Standing broad jump – the single most-failed station in the individual physical proficiency test (IPPT), and the bane of the NS man’s existence. We comprehensively troubleshoot five common mistakes that are keeping you from passing the dreaded standing broad jump station.
1. You’re Swinging Your Arms Wrong
Leg power is what propels you forward, but the arm swing is what lifts you higher and prevents an early touch down. “The arms help to build elastic energy in the body,” says Daniel Dittmar, senior instructor and owner of Focus Pilates. “This is released at take off to give the body extra momentum.” Don’t ignore arm strength and technique while training for the standing broad jump. It accounts for 15 per cent (yes, 15 per cent!) of your total jump distance.
Training Tips: Inclined bench presses, barbell rows with palms facing upwards, frontal dumbbell raises with palms facing each other, tricep extensions and bicep curls using the EZ bar can all develop the muscles responsible for a strong arm swing.
To execute perfect swinging technique, start standing tall with your arms raised in front, drop down into a crouch while swinging your arms backwards, then immediately sweep your arms forward as you launch.
2. You Forgot About Your Hip Muscles
The musculature around the hips is possibly the most important complex in the body, yet it is underdeveloped in most people, says Augustine Lee, bodybuilder and founder of Fitness Factory Singapore. Strong hips enable the body to move powerfully and efficiently, which is essential for performing the standing broad jump.
Most of the power that propels you forward in a jump comes from the glutes in the hip – better known as your butt muscles. Unfortunately, these are often severely under-trained as well. “Many people spend all their time in a seated position, so their glutes don’t work well,” says Mitch Chilson, an assistant instructor at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts. “Their glutes are stretched out all day and become neurologically inhibited.” That is, their brains tell their butt muscles not to work.
Training Tips: “You can’t expect to sit around all day then get up and jump 243 centimeters,” Mitch says. To reactivate your dormant butt muscles, do some simple hip extension exercises, then do lower extremity exercises like front squats, dumbbell lunges and hanging leg raises for strength.
3. You’ve Only Been Training Your Leg Strength
Larger leg muscles means a longer jump, right? Not so, it seems. “As the standing broad jump is a ballistic type movement, the best way to train it is to use plyometrics,” says Daniel.
In a nutshell, this type of movement generates large amounts of power in a small amount of time and usually consists of explosive movements like jumping. Traditional resistance exercises are actually far less important for the standing broad jump than plyometrics. It’s not about how much muscle you’re packing in your legs, it’s about how much power those muscles can release in a quick burst.
“However, ballistic type movements like plyometrics and the standing broad jump are a lot more prone to injury than resistance training, due the large amount of force involved,” says Daniel. Traditional weight training exercises and flexibility training help to build strength to minimise the risk of injury while jumping.
Training Tips: “An 8-week program of resistance training together with plyometric exercises will help an NS man with the standing broad jump,” says Augustine.
Resistance training should be the main focus for the first 4 weeks. A routine of lower body exercises like squats, leg press, lunges and leg extension will help to build up the body’s foundation. The next 4 weeks will be spent on plyometrics, which refers to a form of explosive training. To ‘explode’ further when you jump, do lower body plyometric exercises like squat jumps, box jumps and tuck jumps.
4. You’ve Got No Technique
Improper leg extension, weak arm movements, not leaning forward – so many things can go wrong in the few milliseconds of a standing broad jump take-off. It’s all about technique here, right down to the angle of your knees before the jump.
“Firstly, aim far. You will have to look much farther than your target jumping distance to help you propel forward,” Augustine suggests. “Secondly, coordinate both the arms and bending of legs motion. Bend your legs at slightly less than 90-degree angles and arms swinging all the way back. It is recommended to do some tuck jumps for about 10 times before the actual test jump to warm up the leg muscles first.”
Landing is as much a part of the jump as the takeoff. “To land safely you need to absorb the force of the landing by allowing the knees and hips to flex. This uses the muscle eccentric contraction to slow down the landing, therefore minimising the impact on the joints and other tissues,” says Daniel. After all, what good is a jump if you fall flat on your face after?
Training Tips: “You have to have a strong core to land properly,” says Mitch. Exercises like planks develop the body's ability to stabilise. Also do single-leg deadlifts to train your balance and landing capability.
5. You’re Scared Of Wiping Out
Cheesy as it may sound, jumping is a very psychological activity. It is natural to feel like you’re falling while in the mid-air phase of a jump, but the bad thing is that your body will try to land early, even though you’ve got to jump far.
“Practice, practice, practice,” says Daniel. “Fear usually comes from something your not used to.” “Most people don’t put time in their training for the broad jump,” Mitch says. “The more you train something, the more confidence you’ll have.”
Also, embarrassment is probably the greatest inhibition to the standing broad jumper – the fear of looking like a fool in front of your peers often outweighs the desire to do well. Regardless, with these tips, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank with an IPPT cash reward ($200 for silver, $400 for gold) while your friends are stuck with remedial training.
Training Tips: Build up your confidence by starting off with smaller jumps to train, and gradually increase the distance and power.