Improve your standing broad jump (part 1)

Try some exercises to improve your broad jump. (Photo courtesy of Coach Jon)
Try some exercises to improve your broad jump. (Photo courtesy of Coach Jon)

One week ago, I presented a talk at the "Defence Science and Research Conference 2011". This was a gathering of military, civil defence, and physical education experts who wanted to learn about how they could improve the performance of their students and trainees.

My topic was "How to prepare for standardised physical tests in minimal time". Given that the standardised tests of NAPFA or IPPT are common in Singapore schools and the armed forces/civil defense, getting better and faster results for trainees is a key element in the success of these institutions.

The main topic of discussion and Q & A, of course, was the standing broad jump. The "most failed" and "hardest to improve" part of most standardised physical tests.

Here is part one about how my staff and I have helped hundreds of people boost their standing broad jump (SBJ) results at our Singapore gym.

Firstly, the average time given to us by a client, to help boost their IPPT/NAPFA results is only about 4-6 weeks. This means 2 things.

1. We can't use methods that don't work. This means we have to throw out "fancy" but useless exercises which include...

  • Large amounts of specialised "core" training

  • Unstable surface training like balancing on Swiss balls or vibrating surfaces

  • Excessive cardiovascular exercise

  • Any form of training that is "random" and has no particular plan or structure other than making the trainee "exhausted".

Those methods are nice and "cute" and may attract the client who wants an entertaining workout session, but when we have 4-6 weeks to make a big jump in progress (usually 20-40cm improvement), and where results are measurable there is no place for "cute", there is only time for effective!

My job is to train champions, not to entertain clients. Gyms are for training and results. Entertainment is done at movies and theatres.

2. We have to spend a majority of time working on the areas that are hardest to improve

This means that the top area to focus on is the standing broad jump, because, it is an indicator of strength and power. Strength and power are the slowest and most difficult areas of fitness to improve.

As all Singapore men will realise, in the 8-12 weeks of basic military training, there are many trainees who start off running about 13 minutes for the 2.4km run. 8-12 weeks later, they often run about 10 minutes for the same distance. An improvement of about 30 percent. This is common and has probably happened to many of you guys.

However the number of people who improve their standing broad jump from 200cm to 260cm (also a 30 percent improvement) is about the same as the number of Singaporeans in history who have played basketball in the NBA... i.e. zero.

As you can see from this real-life example that many of us have experienced, strength and power (SBJ) is much much harder to improve than endurance (2.4km run).

So what do we do about it?

Get stronger!

When we want to do well in an event like the SBJ, we look for what is known as predictor lifts. This concept was taught to me by my mentor in strength training, Olympic Coach Charles Poliquin.

It means, that by understanding how a sport or activity is performed, there can be exercises in the gym that can accurately predict your improvement in that sport or activity. If you get stronger in that exercise (and you didn't get heavier!), your sport or activity performance will improve.

The predictor lifts that I have found for the Standing Broad Jump are the Stiff Leg Dead-lift and the Front Squat. If a trainee improves these lifts, they will improve their standing broad jump performance.

From my experience, for a person of average genetics the requirements for these lifts to get a silver standard in the SBJ are as follows.

  • Stiff Leg Deadlift their own body weight for 6 reps

  • Front squat their own body weight for 3 reps

That means that if you weigh 70kg, you need to do the front squat with a weight of 70kg, 3 times with a slow lowering of 4 seconds while lifting as fast as you can.

Yes, there will be some people who can jump like kangaroos even without these strength requirements, however, they are the genetically-gifted ones who have no need for this article!

So here is a sample training program for an athlete who wants to improve their SBJ. Below is a video of how to perform these exercises. Demonstrated by Jen, 2010 Singapore's Strongest Man and one of the excellent coaches at our gym.

SBJ Training

4 sets each of A and B

A1 — Front Squat 4-6 reps, 4010 tempo, rest 90 sec

A2 — Lying Leg Curl, Feet Neutral, Toes Down 4-6 reps, 4011 tempo, rest 90 sec

B1 — Dumbbell Split Squat 6-8 reps, 3010, 60 sec

B2 — Stiff Leg Deadlift 6-8 reps, 3010, 60 sec

Perform this workout once every 5-7 days with good technique for the next 6 weeks. And each time, try to either increase the reps of each exercise by 1 or increase the weight used by at least 2 percent. You will find yourself jumping better within 4-6 weeks!

This new strength will transfer into better broad jumping because these exercises train the muscles that are used in the broad jump.

In Part 2 next week, we will look at how to turn this strength into results by using the right jumping technique. Think of strength as the size of your cup and technique as the amount of water in the cup. Today I have taught you how to get a bigger cup; next week I will explain how to fill the cup.

NOTE: This article assumes a few things

  • You are not fat. If you can't see your abs, you are too fat for maximum jumping performance. Change your carbohydrate intake as I explain in this article, and stick to unprocessed foods.

  • You are not injured, especially in the knees. If you have any history of knee issues, do 4-6 weeks of the exercises in the knee injury articles I wrote. Here is part 1 and here is part 2.

  • The Video is a guide to the exercises, but as you might imagine, it is almost impossible to teach/learn perfect technique from a video. (Nobody learns martial arts by watching Kung Fu Panda or even Bruce Lee movies right!) If you have any doubts please get a good coach to assist you.

Coach Jonathan Wong is a Singapore personal trainer and performance expert. He is also a fitness author and a member of Singapore Men's Health Advisory Panel.

For the best personal training and fitness boot camp program in Singapore visit