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I am a 45 year old male. For 2 months I have been training weights acccording to the Starting Strength program twice a week. That is except for the power clean which I have not been doing yet. My strength has been improved quite a bit. However when I was younger I could jump up and place my hand around the rim of a basketball hoop. I tried this today and was nowhere near this. So I want to improve my explosive strength. I am therefore looking for a few simple but effective exercises for building explosive strength with emphasis on jumping and sprinting.

I understand the power clean is one way to do this. However when Mark Rippetoe wrote his excellent book he choose to restrict himself by the subtitle: "Basic Barbell Training". So there may be better ways to train explosive strength but he could not include them in his book.

Another way may be box jumps and medicine ball high wall throws. These exercises seem less technical challenging than power clean. I read this article: Hang Cleans vs. Weighted Jumps in which the author Joe Defranco claims that weighted jumps are safer and have more carryover than power cleans. Seems it is easy to hurt ones wrist doing power cleans.

I assume I would be doing these exercise before I do my squats and deadlifts?

I also do interval running for 30 minutes twice a week. My strength sessions already take 1 h so I don't want to prolonge them by much. Could I add these exercises to the end of my interval running? I experimented with adding sprints to the end of my running today. Seems to train the muscles quite well.

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Firstly, you should understand that you have chosen a goal that will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. If you are currently carrying excess body fat then getting rid of that will improve your jump, but beyond that you will likely only be able to make small improvements.

Explosive power is largely determined by genetics and is not trainable to anywhere near the same extent that strength is trainable. What this means is that if you took a new, non-overweight trainee with an 18" vertical jump and a 60kg max squat, in a year they could reasonably expect to add 100kg to their squat, but maybe only 1" to their vertical jump.

It is also very likely that jumping ability naturally declines with age. [1]

And here's what Rippetoe himself has to say on the matter:

One of the tragic problems of human physical existence is the stubbornness of the neurological system, both to heal itself when damaged or diseased and to adapt to the stresses imposed by performance athletics and a life lived the hard way. We are born with a constrained ability to make our nervous system more efficient: for example, the standing vertical jump (SVJ) is the gold-standard for measuring neuromuscular efficiency. Its value lies in its diagnostic ability - it is not very trainable, and as such it is a very good test of genetic potential for explosion. In fact, training the SVJ misses the point of why it is used. A freak-level SVJ for a male would be 36 inches, and average is about 22 inches. A guy with a SVJ of 10 inches will never improve his ability much more than 25%, no matter how hard he trains. This is because the nerves that control neuromuscular efficiency don't adapt very well or very fast, nerves being among the most specialized tissues in the body.

  • Rippetoe, Mark and Baker, Andy. Practical Programming for Strength Training, 3rd edition Aasgard Co., page 51

Now, if you still want to add vertical jump training to your program, then I agree that weighted jumps are probably better than power cleans. (They would be better as they are more specialised toward vertical jump, but the purpose of Starting Strength is not to improve one's vertical jump, and so power cleans are used, I would speculate, as they may be close enough to a deadlift to confer some benefits there, and also are a useful start should the trainee want to progress to Olympic lifts.) As for the when, do them at the end of your strength training, so they don't interfere with that, or perhaps before your HIIT, as you'd likely be too tired afterwards.

  • Thanks! From your reference 1 I read that the long jump results declined with 1.1 % per year after 30. So my vertical jump should be constrained to be approximately 15% lower than when I was younger. However I suspect that my jump is more like 30% lower than when I was younger. Other places I have read that strength decreases with 10% per decade whereas explosive strength decreases with 20%. In my opinion a large part of this is made up of inactivity; you loose what you don't use. To me this seems to indicate that it is even more important to train explosive strength as one get older. – Andy Aug 5 '18 at 9:55
  • Also when one is young one does a lot of explosive training without thinking about it. One jumps off obstacles, tries to jump as high as possible and plays basketball etc. In my opinion what you or Rippetoe refer to as a new trainee is actually quite well trained when it comes to explosive strength. I on the other hand has lead a sedate life with little explosive training for 20 years. I understand that there is a very hard limit to what I can achieve. So explosive strength should only be a small (but important) part of my training. – Andy Aug 5 '18 at 9:57
  • I found this paper: journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/1992/02000/… which seem to contradict your claim about it being almost impossible to increase vertical jump. They claim a 10.7 cm increase in vertical jump after 6 weeks of squatting and plyometrics. – Andy Aug 5 '18 at 13:31
  • BTW. I found this article which I consider highly trustworthy: main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1202/… – Andy Aug 5 '18 at 13:39

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