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
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.


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

  • Pavel,
    Thanks a lot for this post.

    I think it is very interesting, and quite different to many things you can read online nowadays about jumping.

    I claim to be no expert on this subject. However, what you advocate here goes exactly in the same line of what is said in an interview with a great leaper and dunker I read very recently (

    I see all the time reports of short guys (like me) dunking for the first time after gaining massive amounts of muscle through essentially oly weightlifting. I see the best leapers in basketball (take for instance Zach Lavine or Andrew Wiggins) or first-class high jumpers and they do not look either muscular or heavy (which makes total sense). I am pretty sure the mid section of these guys is solid as a rock, but I don’t image them putting in rep after rep of heavy snatches…

    I would like to know your opinion about the role of heavy squats and power cleans on improving your vertical jump.

    Thanks again!!!

  • why is my second reply not on the site? did i offend someone? i just would l to see pavel jump. thats it. nothing more.

  • so, pavel, i guess anyone who wants to be able to jump high and wide, should visit the barbell course???yeah, makes sense… so how is your jumping ability, after the course??? VIDEO PLEASE!!!

  • Great topic. Is there any kettlebell exercises that can be used for vertical jump? I didn’t find swing translating much into jumping up. Maybe there’s something different having that same amount of intensity and kime but vertical-jump-specific? That would be great for daily GTG.

  • How strong is strong? The most relevant lifts are probably the squat and deadlift? Dan and Pavel recommend 2x body weight squat and 2.5xBW deadlight as the diminishing returns point for power athletes. As recreational “athletes”, I wonder what kind of numbers would be recommended before “jumping a lot” is more beneficial than pure strength gains, or even safe in the first place.

  • As a kid, I regularly jumped as much as I could, with a particular affinity for the front 6 steps (>3.5′ height, 4′ depth) of my childhood home when returning from school, heading to the house after the street lights came on, or when the need for calories overcame my desire to keep playing the chase games of hide-n-seek or tag. Throughout my formative years, I “greased the groove” and jumped as much ‘stuff’ as I could, even when running in knee-deep water on the beaches of Southern California. (Think you know jumping? Try hurdling waves at your waist while running in ocean water.) When I started competing in volleyball, my Polynesian brothers and friends said I could, “Jump out of the gym!”

    This article speaks my language. It’s the physical verbiage of my youth. Well said, Pavel!

  • Interesting timing on this post. I’ve recently started practicing GTG the Naked Warrior throughout the day with the extra practice of occasional vertical jumping to teach speed strength for jumping and sprinting. I’m only experimenting with it as of now, though. I don’t know if this is the best way to go about building strength and athleticism.

  • ok, how about a video, where you actually show us how to jump???
    and i mean, show, do it yourself, walking the walk, instead of words.
    i guess you can do it, because you are strong. you are, are you?

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