Traditional weight training exercises do not always allow the use of explosive speed or the movements needed to develop sport specific power. If you want to rev up your metabolism and advance your fitness, plyometric training is for you.
Plyometric training involves training the nerve cells to stimulate a specific pattern of muscle contraction, so the muscle generates as strong a contraction as possible in the shortest amount of time. A plyometric contraction initially involves a rapid muscle lengthening movement (eccentric phase), followed by a short resting phase (amortisation phase), then an explosive muscle shortening movement (concentric phase), which enables muscles to work together in executing the particular motion. Traditional weight training exercises do not always allow the athlete to use the explosive speed or the movements needed to develop sport specific power.
However, whether you’re a competitive sportsperson or not, plyometrics can add a valuable dimension to your training programme, not to mention it is also great for you. It is good for your heart and circulation, and also helps to develop flexibility and speed. Another positive is that you can do it anywhere you are most comfortable – in your house or out in the lawn – as you don’t need much equipment other than your workout gear and yourself.
Getting ready for plyometrics
Plyometrics are a very high intensity form of training, placing a substantial amount of stress on the bones, joints and connective tissue. Prior to starting a programme there are several aspects you need to consider to ensure your training sessions are performed safely and effectively;
It is important to have a good strength base and conditioning level before performing plyometrics. Without good lower body and core strength, one may be susceptible to an injury or possibly overtraining. It has been suggested that an athlete be able to squat twice their body weight before attempting depth jumps. However, less intensive plyometric exercises can be incorporated into general weight training during the early stages of a programme to progressively condition the individual.
It is essential that you warm up sufficiently before starting a plyometric training session, as your ligaments, tendons and muscles are placed under a lot of pressure during this type of training. Any mistake in the execution can result in an injury or sprain.
Don’t jump if you don’t know how to land! A good landing involves the knees remaining aligned over the toes, the trunk inclined forward slightly, the head up and the back flat. You need to focus on landing softly on your toes and rolling onto your heels. This is done by using the whole foot for landing, which will help dissipate the impact of the forces on the joints. When you are learning to do plyometrics for the first time you should spend the first two to three weeks focused on the landing and learning how to safely move out of it before moving on to more intense drills.
To prevent injuries, the landing surface should possess good shock-absorbing properties. The best surface is a grass field, or a good alternative would be a wrestling mat or a sprung aerobics floor
There are a number of aspects that need to be taken into account to ensure a safe and effective plyometric programme. Proper equipment and an adequately sized training area should be used. Your footwear should be well cushioned, as well as provide sufficient ankle and arch support to prevent an injury. Running shoes should be avoided due to their narrow sole and poor upper support. Cross-training shoes are therefore a better option for plyometrics.
Your plyometric training should progress gradually, from lower intensity to higher intensity drills (especially for ‘newbies’) and incorporate the principles of progressive overload. Generally, as intensity increases volume will decrease.
Increasing the load by adding additional weight through weighted vests or ankle weights is not recommended. Too much weight can reduce the speed and quality of movement, thus losing the effects of plyometrics. Recovery time between sessions should be 48 to 72 hours, otherwise two to three sessions of plyometrics can be done in a week. The effectiveness of a plyometric training session depends on maximal effort and a high speed of movement for each repetition. Rest intervals between repetitions and sets should be long enough to allow almost complete recovery. As much as 5 to 10 seconds may be required between some jumps.
A typical plyometric programme will take place over 8 to 10 weeks, with two training sessions per week. Proper progression into a plyometric programme is essential. Below is a table of plyometric exercises that have been classified into low intensity, medium intensity and high intensity.
|Lower Body Plyometrics||Low Intensity||Medium Intensity||High Intensity|
|Place Jumps||Squat Jump
Split Squat Jump
|Tuck jump||Vertical jump|
|Quick Response Jumps||–||Double leg zig-zag hop over step box
Multiple box jumps
|Single leg zig-zag hop over step box|
|Box Jumps||–||Box Jump||Depth Jump|
|Upper body Plyometrics||Medicine Ball sit-up||Overhead backward throw
Plyometric Push up
The programme that I have developed is for an athlete or gym-goer who has a good strength base and would like to start a plyometric programme to build increased power and explosive speed. The number of sets, repetitions and rest intervals will all be dependent upon the intensity level of the drill, the sport you are training for, the time of the year and your fitness level.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.