Critical analysis on the evidence of different in-season 

resistance training interventions applied to elite male 

handball players and its effects on jump height

Análisis crítico de las pruebas de las diferentes intervenciones de entrenamiento de resistencia en 

temporada de competencia aplicadas a jugadores de balonmano de elite y sus efectos en la altura del salto


Licenciado en Educación. U.M.C.E. Chile

Magíster en Entrenamiento Deportivo. U. Mayor. Chile

Master en Diseño, Gestión y Dirección de Proyectos

U. Europea Miguel de Cervantes - España

Master © Strength and Conditioning

University of Edinburgh, Escocia, Reino Unido

Embajador del programa de Internacional de Entrenadores

“ITK experts in global sports”, U. de Leipzig, Alemania

Docente Instructor en Instituto Profesional DUOC UC, Chile

Sebastian Ignacio Espoz Lazo


(Chile, Escocia)






          The aim of this document is to give information about the effects of different types of in-season intervention of resistance training performed by elite male handball players. For these purposes, critical analysis has been made on different published evidence from impact journals, which have shown relevant results about the effectiveness of these interventions over jump height gains.

          Keywords: Handball. Jump height. Resistance training. Plyometric.



          El objetivo del presente documento, es dar información sobre los efectos de diferentes tipos de intervenciones de entrenamiento de la fuerza durante la temporada de competencia en jugadores de balonmano varones de elite. Para estos propósitos, se ha realizado un análisis crítico sobre diferentes evidencias publicadas en revistas de impacto, las cuales han demostrado resultados relevantes sobre la efectividad de éstas intervenciones en el incremento de altura en el salto.

          Palabras clave: Balonmano. Salto. Entrenamiento de resistencia. Pliometría.


Reception: 13/02/2016 - Acceptance: 21/03/2016


EFDeportes.com, Revista Digital. Buenos Aires, Año 21, Nº 215, Abril de 2016. http://www.efdeportes.com/

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    A main characteristic of handball as a sport is the “ability to make and repeat explosive muscular contractions” (Chelly, Hermassi, Aouadi & Shephard, 2014) allowing the player to perform during the game a large amount of sprinting, jumping, turning, and throwing (Krueger, Pilat, Ueckert, Frech & Mooren, 2014). These technical skills are extremely important to succeed throughout the match, especially the actions of running and jumping (Schorer, Cobley, Büsch, Bräutigam & Baker, 2009) and the use of vertical jumps, as this allows the player to throw above the defense wall and to defend throws from the opponents players (Ronglan, Raastad & Børgesen, 2006).

    In order to improve these skills, especially jumping and throwing over the playing season, some coaches tends to implement traditional methods of resistance training programs, often incorporating limited weightlifting movements or too much plyometric training (Cardoso Marques & Gonzalez-Badillo, 2006). However, it seems that these traditional programs of resistance training can produce positive results like the improvement of muscular strength (Marques, 2010). Nevertheless it “is unlikely that one specific program of resistance training appeals to an entire population of trained athletes” (Marques, 2010). Hence, different methods of resistance training and its effects on muscular strength related to jump during competitive season need to be considered.

    The aim of this essay is to critically analyze the evidence of different in-season resistance training interventions applied to elite male handball players and its effects on jump height. Sources for this critical analysis were found from electronic databases including “EBSCOhost” and “OVID” through the search engine “DiscoverED” of the University of Edinburgh, using the following search terms: “handball” AND “resistance training” OR “strength training” OR “plyometric training” OR “Training with heavy loads”. Selection criteria to choose research obtained from electronic databases included: “studies that show resistance training interventions in-season applied on male elite handball players with specific evaluations on jump”. Criteria to reject research obtained from electronic databases was: “studies that show resistance training interventions off-season” and “studies that show resistance training interventions in-season applied on youth male, youth female, female elite or non-elite male or female handball players.

Critical analysis

    Due to the wide range of skills and a high level of fitness that are demanded to perform by players throughout a top level handball game (Ingebrigtsen, Jeffreys & Rodahl, 2013), and furthermore, the high levels of force power production and the anthropometric characteristics on elite handball players, especially height, that constitute the decisive factors to succeed during competition (Vila et al., 2012), the different resistance training intervention In-season and its effects on jumping should be given an important consideration. The study of Hermassi, Chelly, Tabka, Shephard, and Chamari (2011) shows an 8-weeks intervention in-season of heavy resistance training has shown significant improvements on Vertical Jump test (VJ) compared pre and post intervention relative to Control Group (Table 1.). During the 8-weeks intervention, the experimental group complemented their regular training with sessions twice per week of resistance training exercises composed by Bench Press, Pull over and Half-Back Squat (with a progression from 80% to 95% of RM during 16 sessions), while the control group maintained their regular handball training. This intervention of resistance training seems to be adequate to improve jumping performance, according to the study of Toumi, Best, Martin, and Poumarat (2004), especially if it is understood that this intervention of resistance training complements the regular handball training where a large amount of jumps are practiced. In addition, the rate of force development should be expected to increase when intensities between 80% to 95% are performed (Schmidtbleicher, 1992).

Table 1. (Hermassi et al. 2011)

    Nevertheless, is important to consider that this study does not describe how the groups where randomized, allowing the possibility that the experimental group may be composed by the starters players while the control group by substitute players. Thus, a cumulative effect (due to a higher volume of stimulus on jumping during games) on those players that have more time in court every match, could also explain the gains on jumping performance (Robbins, Marshall & McEwen, 2012). In fact, the control group showed a reduction in the parameters evaluated in the test, although not very significant, this allows discussing the reliability of this study.

    Another study, has performed an intervention of strength training combined with plyometric exercise during 12 weeks (only 7 weeks of plyometrics). The results have shown that there were no significant differences between pre and post intervention evaluation on VJ (Carvalho, Mourão & Abade, 2014). Nevertheless, the increase on jumping height it is possible to observe in all jumps tested (Table 2). This might be caused by a learning effect. However, the studies of Nibali, Tombleson, Brady, and Wagner (2015) and Cormack, Newton, McGuigan, and Doyle (2008) has shown evidence on the reliability of VJ test, emphasizing that “no learning effect” or “familiarization” affect the test results. In addition, a similar study on Plyometric intervention in-season on elite soccer players has shown that 8 weeks (biweekly session) has “improved jumping performance above expectations” (Chelly et al., 2010). Along with this evidence, the study of Asadi (2013) has demonstrate that a 6-week plyometric intervention in-season with professional basketball players has significantly increased their jumping performance, as evaluated with VJ test. Therefore, more studies have to be done in order to demonstrate if the combined strength training with plyometric could have a non-expected effect on jumping performance compared with those intervention that use just plyometric training.

Table 2. (Carvalho et al., 2014)

    Finally, the study of Cardoso Marques and Gonzalez-Badillo (2006), has shown significate gains on CMJ test results after 2 cycles of 6 weeks of resistance training composed by two maximal dynamic strength exercises and 3 power exercises performed 2-3 sessions per week in addition to regular handball training. However, these improvements could be explained due to the specificity of the power exercises to jumping technique, which is “determinant of CMJ performance” (McErlain-Naylor, King & Pain, 2014), than by increasing the strength of lower limbs. Nevertheless, technical training is also important for the development of intermuscular coordination which is an influential factor of force production in CMJ (Baker, 1996). Nonetheless, a control group was not used in this study, limiting the replicability of the intervention.

Table 3. (Cardoso Marques & Gonzalez-Badillo, 2006)


    The aim of this document was to critically analyze the evidence of different in-season resistance training interventions applied to elite male handball players and its effects on jump height, in order to determine which interventions may be the most suitable to replicate, expecting positive results during the competitive period.

    In general, it seems that heavy resistance training, combined resistance & plyometric training, or maximal dynamic & power exercises training programs, performed in-season over 6 weeks are useful to improve jump height. This would be consistent with Robbins et al. (2012) who explain that at least 6 weeks of training should be done in order to be able to observe relative significant results with protocols that consider ≥ 4 repetitions per set. However, it is necessary to have specific considerations for each intervention before carrying them out.

    For one hand, an 8-week intervention of heavy resistance training, it might improve jump height, provably due to the development of intramuscular coordination which improves using heavily loaded exercises (Hermassi, Chelly, Fathloun & Shephard, 2010), which means that this kind of intervention might not have the expected results in those handball players that are already adapted to high overloads.

    In relation to the intervention of resistance training and plyometric, although this seems to improve jump height, this could not generate the expected results compared to those interventions in-season where only plyometric exercises were used (Asadi, 2013; Chelly et al., 2014). It seems that by mixing both types of exercises (resistance & plyometric) the positive effects of plyometric training could be affected somehow. Further studies should be conducted in this area.

    Finally, an in-season intervention of maximal dynamic & power exercises, were the use of loads that resembled “the skill in terms of movement, speed, and patter”. (Cardoso Marques & Gonzalez-Badillo, 2006) it also seems to improve jump height. In contrast with the evidence of Hermassi et al. (2011) and according to Baker (1996) the loaded-squat jumps, practiced in this intervention, should be more effective to develop intermuscular coordination, which means that this kind of intervention might not necessarily to be implement, while the used of vests during regular handball training could be an efficient alternative. More studies should be done.

Recommendation for application

    All evidence included in this critical analysis, it seems to be clear that any intervention of at least 6 weeks of resistance training during the competition season is positive for improving jump height. Although not all results are significant, no negative effects were observed. Therefore, it is recommended to carry out a program of resistance training during the competitive period, this should start with a process of medium loads and then to continue with a progression to maximum loads, which would ensure the development of inter- and intra-muscular coordination. At the same time, studies of combined resistance training and plyometric in handball players should be performed in order to prove if different protocols can provide significant benefits.


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