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One of my physical test requirements are standing broad jumps.

What methods are there to train for standing broad jumps or leg explosive power in general?
And which precautions do I have to take so that I do not injure my knees or my back as I land?

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5 Answers

Explosive Leg Power Training

To train for explosive leg power you need to incorporate plyometric or explosive strength training. Plyometric exercises improve your neuro-muscular control, as well as your strength and power. However, because plyometrics are demanding, you do need to have a basic level of strength.

Training for the Standing Broad Jump (Also known as a Standing Long Jump)

To improve your standing broad jump you need

  • proper form and technique
  • strength
  • power or explosive strength
  • flexibility

    The powerful hip and leg muscles propel you into the jump and then eccentrically help you land safely. You also need to address your core strength. And don’t overlook the arm swing for lift which contributes significantly to the distance of the jump.

  • Form and Technique

    To maximize your jump you must have good form, including timing of the arms and legs, positioning of the head with focus beyond your landing goal, and knee alignment on landing. This standing broad jump video shows techniques, good form and test standards.

  • Specificity of Exercise

    Specificity of exercise suggests that to get good at the standing broad jump you need to practice the jump. To get better results in a testing situation, the more you can simulate the testing conditions and surfaces, the better.

    You also want to practice the needed component skills to accomplish the jump. This video gives drills for some of the component parts of the jump. It includes how to work towards to a safe landing by jumping down off of progressively higher boxes to gradually work on the deceleration/landing phase.

  • Strength - Basic core strengthening exercises such as the plank, side plank, and birddog can be done without equipment. Squats and lunges strengthen your glutes and legs. If you have access to a gym, lifts as mentioned by @Dave and @Lego will give you both strength and power.

  • Power or Explosive Strength

    For plyometric exercises, deep medicine ball squats with toss, jumps and bounding will give you good carry over for the broad jump. Kettlebell swings are also good for targeting the glutes and hip muscles dynamically.

  • Flexibility

    You need full body flexibility for good form in the broad jump. Hamstrings, calf muscles, quads, hip flexors, lats all need to be free to give you the movements you need. The Third World Squat is a good way to work on lower body flexibility. Yoga has good full body stretches like child’s pose, cobra and sun salutations.

Safe Landing - To avoid injury you need to have good lower extremity alignment and good eccentric muscle strength to decelerate. For a practice landing drill, see the previously referenced video .

  • Knee flexion - The hips and knees need to fully flex on impact and not remain stiff or straight. If they are stiff on landing you risk injuring your back or knee ligaments.

  • Knee alignment - The knees should also remain in alignment with your hips and ankles. If you have weak glutes, your knees may roll in toward the midline rather than maintaining alignment with the hip and ankle on landing, causing a medial knee strain.

Don't forget to warm-up (dynamic), visualize the jump and go for it. Good luck with your test.

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First and foremost look at a strength program that has a focus on the lower body. A programs like Starting Strength is good as they cover the basic mechanics of the Squat, Deadlift, and Clean all movements that will provide excellent foundation for building a strong leap.

However, it is the last exercise - the Clean - that you will want to focus on the most. A properly executed Clean requires the lifter to provide enough power through the legs to give a heavily laden barbell enough momentum to carry it to chest high to catch.

Keep in mind that, while a strong vertical leap requires significant drive from the quads, a horizontal leap requires significant glute engagement. So additional glute training to may be helpful to provide the frward thrust you need.

With regards to safety, unless you have pre-existing conditions, it is unlikely that you will hurt yourself. The human knee is quite strong and resilient when properly trained. Alongside you strength training, practise your long jump, starting with a short distance, learning how to land safely and cushion the blow. When you land, try to land with a bend in the knees to allow the muscles and ligaments of the ankle, knee, and hip to take the weight, rather than the bones themselves.

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Any explosive movement (ie power cleans, squat jumps, box jumps) will increase your power. But keep in mind that the broad jump is an event that has it's own technique and the best way to get good at a skill is to practice that skill.

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The Olympic lifts are great for practicing and generating powerful, explosive legs. The snatch and clean (and their power variants) are the most explosive training movement and should be the focus of your training for explosiveness.

However, one should not solely work the Olympic lifts. Supporting lifts like the back and front squat, regular and Romanian deadlift, overhead press and push press are all necessary scaffolding for a successful and healthy Olympic lifting regimen. Make sure you start with a base of strength and mobility before challenging your body with heavy cleans or snatches.

One should also include jumps for height and distance (box jumps and broad jumps), using either one or both feet at a time.

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Tuck Jumps are your friend. Also look at Ninja Tuck Jumps where you basically start on your knees, go to a lower squat position from there and then jump.
These exercises immediately came to my mind when you mentioned "explosive". The classic Squats and Deadlifts are always going to help you build leg strength but these jumps increase your "explosive" strength since you are always trying to jump higher!

Also be very careful to have your knees bent as you land to minimize stress on them. Look up videos on YouTube for this

Some exemplary videos:
Tuck Jump
Ninja Tuck Jump

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Some more detail would be nice, especially why you think that Tuck Jumps are the way to go. –  Baarn Aug 14 '13 at 9:32
    
Here are a couple of videos:- Tuck Jump - youtube.com/watch?v=zh1v8jINBZ0 Ninja Tuck Jump - youtube.com/watch?v=Fug09TvDC5Y I specified these exercises because that is what immediately came to my mind when you mentioned "explosive". The classic Squats and Deadlifts are always going to help you build leg strength but these jumps increase your "explosive" strength since you are always trying to jump higher! –  Rajeev Bhatia Aug 14 '13 at 9:42
    
Thanks for the clarification, I added most of your comment to your answer. Feel free to edit or revert the changes if you are unhappy. –  Baarn Aug 14 '13 at 10:48
    
Thanks for the help! –  Rajeev Bhatia Aug 14 '13 at 11:19
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