Use Single Leg Jumps & Hops to Improve Performance

Use Single Leg Plyometric Hurdle Jump Series with Contralateral Arm Drive To Improve Performance

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

I'm a huge fan of incorporating single leg jumps into the programs of my athletes and clients as most individuals have significant imbalances and asymmetries particularly during explosive movements such as jumping. This particular single leg plyometric drill as performed by one of my collegiate football players Nick England, works on rate of force development, rate of force absorption, and rate of stabilization development all at once.  

It’s important to point out that I never have athletes perform single leg jumps let alone single leg plyometrics until we’ve adequately trained their feet and ankles as well as their hips and core.  In other words single leg plyometrics are advanced power and speed drills that can do more harm than good when inappropriately used.  If an athlete is unable to properly perform single leg drills such as single leg swaps, single leg RDL’s, eccentric isometric lunges, and other similar movements with perfect form, expecting them to use optimal mechanics on more advanced dynamic drills is simply unrealistic. 

In addition, single leg plyometrics involve extreme forces and stress due to the isolated high impact nature of the movement.  When the muscles around the feet, ankles, hips, and core are not functioning properly, they’re no longer able to absorb force and shock as they should.  As a result this transfers much of the stress to the joints and connective tissue.  In addition the ability to stabilize the body quickly (rate of stabilization development) is severely compromised making it nearly impossible to control the body throughout the movement.

This specific single leg hurdle hop jump series involves precise contralateral arm and leg drive.  In other words the opposite arm and leg are working together to propel the body explosively.  The bicep, front deltoid, and upper chest of the front arm are driving forward and upward. This results in contralateral activation of the hip flexor and hamstring on the opposite side of the body causing that hip and knee to also drive forward and up.  In contrast the tricep, rear deltoid upper back, and lat, of the rear arm are driving back and down.  This activation pattern results in reciprocal glute and hamstring activation on the leg opposite to that arm (posterior leg) thereby causing that leg to drive forcefully into the ground to propel the body upward and forward.

Besides greatly helping both vertical and broad jump performance due to the combination of vertical and horizontal force vectors, this drill does wonders for sprinting and running mechanics.  That’s because the contralateral arm and hip recruitment pattern involved in this drill is nearly identical to the activation patterns involved when performing sprints.  In addition this drill forces the lifter to spend as little time on the ground as possible (minimize ground contact time) to maximize power output.  The same concept should be applied to sprinting mechanics as fastest athletes are always those that spend the least amount of time on the ground. In fact you’ll notice at the end of the drill I have my athlete finish with a quick sprint to emphasize transferring the mechanics used during the jumps into his sprinting technique.

Because this is a very advanced movement, a perfect regression of the exercise as well as a great standalone drill for any athlete is a simple single leg jump and hold. 

Here are a few of my athletes demonstrating it as they work on jumping mechanics, landing mechanics, and rate of stabilization.  Once they master this then you would move to the hurdle hop series.  However this is also a great drill to revisit periodically to help dial in mechanics and focus on individual jumping and landing repetitions. 

Band Resisted Single Leg Broad Jumps

Here’s one of my collegiate higher jumpers Bailey Weiland performing a deconstructed single leg RDL with a band resisted broad jump. 

This is a highly effective drill not only teaching proper RDL mechanics (due to the deconstructed eccentric isometric RDL) but also for improving explosive power.  In addition, because most athletes have one side of their body that’s much more dominant than the other, performing single leg jumps while breaking down each segment of the drill helps teach proper recruitment on both sides of the body.  

Another benefit of the band resisted broad jump is that the landing is much less jarring on the body (in comparison to standard broad jump without bands) due to the decreased jump distance and velocity.   Research has also shown that broad jump training is incredibly effective for improving power and explosiveness in many areas of performance including sprint speed, vertical jump performance, and agility.

Finally, the band resistance further promotes optimal hip hinge and hip extension mechanics.  That’s because the band essentially pulls the lifter into a hinged position.  Then the athletes must violently extend and drive with their hips to blast through the tension of the bands.  In other words you get maximal hip flexion and hip extension.  If you’re looking to unlock someone’s hip drive, band resisted broad jumps will do the job.