Vertical jump height is a valuable indicator of lower body power and athleticism. Further, jumping is a component of nearly all field and court sports. An athlete’s ability to propel themselves vertically provides an advantage during competition. Catching high thrown balls in football, stealing a rebound from your opponent under the rim in basketball or spiking a volleyball are all great examples of the importance of vertical jumping ability. Training to improve vertical jumping ability should therefore be an important consideration for coaches.
A new study from the Journal of Exercise Physiology looks at the effectiveness of the hang clean for improving vertical jumping ability in high school athletes. Scherfenberg and Burns (2013) split 173 high school athletes into 3 separate training groups; a squat only group (SQG), a hang clean only group (HCG) and a squat and hang clean group (SCG). All athletes performed the same warm up and the same assistant exercises following the experimental movements. The experimental protocol was as follows;
- SQG – 6 sets of Squats
- HCG – 6 sets of Cleans
- SCG – 3 sets of Cleans and 3 sets of Squats
The athletes trained twice per week over a 6 week period. Intensity progressively increased from week 1 to week 6 while volume progressively decreased for each group. Vertical jump was assessed before and after the 6 week training period with a Vertec. Average increases in vertical jump for each group were;
- SQG – 0.7cm increase
- HCG – 2.7cm increase
- SCG – 3.8cm increase
Evidently, the hang cleans played an important role in improving vertical jump height, however including both squats and cleans in the same program had the greatest positive impact on jump height. The inclusion of hang cleans in your programming certainly deserves consideration. However, each coach must weigh the pros and cons of incorporating this exercise as it is a complex and technical movement that requires constant coaching and supervision. Resisted squat jumps or hex bar jumps may be suitable alternatives. What appears most important is that the exercise involves explosive vertical force production into the floor against resistance for carryover to the vertical jumping task.
Scherfenberg, E. & Burns, S. (2013). Implementing Hang Cleans for the Improvement of Vertical Jump in High School Athletes. Journal of Exercise Physiology (online), 16(2).