Almost every team sport requires athletes to sprint, jump, and produce force fast. The ones who excel in these qualities (sprint, jump, force production) are usually the most athletic people on the field and the ones you pay the most attention to.
So how can we enhance these qualities?
You can enhance these qualities through (1) general strength training and (2) plyometrics. One of the best plyometric drills out there is the depth jump. As you can see from John Abreu’s progression for jumps and plyos, depth jumps are towards the end of the advanced spectrum for many athletes.
A depth jump is a plyometric exercise designed by successful track & field coach Yuri Verkhoshanksy. In the late 1950’s he used depth jumps to help his sprinters improve starting acceleration and his jumpers to maximize force output in the lower body.
What is a Depth Jump?
A depth jump is performed when an athlete drops off a box, lands, then quickly receives and repels the forces and then immediately jumps as high as possible.
Below is an in-depth video by Dr. Yessis showing how to correctly perform a depth jump.
Why is it important for softball players?
Softball places a high priority on starting acceleration and the reactive ability of the neuromuscular system to fire. With that in mind, the rate of acceleration and how quickly you can produce force is crucial for success.
For example, your pinch runner or slap hitters may have ground contact times 2-3 times faster than their not so fast teammates running from home to first. This is why pinch runners and slap hitters usually have better stolen and on-base percentages. Properly utilize depth jumps and you can decrease ground contact times and improve reactive ability; thereby, helping your athletes steal more bases (accelerate faster) and throw harder (reactive ability).
How do you perform it?
The video below will give a brief explanation on how to find the right box height, cues, and common errors.
- Step out and drop straight down
- Slight knee bend
- Elastic landing; the athlete must not “stick” into the ground
What are the set and rep schemes I should follow?
Depth jumps are at the top of the progression hierarchy when it comes to improving jumping ability so don’t prescribe this exercise to a novice. With that being said, it’s important that softball athletes first learn how to perform various bounds accompanied with fundamental resistance training exercises before implementing depth jumps in their program.
For those of you with a training age of 2+ years here are practical guidelines you can follow.
Wrapping It Up
Depth jumps and similar exercises are a great tool for improving starting acceleration and explosive strength in softball players. However, be careful not to use depth jumps too frequently without a break. The best way to implement them is through small on and off cycles of 3-4 weeks.