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Jumping and Power Absorption


I've been working on increasing my explosiveness and have a question concerning power absorption.

Here are my stats:
Squat Max: somewhere around 360-380 in a couple of seconds.

standing vertical of 32 inches
running vert of 36inches

this doesn't seem like it's high enough for my level of strength. I'm starting to think my problem lies in power absorption, because my depth jump isn't very much higher than my standing vert, no matter what height box i jump from. But my clean is not near 60-70% of my squat. I know my weakness lies more near strength-speed and speed-strength, so I was trying to determine what are the best exercises for power absorption?

I'm thinking along the lines of full cleans, which I just started doing. The catch in the bottom is supposed to really impact power absorption qualities correct?

I have done drop jumps with some gains before, and depth jumps(which really didn't help because I lost strength from not squatting for a few weeks)

Recently,Ive been doing various split and regular jump squats with 10-20% of bodyweight, and squatting using parameters in Thib's vertical program. but what other exercises will really attack the power absorption aspect that I think is my weakness.


Kelly Baggett is the man you need to talk to. His book will teach you everything about jumping. Hell, his free articles will help you as well.

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I posted this in an earlier thread...

1.) Force Output / Power Output Test

A lot of trainers talk about this test. Basically it is a test to see if you need more work on force (maximal strength) output or power (more towards the speed end) output. To do this test you do a maximal squat jump. Basically you dip down like you are going to jump up, pause for a full 3 seconds, then explode up into a full jump. Then you compare this to a maximal vertical jump. The barrier is right at about 85%. That is, if your vertical leap is 30" and your squat jump is 26", that's pretty normal. The bigger the difference, the more you need to focus on force production/absorbtion. If there is hardly any difference, you aren't using power as efficiently as you could be and you need to work on that.

2.) Power Absorbtion/Production Test

This is another pretty widely used test. Basically what you are going to do is test your vertical leap and compare that to your depth jump of boxes of various heights. Basically, up to a certain point, your depth jump should be higher than your vertical leap. It might look something like this:

Vertical Leap- 30"
4" Depth Jump- 31"
8" Depth Jump- 33"
12" Depth Jump- 33.5"
16" Depth Jump- 33.5"
20" Depth Jump- 33"
24" Depth Jump- 32"
30" Depth Jump- 28"

Usually there will be a pretty noticeable drop-off at one point. Make sure you get plenty of rest (about a minute between jumps) though, so you are not tiring yourself. Remember, it's testing, not a workout.

Basically this test shows you a couple of things. First of all, it shows if you have a weakness in power absorbtion. If your depth jump is not markedly higher up to a height pretty close to your vertical (20" box or so), you probably have a power absorbtion weakness. This is because when you do a depth jump you are giving your body extra energy to use in the subsequent jump, but if you can stabilize and absorb that power, you won't see an increase. If this is the case, you need to work on power absorbtion. This test will also set the guidelines for doing depth jumps. Typically you can do depth jumps from two heights. The first will be at the height where you attained the highest jump and the second will be the box height before the "drop-off". In the example I showed you, it would be 12" and 24" boxes.

It sounds like you need to do depth drops. Reactive squats are also a great way to do this. A reactive front squat will also improve your clean. To do an REA front squat, start with the bar in the catch position. Weight should be about 60% of your 1RM. Pick your feet off the ground and rapidly descend into the squatting position. Your feet do not have to leave the ground entirely, but the bar's weight should not be on your feet, it should be falling freely (make sense?). Then, you quickly make contact with the ground and absorb the impact as quickly as possible. You can either catch in the full squat (again, think the catch in the full clean) or at the depth that you would make your countermovement to jump from (a little lower than a power clean).

When doing these it is important to couple the volume with another exercise so you can regulate it and don't kill yourself- it's very easy to over-do plyometrics.

Here is a quick and dirty program to get your reactivity up.

These exercises are all done in a rotation, meaning you do a set of exercise A., then you do a set of exercise B, then start again with A, etc.

A. Regular Back Squat (parallel or full)
Hit a 3RM (or close to it for the day- make sure you get 3 reps!) for your first set. Say you get 345 x 3. For future sets you will take 20 pounds off the bar and do sets with that.
--Rest 3 minutes--
B. REA Full Front Squat
3 reps with 60% of your max weight. Focus on quickly dropping and then absorbing.
--Rest 3 minutes--
Repeat this rotation until you can't get 3 reps with the dropped off weight in the squat. Most likely it'll be less than 5 sets. After you hit that drop-off, do one more set of REA front squats and you're done.

Do whatever you want for upper body, but don't kill yourself. Remember that your body only has certain reserves so don't "waste" them on upper body right now. I would suggest a fairly hard (but definitly not maximal) 5x5 for bench and chin or row. Make sure not to hit failure!

A. Depth Drops
I think your vertical and a half is a good height (about 48" for you), but you have to be able to absorb that so it could and probably will be lower for you. Basically you want to use the highest height you can land quietly from. Land in an "athletic" stance, not in a full squat. Do 5 reps with minimal rest in between them.
--rest 3 minutes--
B. Vertical Jumps
You will perform 5 vertical jumps with little rest in between them. These mainly are here to gauge the effects of depth drops so make sure you can measure how high you are getting accurately.
--rest 3 minutes---
Stop this rotation when your first vertical leap in B has dropped 2-2.5".

This is just a quick example, but should show you some of the methods behind improving your power absorbtion.


Thanks for the help, I'll do the two tests today prior to my workout.

For the reactive front squats, should I be using 60% of my max squat, max front squat or max clean? I'm not sure if I can do 60% of my max squat because I have hardly ever front squatted.

Also, should I be giving up full cleans and focus on reactive front squats?

As far as depth drops, I have done them before, and I think i was doing them from that exact height, with a fairly sound landing, so should I try to do them from a greater height?


I actually just threw REA front squats out there as an example. Try REA back squats. I personally like them better, but I figured since you do the oly lifts you might like front squats better.

Personally, I would rather just do REA squats than cleans. I've never really gotten into the oly lifts, but I don't see them as neccessary. Many people have had success with them, but I think the important thing is the reactive element and that can be accomplished with REA squats (usually handling more weight as well) just as easily and without technique issues.

As far as depth drop height goes, do them as high as you are comfortable, but I would definitly error on the side of caution to begin with. You will just have to do a few more sets with the lower box to hit your drop-off.

Right now your strength levels look more than adequate. My squat is just a tad lower than yours (assuming that's a squat to parallel) and I'm pushing 200# and I go 33" from standing and 38" from the run, so really work on pushing up your reactivity. Once you get that strength base, you'd be amazed at how long you can keep pushing up your numbers while staying on a power template and doing hardly any strength work. The heavy squats will help your absorbtion, but once you straighten out that problem (if it is indeed your problem), you will be able to swap the heavy squats for jump squats or short (<100m) sprints and swap the depth drops for depth jumps and that's when you will start to see great gains in your power output I think (hard to say for sure with just a few words over the internet).

The best advice I can give you when doing plyometric training (which is really anything with a high-speed absorbtion component, not neccessarily or even including jumping) is to not over do it. 4 sets of reactive squats with 200 pounds is not going to make you very tired or sore. 6 sets of depth drops are not going to make you sore. The most important aspect of power training is to developy your neural and elastic properties, your muscles play a very secondary role. Don't fall into the trap of doing 8000 drop jumps because you want to bust your ass in the weight room- I fell into that trap big time in high school!

Good luck and feel free to ask questions. When one teaches, two learn!


Just becuase you can squat big doesn't mean shit. There are a million big squatters in the gym that couldn't break 5 seconds in their 40 time if a rabid dog was chasing them, and couldn't break a 30 inch vert if it meant Jessica Simpson ass was at the top of the reach point.


I don't think anybody is saying that having a big squats means you have a big vert, are they? I'm totally in agreement with you, once you get to a certain point, extra absolute strength is really not going to help you any more. That's why this thread is all about power absorbtion/production.



Nobody even said that was a big squat because there are people my size who squat 2x that much, but for the things I like to do, like you know jumping and moving around, I'm trying to maximize what I have, which I don't think I'm doing right now.

Jtrinsey, well I have done REA back squats before with weights of 225-275(maybe too much weight?) during a training phase that included depth jumps in November.(i may have also burned myself out neurally) But I don't think I got much out of that phase, because my strength levels dropped by probably 40-50lbs when i stopped squatting for 8-10weeks. My vertical actually went down about 3 inches. When i resumed squatting around a month ago, my squat was down to 245 for reps, but has climbed back up to around 315 for 6-7 reps, and as of 2 weeks ago my vertical was back to an alltime best of what i previously stated.

Also, prior to that power phase i mentioned in november, I had done squats and various sprints and reactive exercises, with some EMS on my legs for about a 6 week period in september and october, my squat went up and my vertical increased by about 2-2.5inches. However it hasn't went any higher than that since then, has went down, and the regained strength as of late is what brought it back to that point. I'm trying to really pinpoint the weakness and after I test at the gym today, I guess I'll have a solid idea of whether or not it really is power absorption.

The reason I thought I should be doing full cleans or even reactive full squats, is because it would place more of the power absorption emphasis on my posterior chain. Am I correct in thinking this?


Eh, isnt that it right here. Your saying your vert numbers arent very high considering you squat between 360-380.

Im telling you just because you squat 360 doesnt mean you should have a higher vert than 36 inches. 36 is very high as it is. You may very well be closing in on your genetic potential, who knows.

Remember, there are a thousands of guys with skinny legs that couldnt squat there own bodyweight but that can absolutely explode when it comes to a vertical jump. Look at the NBA. A whole lotta skinny legged boys in that league.

I think that maybe you have been focusing to much in strength/lifting and not enough on the quickness of takeoff. The faster you get from a jumping stance and into the air, (the faster your muscles contract and you jump) the higher your gonna jump. Weights arent really gonna improve that time as much as good ol fashion plyo's will. However, they will strengthen the muscles allowing for a higher juimp.


Well I tried those two tests today and indeed i think that power absorption is my weakness. From a standstill with a 5 second pause, my vertical was basically the same as with the countermovement. Also with the depth jumps, my vertical was only about the same up until around 12-14inches off the box, then at the 20 inch box mark it was about 2inches lower. These results indicate that i should indeed switch my focus to power training.

I tried the REA front squats with weights from 185-205, and they were okay, but hurt my wrists somewhat because of lack of flexibility in not going that heavy before. When I do full cleans with less weight, my wrists are not an issue, but i realize i really need to focus on more weight to adequately impact my power absorption ability.

If my running vert is 3-4 inches higher than my standing vert, doesn't this mean in terms of reactivity I'm doing a decent job of taking in the extra eccentric force placed into the ground during my running approach?

I may be confused here, but are power absorption and reactivity separate entities?

Either way, I assume the bulk of my training should involve depth drops and some other absorption exercises. I suppose REA squats should be involved, but could i maybe include some split squat landings as well? Would sprinting or bounding aid in power absorption abilities? I'm just trying to incorporate some very solid exercises that will solve this weakness.


Dude - firstly REA and fullcleans are not power absorption exercises. they are actually force absorption and reaction work. Greater load/mass, slower velocity and turnaround time etc

Don't do them as frontsquats, put the bar on your back to activate the backside, and start with the bar and work up. there are no % guidelines. You probably can't snap the loads your using and that's probably part of your problem, maybe..
Why is it every time someone does a new power/explosive exercise they have to wack on a large amount of weight on it????

Also waveload these with heavier explosive squats. You will get more benefit out of em. And that will help you maintain your strength as well. When in doubt waveload - you get a 1+1=3 effect! Off course you need to have decent work capacity to do it.
Or just work up to heavy squats, low reps and low volume, in the warmups to prime your system and maintain your strength and then hit the Reactive and power work.

focus on quality. once your speed/power and reactivity drops off, you stop the session. this will vary from workout to workout so don't use set volumes. You probably won't get past 3 sets usually, if your system is putting out maximally like it should.

You should probably do 2 sessions - one where you focus on the heavier side/lower velocity of the equation with explosive work, REA and jump squats and such. And then the next session hit up the power absorption and reactive work with depth jumps, sprints and jumping for PRs etc

anyway, it could be that your system makeup and nervous system is tapped out. Not everyone can have a 40inch VJ. Your gonna need to have a hyper CNS to get there and the right structure/leverage and muscle makeup, plus training.

For instance I outweigh you by some 45lbs, your squat is around where I can fullsquat as well, but my jump is a bit higher than yours. Although I do have pretty big legs and ass :slight_smile:

Maybe you need more rate type work - it can't hurt to try. Most people seem to concentrate on the strength and big one shot power type work. But not on the cyclic relaxation and firing type work, movement/CNS efficiency etc


can someone please explain what a reactive squat or a depth jump is? i am 6'0'' and would like to be able to dunk. i dont know what my vertical is, but i can grab rim with both hands when jumping from a standstill and my max squat is 365. thanks.


Guys, I need help. I'm 150 lbs I squat 450 and my vertical leap is 38". That's not very good how can I make it better?

Just Kidding!!



One thing right off the bat, remember that when it comes to power training, less is often more. Stick to two (maybe 3 at MOST) exercises in a session and carefully regulate the volume. Based on your tests (again it's kind of hard to say), it sounds like you have incredibly low reactivity. A naturally reactive guy often is going 6"+ higher off the run than straight up. Not to get off on a tangent here but a perfect example is a teammate of mine (I play college volleyball). He can't even squat his bodyweight, but he goes 42" off the run- and only 31" from a standstill! That's an extreme example, but I'd say a "balanced" jumper is probably going 5-6" higher off the run. Add the fact that your countermovement jump is no higher than your squat jump and I honestly think that you DEFINITLY have room to improve your vertical.

CoolColJ brought up a good point about the REA squats. Remember that when training for power, the nervous system and elastic components are the most important things here. Don't get caught up in the weight. Whenever you are doing any sort of absorbtion work, you should feel a little bit of a spring or bounce at the bottom after the catch. Your body should naturally want to use the stored energy. If your landing is too "heavy" then you're using too much weight. Start lighter and work up if you need to.

Here's what I would do over the next 5 weeks:

Weeks 1-3 (Frequency)
1.) 3RM Squats/Deadlifts
Drop the load 5-6% for future sets and when you can't get 3 reps you know you're done.
2.) 3 x REA Squats (3 reps, maybe try 135#)
Your last set will be after your last set of maximal squats.

Do your normal upper body day, just don't tax your nervous sytem TOO much.

1.) 1 x 50-100 meter sprints
Use this to determine your drop-off (provided you can get an accurate timing). I would use a 3-4% drop-off in terms of time here.
2.) 5 x Depth Drops
Again, use the highest box in which your landings are perfect.

Weeks 4 and 5 (Fatigue)
1.) 3 x Maximal Vertical Jumps
You will use this to determine your drop-off, which will be 10-12% for these two weeks (so a full 3" off your vert).
2.) 3 x Depth Jumps
Your absorbtion should be improved so I would use the 20" box for these, unless your ground contact is really poor (heavy landing).

Upper Body Day

No Training- REST!

Be prepared to be in the gym for a while on Monday of weeks 4 and 5. If you can't be in the gym for more than an hour and a half, maybe go 5 reps on there.

The goal of the first 6 workouts (excluding upper body) is to really improve your force and power absorbtion qualities. Then hopefully by your last two you will really be able to improve your reactivity and that is when you should see your vertical take a step up. Considering your current poor reactivity, it wouldn't surprise me to see you go up an inch from week 4 to week 5.

If you want to get a little more fancy, you can wave-load your "power" exercises, but I think I am throwing a ton at your right now as it is.

As always, please keeping asking questions and I will do the best I can to answer them.


A reactive squat is similar to the "catch" portion of a full clean. To do an REA back squat, you would start with the weight on your back in the top position. You would then let the bar become "weightless" by dropping radily (so that your feet actually come off the ground) into the squat position. Then you would regain contact with the ground and absorb the weight.

A depth jump is performed by standing on a box, stepping off and landing on the ground, quickly absorbing that impact and jumping up into the air again. A depth drop is the same but you don't jump, you just land and absorb the impact.

If you can grab the rim from a standstill you should be able to dunk. That could definitly be a technique issue. If you have more questions I'll do my best to try to help you start to understand more.


Easy, load up a bar with a couple of nickels (make sure to collar it up!) and bang out 5-10 sets of curls in the squat rack. Probably the best exercise for vertical leap there is. Why else would everybody be doing it?


Yeah, from doing a little more reading about it, it was suggested that my results indicate i do a poor job over taking in the extra energy on the countermovement jump because my hamstrings and glute have poor reactivity. So in addition to those exercises, I may need to do REA glute hams and or speed/agility drills that emphasize the reactivity of the posterior chain. So I was thinkin during the first 3 week phase I'd be doing something like

Day 1
Back Squats
REA Squats
REA Glute/ham

Day 4 or 5
Prime Times or Back Pedal or Bounding
Depth Drops

I would be using a similar protocol as u suggested

In terms of the weight used on the Back Squat, its okay for me to work up to the heaviest 3RM i can use right? Then for subsequent weeks do i go up in weight like say 10lbs or am I supposed to keep using the same 3RM for the entire 3 weeks. I know i have to be careful to not burn myself out until the fatigue block of training. Also I see that this DB Hammer individual and those who follow his style of training get into the whole deal of %AW in terms of REA squats, so should i keep doing these squats until i get mine up to like 74 or 94%AW i cant recall which one?

BTW i don't mind if u better explain the wave loading concept of power training. I'm familiar with this general area of training, but I don't have as much knowledge as some others.



That sound fine if you want to add in another exercise into the rotation. I prefer two exercises per session for power training, but you can use three as well, you'll just drop-off a little sooner.

You should always work up to a 3RM for the day. Obviously you'll have to make a guess, but if you feel like you can progress in weight from week to week, by all means progress. The point is you want to do the best you can every single day- but not try to force yourself to do more.

That kind of ties in to the weight you do with REA squats. The weight you use will be an indicator of your reactivity level (that is, super-reactive athletes could use up to around 90% of their squat max, but slow guys will use closer to 50%), but using more weight will not neccessarily make you more reactive. It actually might hurt your reactivity since you will be absorbing too slow. Keep the weight to something you can absorb properly and let the weight come up on its own.

You can wave-load your power exercises by going from less intensity to more intensity. For instance, doing depth drops from a 40" box one set and 48" the next set.


As far as waveloading the power exercises like the squats, would that be something like this?

explosive squat for 3 reps with my 6RM
REA squats


yeah you can, but I would only do singles or doubles with that kind of load. You want to minimise fatigue, your just only concerned with the CNS side of things. 70-80% is about right.
It will make the REA squats feel much lighter and faster, warm you up and just make you attack the REA squats like nothing. That's the idea of waveloading

anyway do a search on here for tons of articles on wave loading :slight_smile:
There is a good one by Ian King