisation! The CheerConditioning.Academy training syllabus will help you develop an eye for movement and physical imbalances to improve team performance and safety.