People’s awareness of plyometric exercises has been steadily growing in recent years, but outside of professional sports, few people actually practice them. However, this is a form of training that can be beneficial to athletes at all levels in a variety of different sports1, something well worth considering incorporating into your training program.
If you aren't familiar with them, plyometrics refers to a form of exercise that uses rapid movements to develop muscular power. By preloading the muscles, then exploding upwards, you can increase both strength and power.
Power, the ability to apply strength at speed, is crucial in many sports, including track and field, boxing, gymnastics, and ball games like basketball, soccer, and American Football.
Plyometric exercises work by using gravity to store potential energy in the muscles, then immediately turn this stored energy into kinetic energy – for example, you jump off a box, bending your knees on landing, then immediately spring back upwards.
Although you can perform plyometrics exercises for the upper body, most plyometrics exercises focus on the lower body. Popular exercises include:
• Standing jumps performed on the spot: Tuck Jumps, Split Jumps. These are relatively low intensity and are a good place to start.
• Jumps from standing: Standing long jump, Standing hop, Standing jump for height. Low/Medium Intensity
• Multiple jumps from standing: Bounds, bunny hops, double footed jumps over a low hurdle, double footed jumps up steps. Medium intensity.
Once you are familiar with these types of jumps you can move on to more high intensity exercise. The most popular are:
In-Depth Jump or Box jump: This exercise requires the use of a box, typically anywhere from knee height to waist height, although the current record stands at around 55 inches! You jump backwards off the box, and as you land bend the legs to store potential energy. Without a pause, immediately spring back up onto the box, utilizing the stored kinetic energy.
Drop Jump: As the name suggests, you drop to the ground from a raised platform or box, and then immediately jump up. The drop preloads the legs, the jump utilizes the stored kinetic energy. The shorter the time the feet are in contact with the ground the more effective the exercise will be.
Both of these exercises are very demanding, with the intensity governed by the height of the drop and the number of reps.
As you might guess, plyometric exercises are a demanding, high intensity form of exercise. They should only be performed once you have built an endurance and strength-training base, and only done once a week until you are used to them.
Once you begin performing them, you should progressively increase the workload, being sure to allow adequate time to rest between workouts.
Plyometric exercises are a valuable addition to most athletes’ workout program, an effective way to improve power and enhance performance.
1Gary B. Wilkerson et al. Neuromuscular Changes in Female Collegiate Athletes Resulting From a Plyometric Jump-Training Program. J Athl Train. 2004 Jan–Mar; 39(1): 17–23.
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