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When training for a sport that includes a lot of single leg jumps (basketball, for example), how specific should the strength training be? Does strength training need to be single leg?

I see two ways of approaching this, and I'm not sure which is correct, or if I'm missing a third altogether:

  1. Just get your basic two-leg barbell squat, deadlifts, power cleans as strong as possible. If your two-leg squat gets stronger, your one-leg squat gets stronger. No need for single-leg strength training.

  2. Single leg strength work is important. Two-leg squats don't train the movement that's displayed in single-leg jumps.

I'm asking how specific the strength training needs to be. Of course, we practice single-leg jumps very often in plyometric routines, games, drills, etc.

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Funny, I was wondering about how to increase jump height just about an hour ago. I wonder if squats and pure strength are necessary at all, or if a routine that focuses on explosiveness would be better. –  Baarn Jan 24 '13 at 18:21
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Oh, strength is huge for vertical! If you haven't built your squat up to about 1.5-1.7x your bodyweight (where you should be able to get to without complicated training), your vertical will definitely improve from adding strength. More return on investment than from plyometrics. However, if you're strong already, you can eek out some extra through plyometric training. That's probably a good question to have on this site though! –  Kate Jan 24 '13 at 18:24
    
I don't know the answer, but the term I've heard for the diminished utility of bilateral work for single-leg tasks (which may carry over to explosive single-leg movements in sport) is referred to as "bilateral facilitation", ie the opposite of the bilateral deficit seen in less-trained individuals. –  Dave Liepmann Jan 24 '13 at 19:01
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

According to Dan John, once you can do squats at your current body weight for a set of 10, strength is not your limiting factor (reference). That is squatting with a bar on your back that weighs as much as you do. Until you can reach that milestone, I would recommend to keep programming your squats. You don't have to push your squats more than that if you don't feel like they will help you in your efforts.

If your goal is to increase your vertical, then I would recommend you also incorporate explosive work in the form of plyometrics.

  • Do single leg work (lunges, pistols, etc.)
  • Do box jumps at varying heights (in % of your current max vertical)
  • Do single leg box jumps, alternating legs
  • As you go on, use a weight vest to increase your body weight.

There's a number of jump programs out there, but this is the basics. There very well may be some technique work to help you get the most out of your vertical as well. Usually that does come in to play. Something that you may not realize is the plyometric work you are doing also does good things for your squat.

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