Rudiment Hops - The Plyometric Exercise For Every Athlete

Plyometric and jump training is common in the training of many athletes. Coaches for decades have found benefits in utilizing different types of jump training in their development of sprinters, jumpers, team sport athletes, etc.

While it is certainly true that athletes can benefit from jump training of all sorts, I personally feel that there is a tendency to add more advanced forms of jump training into sprint training programs before athletes have mastered basic hopping and jumping exercises. This may work for many, but rudiment hops give us a good balance of risk versus reward compared to more complex jump training. 

Before progressing an athlete's training to jumps and plyometrics that are more complex or more physically taxing, I prefer to utilize basic rudiment hop progressions. These exercises are relatively easy to learn and are safe to implement, and will help athletes build strong ankles, develop coordination, learn to control their posture in space, and ultimately set them up to progress toward more advanced exercises when the time is right.

What are rudiment hops?

Rudiment hops are low amplitude jumps performed on either one or two legs, and can be performed forward, backward, sideways, or in place. These types of jumps exhibit minimal vertical and horizontal displacement, making them safer than exercises where athletes are impacting the ground at high vertical or horizontal speeds.

Different variations of rudiment hops can include:

  • Double leg hops in place
  • Double leg hops forward
  • Double leg hops backward
  • Double leg hops sideways
  • Single leg hops forward
  • Single leg hops backward
  • Single leg hops sideways with lead leg
  • Single leg hops sideways with trail leg
  • Alternating hops (left right left right)
  • Double alternating hops (left left right right)

What are the benefits of rudiment hops?

Rudiment hops can be used for various goals, and how they are implemented will depend on the needs of the athlete.

Basic propulsion and landing mechanics can be taught with in-place and moving hops, with an emphasis being placed on how the athlete interacts with the ground. Many will struggle with learning how to use the entire foot for landing, and a lot of athletes will default to landing on their toes instead of rolling from their heel to the ball of the foot.

Rudiment hops can be used to develop the tissues of the leg, with a particular emphasis on the lower leg, ankle, and foot. For example, athletes who struggle to maintain bounciness through the end of the sprint might benefit from extended rudiment hops, such as performing sets of 25 to 50 hops with an emphasis on bouncing repeatedly over a short distance. Exposing the body to these repeated ground contacts can help develop the qualities that are relevant to elastic endurance requirements we see in the sprint events.

Rudiment hops also offer us a good option as a plan B form of training, when an injury limits the work we can perform. For example, someone with a hamstring injury can get a good vertical force and elastic bounce stimulus from in place rudiment hops, without putting a lot of stress on their troublesome hamstring. Used alongside dribble progressions, rudiment hops can give many athletes an opportunity to train even if they are not able to sprint on a given day.

How do we perform rudiment hops?

There are a few basic technical requirements for properly performing rudiment hops.

First the athlete should stand upright with their hands on their hips. They can use free hands as well, but I find that athletes are better able to learn the proper ground contact mechanics when they aren’t worried about what to do with their arms.

Once the hops are initiated, athletes should aim to land with a rolling, heel first contact. Because the horizontal velocity of these hops are low, we contact the ground similar to how we would when walking or jogging - by rolling from the heel to the ball of the foot. The heel should be moving downward or downward and backward into the ground, not forward at the point of impact. These ground contacts should occur directly under the athlete, not in front, behind, or to the side.

As the athlete rolls from their heel to the ball of the foot, they should dorsiflex the ankle and lift their toes off the ground. The toes may contact at the end of the ground contact, but the athlete should be focusing on activating lifting the forefoot up in order to leave the ground and maintain proper ankle stiffness. This presents a great learning and movement discipline opportunity, as athletes who get lazy with dorsiflexion will be easy to identify when they bias too much toward forefoot landings.

Athletes need to manage their posture to maintain an upright and balanced position. Care should be taken to avoid hitching (torso bobbing back and forth), as well as to minimize side bending or leaning. Athletes can be instructed to squeeze their abs in an effort to avoid flopping around like a fish, and should be cued to feel a vertical displacement from the ground - not a horizontal displacement.

Typically, issues with rudiment hops can be solved by making sure the athlete does not go very far forward each hop. This will minimize reaching and allow them to roll through the foot properly while maintaining good posture.

Progressing Rudiment Hops

Rudiment hops should be progressed like anything else, from basic to more complex, from less taxing to more taxing, and from lower loads to higher loads, over time.

Sample Progression

  1. In place hops.
  2. In place hops with more contacts.
  3. In place hops with higher amplitudes.
  4. Moving hops.
  5. Moving hops with more contacts.
  6. Moving hops with alternating feet.
  7. Moving hops with higher amplitudes and horizontal displacement.
  8. Moving hops with alternating feet, higher amplitudes, and horizontal displacements.
  9. Loaded hops with a med ball or weight vest, progressed similarly as previously stated.

Assessing Rudiment Hops

When observing yourself or other athletes, rudiment hops can be used as an assessment tool to diagnose movement issues, to identify potential sources of future or past injury, to see how athletes manage their body in space, and other related qualities.

For example, some athletes might default to staying on their toes, suggesting they lack access to dorsiflexion range of motion. This inability to dorsiflex could be joint related and remedied with a banded joint distraction, it could be strength related and improved by strengthening the anterior tibialis, or it could be a coordination issue that gets sorted out by doing more rudiment hops with proper cueing and emphasis on technique.

Other athletes might exhibit excessive bias toward supination or pronation during landing and takeoff, and this could be worked on by instructing the athlete to land with a more balanced foot position. They may need to be instructed to lift their pinky toe, big toe, lateral aspect of the foot, or the arch, depending on what you are trying to fix.

Some athletes may struggle with bringing the foot down and back to the ground to roll through the heel, and this may be particularly evident in athletes who tend to reach forward for the ground and overstride. These same athletes may tend to crash forward with their foot at ground contact when they sprint. Emphasizing toe up, heel back type cues may help these athletes learn what it is like to bring the foot down under them rather than reach forward for the ground. These athletes are typically more prone to shin splints, knee pain, and anterior hip pain, due to their tendency to crash forward into the ground.

If you see athletes who exhibit a lot of torso movement while in space, these athletes may also struggle with managing their torso and pelvic tilt while sprinting. Squeezing their abs or attempting to hold a certain pelvic position may be useful, as well as teaching them to simply push straight up off of the ground each step. Athletes who cannot maintain a stable spinal and pelvic posture should regress to in place hops, shifting to moving hops once they can manage their body positioning with the less complex hops.

Be sure to video your hops from the front, back, and side, so that you can see how the foot, ankle, leg, and body as a whole operate in different planes of movement. Lateral joint movements, leg rotations, and lateral torso movement can be assessed from front and back viewing angles, whereas forward/backward landing mechanics and dorsiflexion can be viewed more easily from the side.

Rudiment Hop Workout Examples

  • In Place Hops
    • 20x Double Leg Hops Vertical
    • 20x Double Leg Hops Side To Side
    • 20x Double Leg Hops Forward & Backward
  • Moving Hops
    • 2x25 Single Leg Hops Forward
    • 2x25 Single Leg Hops Backward
    • 1x25 Single Leg Hops Sideways w/ Lead Leg
    • 1x25 Single Leg Hops Sideways w/ Trail Leg
  • Extensive Moving Hops
    • 3x40 Single Leg Hops Forward
    • 3x40 Single Leg Hops Backward
  • Complex Moving Hops
    • 3x40 Left-Left-Right-Right Forward
    • 3x40 Leg-Right-Left Right Forward
    • 5x Single Leg Forward Hops To Single Leg Box Jump
  • Progressive Moving Hops
    • 3x30 Single Leg Hops Forward w/ Increasing Amplitude & Displacement
    • 3x10+10 Single Leg Hops Forward into Single Leg Cycle Hops Forward