Hopping, skipping and jumping. All pretty simple right? These are all natural human movements but when it comes to training simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy and what’s the difference between the 3? I have to credit Athletes’ Performance with teaching me the terminology and realizing the difference between the three. Jumping involves using two legs to leave the ground. Hopping involves using a single leg to both leave the ground and land again, on that same leg. Bounding by definition means moving from one leg to the other. Which begs the question, isn’t that what skipping is? Sort of. Although I don’t recall learning this anywhere, I think skipping and bounding differ in that skipping involves a double contact with the ground before transferring to the other leg and bounding doesn’t.
The majority of the time I treat hopping, jumping, bounding and even skipping as plyometric or simply power exercises. Plyometric can be a loaded term but the bottom line is that these movements are great for producing speed and power, two things that are great for both athletes and the average person alike. Once applied in the proper scenario I think the easiest way to do these movements incorrectly is to not land properly. Yes, the speed, power, height components are much more fun and cool looking but the bottom line is, if you can’t control the landing when hopping, jumping, etc then what’s the point? Practicing the landing is as important as the jump. What does a proper landing look like? Soft and under control, ready to be repeated but not necessarily done. Heavy landing means not controlled, poor force absorption and potentially not in position to make another move. Land soft. I’m not a sport scientist but I’m guessing that more people are injured when trying to land than simply trying to jump. That includes an athlete during the cutting motion. Often times they do a small but aggressive “jump cut” prior to another jump or actual take-off/. Again, I’m only speculating but I would guess that the transfer of energy during the landing of the jump cut is where the injury may occur not just the jumping motion. Practice good landing mechanics and the carryover during a game speed situation will likely be better. Only after the previous qualifiers are met should one work toward continuous and more rapid jumps, hops, etc.
Doing a lot of hopping and jumping can definitely make a person really tired which would lead one to believe is great for cardio. I tend to disagree. One of the jokes we like to make at Ambition when someone has an affinity for soreness or fatigue from training is to suggest that they jump up and touch a certain point on the wall as many times as they can in 10 minutes (trust me we’ve never actually had anyone do this). I think most would agree that it would certainly make just about anyone very tired and very sore. However, I hope most would agree that it is also a complete waste of time as far as being productive. That being said, if you are using a jumping (or hopping) drill as a cardiovascular exercise I think the opportunity for error and potential injury is much higher as discussed earlier. Jumping for maximum height as opposed to repetitions are essentially two different things. The former, calculated and technique driven while the latter usually not so much. Surprise, surprise but the rule of quality over quantity reigns supreme here yet again.
The message: There is more to it than just moving around to break a sweat. Consider the reasons and way you program jumping, hopping type movements. How do these fit into the training session and why? Ask yourself, am I trying to build power and/or the ability to jump and land or jumping endurance. Jumping endurance I don’t think anyone really needs. Jump/hop/skip/bound for power, condition by another means.
– Mike Baltren