The Case for Grease-the-Groove Jump Training

So you want to improve your jumping ability? First, get strong and symmetrical. Then start “greasing the groove” (GTG) with all sorts of jumps.

The Obsession of World-Class Jumpers

Speaks Victor Lonsky, Distinguished Coach of the USSR who prepared a whole school of elite high jumpers in a small town:

In our gym there are no objects that cannot be used for jumping. Gymnastic apparatus?—Very good. One can jump onto parallel bars, the pommel horse, the balance beam, the stall bars. A basketball hoop?—It also works. You can have competitions in touching the board or the net—with the hand for younger kids and with a leg for the older ones. Some years ago a photo of Brumel kicking a basketball hoop made its way around the world. Back then it seemed fantastic, impossible… but today many of my guys do this exercise.

…No matter what volume of jumps one performs in training sessions, even daily ones, it is insufficient for a jumper’s preparation. I sensed this intuitively for a long time. And now I can prove it with calculations. Even for a big talent it is impossible to become an elite jumper without a certain—very large—volume of jumps. I do not want to scare anyone, but 100,000 jumps is the necessary minimum. And these are just the sports jumps; assistance jumps are not included into that number, even though they are no less important in reaching success. A beginner jumper should jump several hours a day—in addition to his [formal] training session.

Valery Brumel Jumping Training
Soviet high jump legend Valery Brumel.

If you do not have your sights on Olympic gold, 100,000 jumps are an overkill, but the GTG principle remains. Lonsky continues:

Not a single opportunity to jump ought be missed throughout the day. I am happy when I hear that my guys do not walk on stairs but jump over several steps, jump rather than climb over fences, scare their mothers by jumping over clothes lines, and even when they go to sleep, they jump into bed. At times I have to pretend that I do not approve such behavior, especially in public places, but the kids and I know that there is no other way. A boy does not become a jumper until he got the “jump fever”, an itch in the soles of his feet. And it is not just the matter of logging in several thousand jumps. I must be convinced that jumps are obsessing him, he thinks of nothing else, he is developing a fanaticism that is a must for a jumper—or any other athlete. I once watched one of my athletes jumping over a puddle. He accelerated, strongly pushed off, and… tumbled right in the middle of the puddle. His friends and passers by laughed and I also smiled. Wet and embarrassed, the lad was too comical. However, no one but me noticed that at the moment of the jump he completely forgot about the puddle. He did not make a long jump; he made a high jump. He jumped over an imaginary bar and landed as if he just conquered a height. He was not thinking about the recent rain or the puddle but about the jump. I do not need to worry about his future in sport.”

Grease the Groove Jump Training
High jump coach Victor Lonsky in the center. And no, the gent on the right is not Yul Brynner.

Prof. Nikolay Ozolin, one of the top Soviet sports scientists and a former USSR record holder in the pole vault, favors one traditional long practice and many mini-practices, some as short as five minutes:

I recall the vivid example of Japanese athlete Chuhei Nambu who, in preparation for the Olympic games, throughout the day, in addition to the main practice, used every free minute for making springy hops and jumps—walking to school, on the way home, standing around with friends, etc. This helped him to set the world long jump record. Much later, in a personal conversation, he told me that all this had really helped him to turn his legs into, as he put it, “steel springs”. When I asked him, had not he got tired from such a multitude of jumps, he replied no, explaining that between each 5-10min session of jump exercise there were long breaks, sufficient for restoration. You see, this is the essence of effective fragmentation of training sessions—sufficient restoration between them.

Jump Training Chuhei Nambu
Chuhei Nambu, famous Japanese long and triple jumper.

How to Conduct Your GTG Jump Training

In your GTG sessions, make use of all sorts of jumps — except for depth jumps, altitude jumps, and other jumps particularly stressful to the musculoskeletal system. Serious power athletes should do them only in their formal training sessions, supervised by professional coaches. Everyone else has no business doing them at all.

You have plenty of other jumps to choose from: the standing broad jump, the standing vertical jump, long and vertical jumps with a pre-run, a vertical jump to touch a tree branch, the squat jump, one-legged hops — the list goes on.

Research parcours jumps—not the crazy kind that could put you in a hospital but the kind that calls for very precise landings. In a study by Rewzon, long jumpers did not jump their maxes in training, but were instructed to jump various sub-maximal distances and be accurate about landing at specified spots. The subjects “generalized” their skill and improved their maximal jumps! The researcher who conducted the study found that practicing over a wide range of parameters was much more effective than simple repetition of the task with fixed parameters. As motor learning researcher Dr. Schmidt put it, variable practice teaches “much… more than just the specific movements actually practiced.”

Of course, there is volleyball and basketball. Lonsky comments, “Basketball is more than one of my favorite games. It is a ‘sparring’ absolutely essential for a jumper… In it I found an additional but absolutely essential jumping reserve. [These jumps’] addition is not perceived as excess load because [the load] is masked by the emotional high of the game…”

But before you jump, remember that you must be strong first.
Before you jump, get strong.
the sfl barbell course will teach you how.

Pavel Tsatsouline
CEO
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

13 thoughts on “The Case for Grease-the-Groove Jump Training

  • wow! once again, thanks Pavel! YOU TRULY ARE THE ULTIMATE COMRADE.

    if I apply GTG to the one arm push-up. should I stop my “regular” training? should I leave the bells on the side for a couple of weeks till I can accurately perform a one arm push-up with feet elevated and so on??

    I would really appreciated an answer please!
    stay strong and fit.

    Thanks!

  • Great article, i’ll start adding jumps to my “GTG” regime tomorrow. This info complements the stuff I learnt from verticaljumpworld.com nicely. One day I will dunk!

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