What Are Plyometrics? And How To Use Them

Plyometrics, otherwise known as jump training is a form of training that has been around since the 1960s. Originally utilized by

Soviet coaches to great effect, the technique was eventually integrated into the training programs of most athletes, and today

elements of plyometrics training have been integrated into gyms. For example, the box jump in CrossFit, wall balls, or

plyometric pushups.

 

Plyometrics have many benefits, mostly performance specific, but also (to a lesser extent) body composition ones. However,

before we discuss the benefits, let us take a moment to discuss what Plyometrics are.

 

By definition, Plyometrics are quick, powerful movements that utilize the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). The SSC occurs when

there is a rapid lengthening of the muscle followed immediately by a rapid shortening. The stretch-shortening cycle optimizes

the use of the stretch reflex and stored elastic energy so we can potentially produce more force. There are three forms of

Plyometrics:

 

  1. Jumps
    • Two-foot take-off followed by a two-foot landing
    • It is a very stable movement and a great place to start.
    • You can generate very high forces because both legs are involved.
    • Lower eccentric demand.
  2. Bounds
    • A single foot take-off followed by an opposite single foot landing.
    • Less stable than a Jump.
    • Higher eccentric demand.
  3. Hops
    • A single foot take-off followed by the same single foot landing.
    • Least stable.
    • Highest eccentric demand.

 

When looking to start plyometric training, it is important to note that your body needs to be properly prepared. Plyometrics are

a dynamic style of training and can potentially cause injuries. However, this should not deter you, nor should it take away from

the fact that plyometrics can be highly effective.

 

If performed according to a well-designed training plan, plyometrics cannot only help improve your power and decrease your

risk of injury, but they can add an exciting element to your traditional workout routine.

 

Plyometrics teach your body to reduce force more efficiently. Many injuries occur when individuals cannot decelerate their

body quickly enough. The elasticity developed from plyometric training will help you slam on the brakes and recover quickly

from high-speed movements, which will not only increase your performance capabilities but also minimize your risk of injury.

 

Plyometrics can also help improve agility, which will sharpen your change of direction ability. In sports such as soccer or tennis,

knee injuries can occur when performing a fast change of direction. Nevertheless, using plyometrics can not only help improve

your technique but also strengthen your ligaments and make them more capable of withstanding pressure.

 

The Benefits

  • Provides better explosiveness for sports.
  • Plyometrics stimulate strength and enhances power gains.
  • Improves elasticity (the ability to rapidly absorb and produce force and energy).
  • Provides the opportunity to learn how to absorb forces.
  • It helps in achieving quicker acceleration and deceleration.

 

Plyometrics and Injury Prevention

Plyometric exercises are very popular and can be an effective component of a training program if executed properly and

progressed correctly. That being said, if these exercises are done wrong or without proper technique, they can be highly

dangerous. Injuries like ankle and knee sprains, and lower back problems, are all common.

 

You could do the following to avoid injury:

  • Start with basic Plyometric movements such as non-countermovement low box jumps (Note: the video shows a 24” box beginners should use a 6-12” box to start) and/or a non-countermovement jump in place (if no box is available). Slowly progress the volume, intensity, and complexity of your Plyometric drills over time.
  • One of the benefits of using a low to mid-height box (6-18”) in the early stages of introducing jumps (or hops) to a program is it helps reduce the effects of gravity on the movement by essentially raising the landing surface upward to meet your feet. As a result, it makes it a great teaching tool for introducing proper landing mechanics (with fewer forces to absorb) as well as the concept of force reduction (absorption) which is key to injury prevention.

 

When it comes to properly progressing Plyometrics, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Movement Direction (listed from easiest to hardest):

    • Linear
    • Lateral
    • Rotational
  • Movement Initiation (listed from easiest to hardest):

    • Non-countermovement
      • No lengthening action prior to shortening action (Concentric Only)
    • Countermovement
      • Rapid lengthening action prior to an immediate stretch-shortening (SSC).
    • Double Contact
      • Lengthening action preceded by a rapid ground contact and followed by a stretch-shortening (SSC).
    • Continuous
      • The linking of multiple SSC repetitions together in rapid succession.
    • Depth Jump/Drop Jump
      • Lengthening action preceded by a rapid ground contact from a box and followed by a stretch-shortening action (SSC).
  • Other important factors:

    • Heavyweight individuals/athletes (200 pounds and more) should make sure to monitor the total number of foot contacts (try keeping it between 20-30 contacts per session maximum) closely when performing plyometrics, as they are more susceptible to injuries.
    • A thorough warm-up before your plyometric activities is highly recommended and it should include a series of movement prep (i.e. dynamic warm-up) drills as well as some marching, skipping &/or low-intensity build-up runs.
    • Make sure you wear appropriate footwear such as a good cross-training shoe with non-slip soles.

 

Plyometrics can be a great addition to your regular routines but precautions are always mandatory. Since Plyometrics are more

of a high risk, high reward activity, make sure you consult a certified coach/trainer at the gym before taking up plyometrics to

make sure you are using the proper form/technique.

 

Sample Programming:

Ideally, Plyometrics should be performed after your warm-up but before your strength training exercises if performing them on

the same day. Below are two drills that you can incorporate into your current program on the same day as a Total Body

Strength training session.

 

 Movement Preparation:

 

A1) Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Countermovement to Stabilize

  • Sets: 2-4
    • Beginners (less than 1 year of consistent strength training, 2-3 times per week) start with two sets.
  • Reps: 3-5
    • Note: Reset after each rep.
  • Tempo: 10X0
    • In other words, take 1 second to lower yourself; then explode upward; then stick the landing and hold for 1-2 seconds before repeating the next rep.
  • Load: Body Weight
  • Recovery: 60-75 seconds

 

A2) Push Up—Body Weight—Plyometric—Bench

  • Sets: 2-4
    • Beginners (less than 1 year of consistent strength training, 2-3 times per week) start with two sets.
  • Reps: 3-5
    • Note: Reset after each rep.
  • Tempo: 10X0
    • In other words, take 1 second to lower yourself; then explode upward; then stick the landing and hold for 1-2 seconds before repeating the next rep.
  • Load: Body Weight
  • Recovery: 60-75 seconds

 

After completing one set of A1; rest 60-75 seconds; then perform one set of A2; rest 60-75 seconds and repeat the circuit 1-3

more times. After you finish your Plyos, rest 60-120 seconds and then begin your strength training session.

 

Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Countermovement to Stabilize

 Primary Muscle(s):

  • Lower Body

Secondary Muscle(s):

  • Core

Starting Position:

  • Start standing in an upright position (i.e., torso vertical); feet shoulder width apart and arms extended fully overhead.

Execution:

  • From the upright position, quickly lower your body down into a quarter squat while bringing your arms down and back behind you.
  • Then, quickly reverse the movement and explosively jump (i.e., two-foot take-off and two-foot landing) vertically.
  • Pull the toes toward your shins in mid-air to prepare for landing.
  • Land softly in the starting squat position, hold for one to two seconds and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Coaching Tips:

  • Keep chest up during the jump.
  • Use your hips and arms to generate the force.
  • Extend hips completely during the jump.
  • Land softly with your hips down and back.

Movement Regression:

  • Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Non-countermovement to Stabilize (Option 1)

  • Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Countermovement to Stabilize—TRX (Option 2)

 Movement Progression:

  • Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Continuous—TRX (Option 1)

  • Squat Jumps—Body Weight—Continuous (Option 2)

 

Push Up—Body Weight—Explosive

 Primary Muscle(s):

  • Upper Body

Secondary Muscle(s):

  • Core

Starting Position:

  • Position yourself in a push-up position with the hands even with your shoulders and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Your body should form a straight line from the ankles to your head.

Execution:

  • Quickly lower your body toward the ground as a single unit (i.e., maintain the straight line) and then explosively reverse directions so your hands come off the ground.
  • As your hands return to the ground, absorb the momentum with your arms; reset into the start position and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Coaching Tips:

  • Keep core and Glutes tight throughout the movement.
  • Keep your body in straight line from the ankles to your head.
  • When lowering and raising yourself, your upper arms should form about a 45-degree angle with your torso.
  • Reset after each repetition.

Movement Regression:

  • Push Up—Body Weight—Explosive—Onto Low Boxes

Movement Progression:

  • Push Up—Body Weight—Explosive—Continuous

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