S&C coach Tommy Munday shares the science behind Trap Bar Jumps – an effective exercise that’s led to some impressive results in strength, speed and explosiveness.
- Trap Bar Jumps can be used as a speed-strength exercise to improve force production and rate of force development (RFD).
- Loaded Jump movements produce equal improvements in lower body RFD compared to Olympic Lifting variations,
- A recent four week training phase, flyweight boxer Kyle Yousaf has improved his mean velocity when jumping with a consistent load of 50 kg has increased from 1.19 to 1.36 m/s. This has resulted in a 14.3% improvement in velocity with the same load.
What are Trap Bar Jumps, and why do we use them?
Trap Bar Jumps are an explosive, dynamic version of Trap Bar Deadlifts. The jumping action allows the movement to be performed at faster velocities and with lighters loads.
During Strength-Speed phases, traditional S&C programming utilises Olympic Lifting variations, such as Cleans, Power Cleans, and Clean Pulls.
These are fantastic exercises for improving the strength, speed and explosiveness of our athletes.
However, these exercises are technically demanding – and the amount of load can be restricted due to mobility issues and technical faults.
A restriction in the amount of load lifted can affect the amount of force developed during Olympic lifting….
We can increase the load with improved technique, however this will take time! In camps that are 8-10 weeks long – it affects the amount of time at sufficient load for adaptation!
REMEMBER: Our main goal at Boxing Science is to improve the Rate of Force Development (RFD).
We’re not led by certain exercises – we’re led by physiological adaptations. Therefore, we need to find the most appropriate exercise for optimal gains in strength, speed and explosiveness.
This is why Trap Bar Jumps can be really useful, as we’ve found that our athletes are able to learn the technique easily enough – and can move sufficient load within just a couple of sessions.
This can be great when we need to make improvements in strength quickly, for example in a short window, such as an 8 week camp.
A key study from 2017 showed that both loaded jumps and clean pulls improved vertical jump performance over the course of 10 weeks, both by an average of around 4 cm. However, what was interesting, is that there was no difference in improvements between the two groups.
Therefore, the authors of the study concluded that both loaded jumps and Olympic lifting movements are equally effective for improving countermovement jump performance and lower body force production. Similarly, we can use loaded jumps with our boxers to get the same benefits which arise from performing Olympic lifts.
An important note is that countermovement jump performance (the performance marker the researchers measured) has been shown to be strongly related to punching performance in other research. We use the countermovement jump test in our testing at Boxing Science and in our Train Like a Champion programmes as a performance marker.
When to use Trap Bar Jumps
With the boxers on our programme, we use Trap Bar Jumps during Strength-Speed phases, generally working between 30 and 60% of their Trap Bar Deadlift 1 Rep Max (1RM). During the jumps, we use the GymAware tool to give velocity based feedback and targets to the athlete, which increases the intent to move rapidly and jump higher with the bar.
During these jumps, we aim to manipulate the load on the bar to achieve target velocities of between 0.9 and 1.3 m/s, working for 3-5 Reps and 3-5 Sets.
A great example of the benefits of Trap Bar Jumps is with Kyle Yousaf. We have used these during his recent Speed-Strength phase. We recorded his load and maximum velocity for a repetition using GymAware during each session.
Over the course of four weeks, Kyle’s mean velocity when jumping with a consistent load of 50 kg has increased from 1.19 to 1.36 m/s. This has resulted in a 14.3% improvement in velocity with the same load.
This suggests that Kyle has improved force production and RFD qualities during the Trap Bar Jumps.
How To Perform The Trap Bar Jump
With the Trap Bar resting on the ground, the athlete braces as they would for a deadlift, then explosively jumps up as high as possible, driving into the ground forcefully and rapidly.
When they return to the ground, the athlete lands in a strong and athletic landing position, before slowly returning the bar back to the ground, then resetting for the next rep.
In a normal Trap Bar Deadlift performed with light loads, the athlete must slow down the bar and decelerate towards the top of the movement to come to a stop.
In a Trap Bar Jump, the jumping mechanism allows continual acceleration throughout the upwards (concentric) phase of the movement, which increases the force production and RFD throughout the movement.
Both force production and RFD are massively important contributors to punching performance, making Trap Bar Jumps a fantastic exercise for developing this in boxers.
Disadvantages of Trap Bar Jumps
Like any exercise, there are some disadvantages, and inappropriate times to implement and use Trap Bar Jumps. This is fast becoming a popular exercise in the strength and conditioning community, however there are a few errors being made – limiting the effectiveness of the exercise whilst increasing the likelihood of injury.
The main issue arises from lifting excessive load – this can create two key technical issues…
- Landing Mechanics
- An issue with this exercise is that the athlete must land with the load of the bar after jumping. They must have sufficiently developed landing mechanics and eccentric strength in their lower body to be able to control and absorb this landing force. If the athlete doesn’t land correctly, they can become likely to get injured, and also can experience high amounts of muscle soreness from the high eccentric landing load.
- Excessive Shrugging
- When using velocity feedback during Trap Bar Jumps, an athlete can subconsciously “shrug” the bar, and pull with the arms to try and increase the distance the bar travels to increase the bar velocity. This creates excessive loading through the upper traps and shoulders, which already experience a lot a load in boxing training already. The athlete should keep their arms straight during the movement. Cues such as “let your hips do the work” or “drive into the ground” can be useful to help combat this.
For the reasons highlighted above, we tend to only use this exercise with our stronger and more advanced athletes who can demonstrate good landing mechanics when landing with the bar.
We tend not to use loads above 100% of the athlete’s body mass, instead opting for between 50 and 100% of this.
For example, an 80 kg athlete would not perform Trap Bar jumps with above 80 kg on the Trap Bar.
Trap Bar Jumps can be a great exercise for developing speed-strength. They can be a fantastic alternative to Olympic lifting, recording equal improvements in force production and RFD over a number of weeks.
However, like any exercise, they can be performed incorrectly. To get the most out of them, it is important to perform them with the right technique, and with appropriate load.
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