Girls Can
Jump Training Techniques

by Laura Ramus, P.T., A.T.C.

Do you want to be able to jump higher? After all, that means more rebounds, more blocked shots and even shooting over people who previously may have blocked your shot. So how do you get started?

The dictionary definition of jump is to spring off the ground by a muscular effort of the legs and feet. This definition is only partially correct, and maybe this is why we only partially train jumping correctly. Jumping requires coordinated movement of the arms, legs and feet to be initiated at the core, the region near your "belly button".

Before any female embarks on a jump training program, she must learn correct technique. Unfortuneately, many coaches, trainers and videos use great programs but demonstrate bad technique. What happens when you practice bad technique? A small vertical jump, but perhaps worse, the possibility of a serious knee injury.

Analysis of female jumping techniques demonstrates that females jump differently than men. Research has indentified three important factors. Women jump and land in a more upright position. They land with greater ground-reaction forces. And they jump with incorrect knee position.

More Upright Jumping and Landing
Correct technique
Male demonstrating good jumping technique: back straight, "neutral spine", hips flexed 30 degrees or greater, knees bent 60 degrees or greater, ankles flexed 25 degrees or greater.
incorrect technique
Female demonstrating incorrect jumping technique: upright jumping position, hips flexed less than 30 degrees with too much bend at the waist, knees bent only 30 degrees, ankles bent less than 25 degrees.

Genetically, the typical female demonstrates less muscle mass and strength than males. Girls who are 9, 10, and 11 years old play sports in an upright position causing weak trunk, hip and leg musculature. As they continue to develop as young athletes, if this weakness and technique error are not corrected, they will develop a muscle memory that reinforces playing in a more upright position. If this continues, they will also not develop strength to obtain good low positioning. So no matter how much the coach tells you to "get down", you will be unable to do so.

Incorrect Knee Positioning
Incorrect technique
Incorrect jumping position: knees turned inward in a "knock knee" position.
Correct technique
Correct jumping position: knees positioned over the second toe.

Lower leg alignment problems may predispose the female athlete to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or other knee injuries. Typically the female demonstrates a wider pelvic angle and increased low-back curve. Both of these factors result in the femur, or upper leg bone, rotating inward and the knees assuming a "knock knee" position. This inward-rotated, "knock knee" position places stress on the ACL. Combine this position with the large forces generated during jumping, and you have a formula for disaster.

Some of these alignment problems can be corrected with appropriate strength and jump training. Strength training should target trunk and gluteal muscles. Jump training must emphasize knee over second-toe position.

Greater Ground-Reaction Forces

Research shows the typical male athlete lands with forces two and a half times his body weight after a maximum jump. This compares to the female athlete, who lands with forces up to five times her body weight.

Summary of Correct Jumping Techniques

•Land on the ball of your foot and sink into your heel.
•Flex at the hips, knees and ankles.
•Maintain a straight back-neutral spine position.
•Maintain chest over knees and knees over second toe.

Laura Ramus, P.T., A.T.C. is Head Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WNBA's Detroit Shock. Since 1994, she has also served as the Manager of Sports Medicine at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan. Her articles have been syndicated in newspapers throughout the USA, and can be found in each edition of Women's Basketball Magazine, and weekly in the Detroit News.
Check out Laura's recent columns, published by the Detroit News, -click here!

This large ground-reaction force places greater tension on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage surrounding the knee. These large forces are the result of poor shock absorption from landing too upright and allowing the knee to move side to side and rotationally during landing. Hence, all three jumping technique errors in the female athlete rely closely upon each other.

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