This past weekend, I hit a lifting milestone (well at least I think so). I deadlifted 545 lbs while weighing 181 lbs, I was able to pull over 3 times my body weight! I am satisfied with the weight that I lifted but I do feel that there is more room for improvement. I am fairly confident that if I were to consume more calories and put on more mass I could easily develop the size and strength to pull well over 600 lbs. However I feel that for me, the number on the bar isn't as important as the ratio between the bar and my actual weight, this is my strength to weight ratio.
Deadlifting 545lbs at 181lbs body weight. Over 3 times my bodyweight.
Strength to weight ratio is one of the keys to vertical jumping. Lets create a simple example, when Athlete A jumps, he can create 3,000 lbs of force upward and weighs 1,500 lbs, when Athlete B jumps, he can only create 1,500 lbs of force, however he weight 50 lbs. who do you think jumps higher? If you said Athlete B then you are correct! Now understand that more goes into this concept but we are keeping it as simple as possible. Athlete B can produce more force relative to his body weight than athlete A. The more force you can create while maintaining a lighter frame is going to be more beneficial than just being as strong as possible.
So the big question you must be asking is "How do I improve my strength to weight ratio?" There are three ways to go about doing this, getting stronger, get lighter or both. First I want to address getting lighter; many people have come to me wanting to improve their vertical leap and one of the first questions I ask is, "how much do you weigh?" If an athlete is overweight for jumping standards, I would encourage them to lose the weight before even beginning a vertical leap program. A famous quote from my track coach, Rob Jarvis is "fat don't fly" and he is absolutely correct in saying this. For ever extra and unnessecary pound you carry while jumping is like trying to dunk with a weight vest, and believe me it is no easy feat!
Jumping with extra weight is like jumping with a weight vest on, trust me it's very tough!
One way to know if you are in the ballpark for proper weight would be know know you BMI or body mass index. BMI is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. It is a simple tool that can give you an estimate of where you are. Most elite jumpers are going to have relatively lower BMI's (23-18), with a few exceptions to the rule. If you are in the overweight category, I would advise trying to lose weight and you may even see and increase in your vertical immediately.
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WARNING: The BMI Calculator is not an end all be all tool for ideal jumping weight, it is just a guide. BMI can vary between ages and gender. Everybody's body is different and ultimately you want to be comfortable with your weight in order to maximize your athletic performance.
Once weight has been taken care of now it is time to get strong! When getting stronger remember the key isn't just about the amount of weight lifted, but it's the amount of weight in relation to your body weight. Below I have attached some standards for two specific lifts, the deadlift and the power clean. These lifts should be a staple in everyone vertical leap program if lifting is involved. (To see more lifting ratios you can go to the website http://strengthlevel.com. ) Check out these numbers and see how you fair in regard to your specific bodyweight.
These standards should be used as benchmarks for your strength to weight ratio training. Make sure you are performing lifts correctly, and when training for vertical, as explosively as possible. Moving the weight really slow or in an incorrect manner will not only be a detriment to your vertical training, but could also put you at risk for injury.
One of the side effects (if you would call it that) of getting stronger, is potential putting on weight via muscle. Although more muscle might be great, getting heavier is detrimental to jumping if too much muscle is put on. The biggest struggle with managing weight is trying not to include too much cardio into your workouts. Cardio(vascular) training usually tends to enhance Type 1 or slow twice muscle fibers, while vertical leap training focuses on Type 2 or fast twitch muscle fibers. The key is to make sure you are maintaining a positive weight while limiting the use of slow twitch muscle fibers. One way in doing this is paying close attention to the foods you eat. Eating nutrient dense foods will make sure you are getting the necessary proteins, carbs, and fats needed while limiting any excess calories. Also I feel that jumping rope and kettle bell swings are great jump specific forms of cardio training.
Kettle bell swings & jumping rope are great "vertical jump" specific forms of cardiovascular training. Add these to your warm up routines or even do them on your recovery days.
As it states in the title, strength to weight ratio is one of the keys to jumping high, but it isn't the only key. There are many other factors that go into your ability to jump (i.e., muscle typing and muscle recruitment patterns.) However if you are able to control your strength to weight ratio, you will well be on your way to having a more impressive vertical leap.
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