Plyometrics: More to it than just jumping around

It may have become apparent from my previous posts and ramblings, I like strength training. However, since spending the 2016 season with Bradford Bulls, performance training is something I have been working on, but not necessarily highlighted that much.

So, the first blog on improving performance I’m going to release to the world is a topic that’s been covered extensively already, plyometrics. I mean, the actual definition of plyometrics is ‘to increase the measurement’. If you measure something, you know how you’ve performed. So, if you can train to improve that measurement, then that becomes performance training. Hopefully after reading that you’re already sat down as your mind must be blown!

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Why Plyometrics?

Let’s start from the top then. Why is it plyometrics is so commonly used?

Plyometric exercises are quick, powerful movements that start with an eccentric pre stretching movement prior to a concentric contraction, tapping into the stretch shortening cycle.  Put simply, it’s like a coiled spring. All the energy is built up within the eccentric phase, and then released in the concentric phase, leading to big jumps, throws, or changes in direction. So to answer the question, this is why plyometrics have been commonly used to help improve speed and power.

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Also, due to this stretching of the muscle, there is an increase in the number of nerves that fire. Now from strength training, the more muscle you can tap into, the greater the amount of force you can produce, the greater amount of force you can produce, the greater the amount of weight you can shift (aaand breath). See how this can relate to performance training?

Exercises Involved

Now we have a basic understanding of what is, and why, plyometrics are used in performance training, let’s have a look at the actual exercises. (For the purpose of this article, I am mainly going to be focusing on lower body exercises or else we’ll be here all day.) Like most things, different coaches have different names for different exercises. Within the world of plyometrics this can’t always be the case. Due to the intensity of the exercises, and the effect they have on the body, if you have clients or athletes performing an exercise with a single leg, when it’s actually supposed to be performed with two because you got the names messed up, be prepared to have a physio on standby. Below are videos demonstrating how the exercises should be performed, and the correct names;

Jump – two footed take-off and landing

Hop – single leg take-off and landing

Bound – single leg take-off and opposite leg landing

Skip – single leg take-off and two footed landing

Putting it all together

You now have a basic understanding of what plyometrics is, why it’s used and the correct terminology. The next step is looking at putting it all together.

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First of all, in any plyometric programme, there must be an even balance of jumps, hops, bounds and skips performed. Included in this, hops should be performed both anteriorly (going forward) and side to side. This strengthens the knee joint and reduces the risk of ACL injuries, as most are caused by a change in direction, landing incorrectly or stopping suddenly.

With this in mind, it should be noted that before you just throw your client or athlete into a plyometric programme, make sure they have some form of foundation strength and can jump and land from the same position and land quietly. If they can’t, it shows they lack eccentric strength and most likely at risk of an ACL injury (as I mentioned previously ACL injuries are most commonly caused by landing incorrectly).

Volume – the volume of a plyometric programme is based on the amount of foot contacts there are in a training session. This can range from 50-60 jumps per session which is quite low volume. In the case of plyometrics, more isn’t always better. Having greater volumes of foot contacts within a session can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. However, this may vary depending on your clients/athletes training experience and goals. For example, you wouldn’t use the same amount of volume used for a gymnast with a footballer.

Intensity – the intensity of a plyometric programme is determined by the exercises performed. The easiest form of plyometric training is a box jump as gravity is taken out of the equation. By jumping onto the box you take out the eccentric phase of the jump (basically you’re stopping gravity bringing your body back down). To increase the intensity you can add in depth jumps, single leg jumps or multi directional jumps. It should also be noted that when increasing the intensity, the amount of time spent in contact with the floor should be kept to a minimum. This is key in producing maximum power production; dilly dallying about is going to make you lose that coiled spring effect I mentioned earlier. Check out the video below showing you the progression from a basic box jump to more advanced versions;

Recovery – like with any power movements, if you start slowing down finish the training session. There is no point flogging a dead horse. There is no definitive answer to how long you should rest between sets. My opinion is until you are ready to go again. However, between training sessions, there should be between 48-72 hours rest.

So there’s plyometrics in a nutshell (admittedly a big nutshell). I hope you have a fairly decent understanding of the basics involved in plyometrics, and why it can be beneficial to improving performance. Below are a few examples of varying in difficulty short workouts and my references if you want to go a little more in depth.

Thanks for reading,

Coach Steve

 

Beginner Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Box Jumps 3 5
Hurdle Jumps 2 10
Lateral Jumps 2 10

Intermediate

Exercise Sets Reps
Depth Jumps 3 5
Bounding 3 12
Hurdle hops 2 10

 

Advanced

Exercise Sets Reps
Depth Jump into Box Jump 3 5
Single Legged Box Jump 3 10
Lateral Jumps into Long Jump 2 10

References

Davies G, Riemann BL, Manske R. Current Concepts of Plyometric Exercise. International journal of sports physical therapy. 2015;10(6):760-86.

de Villarreal, E., González-Badillo, J. and Izquierdo, M. (2008). Low and Moderate Plyometric Training Frequency Produces Greater Jumping and Sprinting Gains Compared with High Frequency. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(3), pp.715-725.

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