Frontal Plane Depth Jumps

Inspired by a guest post by Graeme Lehman on Eric Cressey’s blog about frontal plane work, I have been wanting to write a quick article that coaches can use for frontal plane power, which is especially important for pitchers.  It was encouraging to see some alternatives that I’ve been using echoed by some of the top coaches in the field, and even by a bit of research to back the theories.

Obviously medicine ball plyometrics are a great transverse plane movement, and a no-brainer in any program.  However Lehmen mentions in his post the importance of frontal plane power in predicting throwing velocity in baseball players (see research in Lehman’s article).  The research showed this to be the most significant factor related to velocity.  And while there are some differences between baseball and softball, the throwing and swinging motions use the exact same rotational movements/muscles.  Additionally, both baseball and softball pitching require staying closed in the frontal plane for as long as possible (flying open in both can lead to control problems, arm problems, and power loss).  Strength and power in the frontal plane are obviously very important, and as this research touches on, the main power sources are (not surprisingly) the legs, hips, and core.

Even more specifically, pitching requires: the single-leg concentric push off and opposite leg eccentric deceleration with the core serving to minimize any energy leaks in the process, occurring primarily in the frontal plane.  Sounds an awful lot like lateral broad jumping!  If you haven’t given Cressey’s above article a read, I suggest at least watching the :07 second video of single-leg lateral jumps.  Even more relevant for power production, depth jumps have been shown over and over to really increase lower body power.  Progressing up to a lateral depth jump could be a very valuable tool for training frontal plane power- arguably one of the most important factors for softball players.

Keep in mind though, that just like any intense plyometric (intense meaning, on the tendons especially), depth jumps can plateau easily and the athlete needs to be ready for them.  So 1) they shouldn’t be overused, and 2) progressions are very important.  The athlete needs to be ready to depth jump before you start them with it immediately.  Remember that even though the athlete is progressing, they are still getting a good training effect from the exercises leading up to the outcome- such as the video above of single-leg lateral broad jumps.  A 16-week progression could look something like:

2 Weeks-  Lateral box drops onto 2 feet
2 Weeks- Lateral box drops onto inside foot (which they will push off once they progress up to the single-leg jumps)
4 Weeks- Single-leg lateral broad jumps landing on 2 feet
4 Weeks- Single-leg lateral broad jumps landing on 1 foot
4 Weeks- SL lateral depth jumps

During the depth jump phase, if performing just 1-2 times per week, you may be able to stretch it up to 8 weeks depending on what else is in the programming.  However 4-6 weeks is a good way to avoid plateauing but still get benefits.  We progress up to depth jumps and milk them mostly during our “Peak” pre-season phase 4-6 weeks before the season starts.  Obviously the late off-season period could be a great time too, and may actually be a better time since the players’ practice volume will still be lower than in the following pre-season practices.  However I still like keeping the depth jumps during the Peak phase and using this time to simultaneously decrease our lifting volume in the process.

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