Bigger, Stronger, Faster…..the answer is Plyometrics

July 24, 2010
by Justin

We have been getting a lot of inquiries about how to jump higher and how run faster, so we decided to take some time and go into depth about Plyometrics. So let’s start out with what are Plyometrics? By definition plyometrics, or “plyo”, are specialized, high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power (strength and speed). The most common plyometric exercises include hops, jumps and bounding movements. Many athletes and trainers use plyometric jumping exercises to build power and speed, improve coordination and agility and effectively improve sports performance.  These training routines can be used to benefit almost any athlete from almost any sport. There are some safety concerns as these are high impact routines. And by high impact, we mean these exercises can put a lot of stress on knees, ankles and joints so please keep in mind your body should be properly warmed up and you should have moderate levels of fitness before engaging in such activities.

Plyometrics is not inherently dangerous, but they are highly focused, intense movements used in repetition and increase the potential level of stress on joints and tendons. Having said that, the most important aspect of a safe and effective plyometric program is developing a safe landing technique. This means the athlete lands softly on the toes and rolls to the heels. By using the whole foot (and a larger surface area) for landing it helps minimize the impact on the joints. The other key to proper landing is to avoid any twisting or sideways motion at the knee. Below are some additional safety tips to take into consideration prior to participating in plyometrics:

  • Beginners should focus on low-intensity and low-volume and gradually increasing both repetitions and intensity as you progress.
  • Athletes who are over 240 pounds (109 kg) should be very careful and low-intensity plyometric exercises should be selected.
  • Most importantly, it is highly recommended that a participant be instructed on proper technique before commencing any plyometric exercise.
  • All participants should be well rested and those target muscles should be free of injury
  • Plyometrics are recommended only for well-conditioned athletes
  • You should have high levels of leg strength prior to performing plyometrics
  • Warm up thoroughly before starting plyometrics
  • Land softly to absorb shock
  • Allow plenty of rest between plyometric workouts
  • Stop immediately if you feel any pain in your joints
  • Use footwear with plenty of cushioning
  • Perform plyometrics on soft or cushioned surfaces only

 

It is also recommended that each student athlete participant in a maximum of two sessions per week with 24-48 hours rest between sessions during pre-season workouts, and a maximum of one session per week during the regular season. It is extremely important that all student athletes warm up with 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity followed by 5-10 minutes of stretching to all major muscle groups prior to each “plyo” workout. There a lot of very good resources for effective plyo workouts found on line. We found Sports Fitness Advisors offer extensive information pertaining to plyo workouts and sport specific workouts. Below is an excerpt from their website highlighting three basic workouts. They are excellent starting points for those student athletes who have never participated in Plyo workouts before:

Squat Jumps
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, trunk flexed forward slightly with back straight in a neutral position.
2. Arms should be in the ready” position with elbows flexed at approximately 90.
3. Lower body where thighs are parallel to ground and immediately explode upwards vertically and drive arms up. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
4. Land on both feet. Rest for 1-2 seconds and repeat
Prior to takeoff extend the ankles to their maximum range (full plantar flexion) to ensure proper mechanics.

Jump to Box
1. Stand facing box with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
2. Lower body into a semi-squat position and immediately jump up onto box. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
3. Feet should land softly on box. Step back down (not jump back down) and repeat.

Lateral Jump to Box
1. Stand side on to box with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
2. Lower body into a semi-squat position and jump up onto box. Do not hold a squat position before jumping up keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to a minimum.
3. Feet should land softly on box. Step back down (not jump back down) and repeat

Outside of the above workouts we recommend running on a slight/mild downhill grade which teaches the body how to “turn-over” the legs much more quickly and any variation of ladder workouts. A combination of these exercises will lead you down the path of jumping higher and running faster.

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