Drop Jumps and Depth Jumps: The Best Plyometric Exercises

Drop Jumps and Depth Jumps: The Best Plyometric Exercises

Written by Zach

Topics: Plyometrics

The backbone of plyometric training, also called shock training, are drop jumps and depth jumps.  Starting in the 1970’s, these two plyometric exercises were used by Solviet Union athletes to excel at track and field, weight lifting, and gymnastics.  The rest of the world could not wait to find out their secret.  How were their athletes performing such a high level?  Plyometric training such as drop jumps and depth jumps have been utilized by elite athletes ever since.

Drop jumps and depth jumps are all about increasing your reactive strength.  Reactive strength is what takes someone very strong and makes them explosive and powerful.  Take a second and perform a standing vertical jump as high as you can.  Did you drop down into a quarter squat then quickly turn your momentum around to jump?  When you dropped  into the quarter squat, you were stretching your muscles to build energy for the jump.  Plyometrics improves the “turn around” allowing the stretch (eccentric contraction) to exert more of the stored up energy during the jump (concentric contraction).

Depth Jumps Plyometrics Vertical Dunk

Depth Jumps and Drop Jumps can be done using Plyo Boxes.

When to do Drop and Depth Jumps

Let me start by saying plyometric training is not for everyone.  Before getting into drop and depth jumps you need to understand the powerful effect they can have on your body.  You need to have a minimum amount of limit strength before using this type of training.  If you can not squat at least 1.5x your body weight you probably should not be doing plyometrics.  Not there yet?  Don’t worry.  Start doing squats and deadlifts and watch your vertical go up!

During a depth jump, when you are reversing the effects of gravity, your body is feeling the effects of about 10x your bodyweight.  That’s a lot of weight for your knees and other joints to handle.  Without the strength to absorb and reverse these extreme forces, you will not see any benefit and be very prone to injury.

Another very important thing to keep in mind is drop and depth jumps are very hard on your central nervous system (CNS).  Recovery of the CNS is more important than most people realize in vertical jump training.  You may not feel like you need a break in between sets of drop jumps, but like your muscles, your CNS needs a few minutes of recovery time between sets.  You don’t want to do these types of plyometric exercises more than 2x a week.  Please train smart.  Drop and depth jumps can give extremely helpful for improving vertical jump, but they are extremely hard on your body.

Benefits of Plyometrics

Plyometric training is based on the idea that a muscle exerts more force during a concentric contraction (jumping) if it immediately follows a eccentric contraction (dropping into the quarter quarter squat and reversing your momentum).  Think of a spring.  The eccentric contraction is stretching the spring, the concentric contraction is letting go.  Huge forces can be built up in your muscles by improving your reactive strength.

The height of your vertical jump depends on power.  Increasing your power output will increase your vertical jump.

Power = Force x Velocity

Once you have the strong muscles to exert high amounts of force, you need to maximize the velocity part of the equation to increase your power.  This is how plyometrics help you to jump higher.  Lifting heavy weights helps increase your force output.  Plyometrics, specifically drop jumps and depth jumps increase your velocity.

Depth jumps and drop jumps build reactive strength, also known as elastic strength, which helps to build and carry over your force when going from the concentric to eccentric contractions.

Depth Jumps Legs Plyos

Power = Force x Velocity.  The Key to Jumping Higher.

How to Perform Drop Jumps

To put it simply,the drop jump, or shock jump, is performed by stepping off an elevated object (box, bench, etc) and sticking the landing.  Think of a gymnast landing.

Start with a box no higher than your highest standing vertical jump.

  • Stretch and warm up properly.
  • Find and step onto a box or something else sturdy.
  • Stand with your back straight.  Keep your abs tight with good posture.  Look forward.
  • Hold your arms in front of you with elbows at 90 degrees.
  • Take a breath.  Step off the box, don’t jump off.  Land the same distance away from the box as the box height.  Alternate lead feet between reps.
  • Bring your arms back.  Bend your knees into a quarter squat position.
  • Land on the balls of your feet.  Don’t let your heels touch the ground.
  • Immediately stop your downward momentum as soon as your feet touch the ground.
  • Make sure your landing is quiet.  You don’t want to lose your stability and hit the ground with a “thump”.
  • Exhale and relax.

How To Perform Depth Jumps

The depth jump expands on the drop jump.  Rather than ending with the landing, the depth jump is performed by stepping off an elevated object, touching the ground for as little as possible and immediately jumping as high as you can.

Start with a box no higher than 12-18″.  If you’re standing vertical jump is higher than your jump off a 12″ box, you are not ready for depth jumps.  Stick with drop jumps to improve your reactive strength.

If plyometrics are already part of your training, use a box that results in your highest vertical.  For example, if you can jump 30″ from a 12″ box, 32″ from a 18″ box, but only 31″ from a 24″ box.  Use an 18″ box.

  • Follow the above steps for setting up, stepping off, and getting ready for landing.
  • Land on the balls of your feet.  Do not absorb the impact.  Try to reverse your momentum and get off the ground as fast as possible.
  • Immediately jump as high as possible.  Swing your arms to gain momentum.
  • Look and reach upward.  If possible, jump where you can aim to touch a rim or ceiling.
  • Land smoothly with bent knees.
  • Exhale and relax.

Important Things to Remember

Strength Requirement – Don’t add these high intensity plyometrics to your vertical jump training until you can squat at least 1.5x your bodyweight.

Warm Up Properly – As with any exercise, please warm up to improve your results and prevent injury.

Start Slow – Drop jumps and depth jumps are high intensity.  Start with low reps and low sets.  Allow your body to get used to the “shock” that comes with plyometrics.

Rest Between Sets – Rest for a few minutes in between each set.  Even if you’re not tired, your CNS is and the extra training won’t do you any good.  This will allow you to focus and concentrate on each rep.

Recovery Between Training Days – Take a few days off in between plyometric training days.  Overtraining will not only stop progress, it will probably decrease your vertical jump.

Quality over Quantity – With high intensity plyometrics, it is very important to concentrate on making each rep count.

Light Feet – Don’t land on your heels or toes.  Use the balls of your feet for quiet powerful landings and jumps.

Good Posture – Keep your back straight and head forward to help prevent injury.

Protect your Knees – Wear good crosstraining or basketball shoes and jump onto a shock absorbing mat or grass.  Your joints will thank you.

22 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jim says:

    Yes, I agree. Plyometrics is the best exercise for jumping higher. I’ve been doing it from low intensity to a higher intensity plyometrics and its fun though very tiring but when your body got used to it you’ll enjoy doing it more.

    • Zach says:

      Plyometric training is very intense, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it for long periods of time. Plyos work best when you implement them into your training program in short intervals. If your program is not too loaded already and you’re not currently in season for your sport, I would recommend training with plyometrics for a maximum of 4 weeks. Like any training program, it loses its effectiveness over time.

  2. Paul says:

    I believe doing lots of trainings to have can help you achieve your goal of jumping higher. I’ve been doing other plyometric workouts also to increase my vertical jump like squat, box jump and even lunges.

  3. Martin says:

    Hello dude! I completely agree with your opinion. Thanks for having written this.

  4. Jack says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  5. Carl says:

    Many thanks for your website! I really value what you’re providing here.

  6. Jamie says:

    Should I do plyometrics with ankle weights on or just my own bodyweight?

    • Zach says:

      Hi Jamie,

      I would stick with bodyweight. They are very effective without ankle weights, sometimes even too effective. After starting with a low box, move up to a higher and higher platform to increase intensity. No need for any fancy equipment.

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