This study examined the effects of 4 weeks of intensive drop jump training in well-trained athletes on jumping performance and underlying changes in biomechanics and neuromuscular adaptations. Nine well-trained athletes at high national competition level within sprinting and jumping disciplines participated in the study. The training was supervised and augmented feedback on performance was used to ensure maximal training intensity. The drop jumps were performed with minimal contact time and maximal jumping height. Assessment of performance during training showed effects of motor learning. Before and after the training intervention maximal isometric muscle strength, the biomechanics, muscle activity pattern of the lower extremities and the soleus H-reflex and V-wave during drop jumping were measured. Maximal jump height and performance index (PI) defined as jumping height divided by contact time improved significantly by 11.9% (P = 0.024) and 16.2% (P = 0.009), respectively. Combined ankle and knee joint peak power was significantly increased by 7% after training (P = 0.047). The preactivity in the soleus muscle decreased 16% (P = 0.015). The soleus H-reflex was unchanged after training, while the soleus V-wave increased significantly at 45 msec after touchdown. This may indicate an increased drive to the α-motor neuron pool following training. Muscle strength parameters were unaffected by the training. The results demonstrate that 4 weeks of intensive drop jump training can improve jumping performance also in well-trained athletes without concomitant changes in muscle strength. It is suggested that the behavioral improvement is primarily due to neural factors regulating the activation pattern controlling the drop jump movement.
Physiological Reports, 2013, Vol 1, Issue 5, p. 1-11