Two aspects of my training changed that contributed to a significant increase in jump height - first, all my strength training is now centred around whole-body, multi-joint movements , and second, plyometric training is now incorporated into my schedule. Neither of these featured in any of my dance training, nor in the supplementary conditioning classes my college provided. I believe that's true of most dance training programmes. This strikes me as a significant shortfall in training provision, as despite limited jump height never seeming a pressing concern to me, I was clearly not performing at my full potential. There are always individuals that struggle with it, and all the male dancers I worked with were constantly being pushed to improve the height of their jumps.
This isn't only important in ballet - in all genres of dance, the ability to produce explosive force is needed in some form, and more often than not it is in jumps. So why do we not train for this? We need to maximise our jump height for both vertical jumps - think of your sautés, sissones, jetés, even pas de chats, and jumps and leaps into which we can produce and utilise greater force - grande jeté, tour jeté, switch leaps etc. Alignment and technique are essential in mastering jump height in these, however once you have mastered the technical side you can further develop jump height by training for strength and power.
Strength training in dance has been proven to increase jump height in numerous studies. The majority of dancers still do not adequately supplement technical training with strength training, and so any provision of ST is liable to promote a positive response. Multi-joint exercises however are far more effective than isolation exercises in building explosive power. They are more effective exercises in general as they replicate natural movement of the body - how often in life do we repeatedly use one single muscle or joint in isolation? It is far more common for us to use numerous joints and muscles in at the same time to produce movement, therefore training should replicate that in order for our training to be more functional and applicable to the demands we place on our bodies. Improving maximal strength relative to body mass can improve performance in explosive lower body movements, such as in jetés and jumps, multi-joint power movements have been shown to be the most effective way of building this.
Plyometric training is specifically geared toward developing power movements, involving actions in which the working muscle groups being stretched immediately prior to contraction - as when the dancer plies before performing a jeté.
There are numerous plyometric exercises that can be utilised to improve jump height. The depth jump, squat jumps and explosive lunges require little space or equipment but are highly effective in building explosive power. Adding weight to plyometric movement has not been found to produce any gains in jump height over and above the initial gains made without, so it is worth concentrating on using body weight and progressively raising the height of the jumps.
|Joe M. Bloomington, 2011|
Regardless of your current abilities, if you aren't incorporating strength training and specifically plyometric training in your training schedule, it is highly unlikely you are achieving the full elevation that your body is capable of.. Simple changes can help you make significant gains. If you have a trainer aligned to your company or school speak to them about this, if not and you don't know where to start then speak to a trainer at a gym. Adding a few new exercises to your schedule can make a substantial difference to your performance.
Brown, Andrea; Wells, Tobin; Schade, Margaret; Smith, Denise; Fehling, Patricia (2007) Effects of Plyometric Training Versus Traditional Weight Training on Strength, Power, and Aesthetic Jumping Ability in Female Collegiate Dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 11(2), pp. 38-44(7).
de Villarreal ES, Kellis E, Kraemer WJ, Izquierdo M. (2009) Determining variables of plyometric training for improving vertical jump height performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(2), pp, 495-506.
Koutedakis and Sharp (1999) The Fit and Healthy Dancer; Wiley.
Nuzzo, James L; McBride, Jeffrey M; Cormie, Prue; McCaulley, Grant O. (2008) Relationship Between Countermovement Jump Performance and Multijoint Isometric and Dynamic Tests of Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(3), pp, 699-707.