Hop Vs. Jump: Is It Really THAT Simple?

Teaching Jumping vs Hopping– Is it really that simple?

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Establishing proper locomotive coordination through repeated athletic movement is a challenging, but rewarding activity for all student athletes, at all athletic capabilities. The ability to actively execute a walk, run, hop and jump are learned and inherent physical actions. The challenge in teaching proper locomotive execution is not necessarily the student-athlete physical limitations, but the nomenclature or language you convey in your instruction. For instance, off the top of your head, without searching for the literal definition, explain the difference between something as simple as a ‘Hop’ vs. a ‘Jump’.

Not as simple as it may have initially seemed, right? It’s not as intrinsic as say the difference between ‘Spirit’ and ‘Soul’, but when defining and instructing student-athletes, one must be concise in the required physical action in order for the activity to be properly and safely performed.

I’ve consulted several colleagues and athletes regarding their interpretation or even perhaps, their definition of ‘Hop’ vs ‘Jump’ and was rather surprised to hear the multitudes of variances while cross comparing their examples.

Some suggested that a hop is performed exclusively while the athlete uses leverage in their foot to distribute force against the ground, while using a locked knee and erect hip position only. Some said, that a hop is less “active” then a jump, requiring less physical thrust in the hips and thusly resulting in a less dynamic activity (less energy expenditure and results in less vertically/height from the ground).

A jump on the other hand, was nearly unanimously considered a more “dynamic” athletic effort, requiring more energy expenditure as well as the incorporation of hip load and upper body effort.Their definitions included words and phrases like: powerful, full-body activity, higher vertical leap, requiring the use of both left and right legs, etc.

Often times this is the case, when asked to describe an inherently simple athletic movement; definitions and instruction come with confusing and complicated descriptions.

My objective in this blog is to describe how to properly instruct, in a concise manner, the proper execution of ‘Hop’ vs ‘Jump’.

As the old adage says, “You must walk before you run”. That sentiment holds true too, with regards to learning the ‘Hop’ before learning the ‘Jump’ as the former requires less coordination and instruction.

To Hop: Performed by simply plantar flexing the ankle (toes down), thusly the Soleus and Calve muscles are activated resulting in student-athlete leaving the ground. This action is performed with the use of a vertical hip orientation in a locked knee position. On the return (descent to the ground), the student-athlete must absorb the ground contact with proper absorption by bending the knees slightly with posterior hip flexion and slight forward torso lean. This can be performed from a single leg and a double leg action.

In brief, the ‘Hop’ is performed with a straighten knee, vertical hip and torso, flexion of the ankle and lower leg. It can be performed with a single or double leg action.

The Jump: is performed by simultaneously flexing the knee, with a posterior hip flexion while driving the arms behind the center of gravity (behind the body). The student-athlete then begins the ‘Jump’ action by driving the arms passed the hip, creating outward and vertical momentum. The hip then transitions from a flexed position to a vertical orientation causing the knees to become straightened resulting in vertical thrust. Similar to the ‘Hop’, the ‘Jump’ uses the ankle and lower leg flexion to further the vertical exertion. Upon, ground contact (descent), the student-athlete must absorb the impact by dorsi-flexing the ankle with posterior hip flexion and slight forward torso lean. The ‘Jump’ is inherently more dynamic and requires more athletic coordination.  

In brief, the ‘Jump’ is performed with a slightly bent knee, posterior flex hip, double arm drive and plantar flexion of the ankle. It can be performed with a single or double leg action.

I’m saying all this to explain that you can’t just tell your students that a hop differs from a jump because you use only one leg for a hop and both legs for a jump. This is where the confusion comes in to play because it’s actually all about how you load the leg and nothing about how many legs are used. These fundamental athletic activities are terrific modalities to develop balance, dynamic coordination and to develop joint, tendon and muscular stability and strength. 

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