“Plyometric Training”Bounding, jumping, catching and throwing oh my! These are some of the common exercises you may hear of when it comes to plyometrics. But what exactly is plyometrics? When you break the word down into its greek roots, plyometric literally means to increase measure (plio = more; metric = measure). Specifically, plyometric training refers to activities that allow a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest period of time (NSCA 2000). This is accomplished by incorporating the stretch-shortening cycle. Simply put, any movement that involves a rapid prestretch and is immediately followed by a muscular contraction. A great example can be seen when you watch a basketball player jumping for a rebound. He or she quickly descends into a quarter squat position (prestretch) then immediately counters with a muscle contraction by jumping explosively for the rebound. Two things happen during this movement. First, there is an increase in the rate of muscle force and second, there is an increase in the number of muscle fibers recruited during the contraction. With this comes many physical benefits. Increases in muscular strength and power, mobility in selected joints, and improved athletic performance to name a few. But plyometrics isn’t necessarily limited to the athlete or weekend warrior. Today many trainers and coaches use plyometrics with all levels of clients. Whether it’s a profession athlete looking to improve their vertical jump or a grandparent looking to improve their balance and stability getting up and down the stairs, both can benefit from plyometric training..
It should be noted however, that training should vary per individual. With that being said, there are certain guidelines that should be followed when introducing plyometric training into your routine:
- Proper Warm up. A thorough set of warm up exercises should preceed any workout, particularly plyometrics. Spend at least 10-15 minutes implementing a dynamic warm up before you begin.
- Master the basics. Learning basic jumps and landing mechanics is key before advancing to more complex exercises. Begin with jumping in place drills and focus on properly landing and absorbing impact. Once a strong foundation has been developed, traveling hops, jumps, and bounds can be introduced.
- Allow Recovery. Because intensity is generally higher in plyometrics, allowing full recovery is extremely important. As a guideline, as much as 3-4 minutes between sets or working at a 1:3 ratio. In other words, if your set lasts 20 seconds, recovery should be 60 seconds. Also, there should be at least 1-2 days of recovery between plyometric workouts. Like weight training, you should not work the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
- Proper Footwear Make sure you have a high quality athletic shoe. Also, work on surfaces that have good shock-absorbing qualities like grass apposed to cement.
- Watch your volume. Volume is simply the total amount of repetitions per workout. For example, if you perform an exercise fo 3 sets of 15 reps, your total volume would equal 45 (3 x 15 = 45). The recommended amount of volume ranges is based on skill level. The National Strength and Conditioning association recommends the following volume ranges; 80 to 100 for beginner (no experience), 100 to 120 for intermediate (some experience), 120 to 140 for advances (considerable experience).
Here are a couple basic exercises to try! Please check out the video to see for details, variations and modifications for each. I also recommend the book “Jumping into Plyometrics” by Donald Chu.
Squat Jumps: Engage your core muscles and quickly lower into a quarter-squat position and then explode upward. Sink your hips and flex at your knees as you land and hold for 2-3 seconds. Repeat for a total of 10 reps.
MB Chest Pass: Hold a 6 to 10 lb medicine ball at chest level facing a solid wall. Engage your core muscles and quickly lower into a quarter-squat position and then forcefully extend your hip, knee, and arms, releasing the ball. Absorb the catch of the medicine ball as it bounces off the wall, by sinking your hips and flexing your knees and arms. Hold this position and then repeat the steps above for 10 reps.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Monster Personal Training & Athletic Conditioning in Meridian, has more than 16 years’ experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.monsterfit.com.