The formula for power is: Power = Work/Time. The key element in this formula as it pertains to sport performance is the “time” component. How fast you are able to complete a given task is generally the determining factor in successful performance outcomes. Therefore, developing power in the weight room that transfers over to athletic field performance is critical for effective training. One of the most common exercises used by coaches to develop lower body power is the barbell jump squat. These are generally performed with low loads so that peak power can be achieved. With too much load, the velocity component decreases. The trap bar provides an alternative to the barbell for performing jumps. With the trap bar, the load is now closer to the center of mass with the arms down by the sides in a neutral position. This may allow the athlete to perform the jumps in a more advantageous and comfortable position compared to traditional barbell jump squats.
A group of Irish researchers (Turner et al. 2014) recently published a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigating the relationship between trap bar jumps and field performance in 17 professional male rugby players. Relative peak power outputs during the trap bar jump and counter-movement jump height were both collected from the athletes. In addition, 20 meter sprints with 10 meter splits were electronically timed and evaluated. Relative peak power from the trap bar jumps had a significantly strong inverse relationship with with 10 (r = -0.70) and 20 meter (r = -0.75) sprint times. A significant strong positive correlations was also found between relative peak power from the trap bar jump and counter-movement jump height (r = 0.80). Essentially, the more powerful the athletes were based on their trap bar jump, the faster they ran and the higher they jumped. Further analysis determined that, together, counter-movement jump height and relative peak power from the trap bar jump accounted for 46% of the variance and in 10 meter sprint time and 59% of the variance in 20 meter sprint time.
Overall, the results of the current study demonstrate the importance of power in a fundamental performance parameter (i.e., sprinting speed). In addition, it appears that the trap bar jump exercise may be a worthwhile exercise to include in training programs for developing relative lower body power. The authors recommend that this exercise be incorporated within a linear training program; following a maximal strength training phase. Future research should assess how changes in sprinting speed and jump height relate to changes in peak relative velocity derived from trap bar jumps. This exercise may be a suitable, if not more worthwhile alternative to traditional barbell jump squats.
Turner, TS. et al. (2014) Peak power in the hexagonal barbell jump squat and its relationship to jump performance and acceleration in elite rugby union players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in press.