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Jan 31

Want to Improve Power and Explosiveness of Your Athletes?

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Start Implementing Plyometric Training

Background:

Plyometric training was the ‘cornerstone’ of Soviet athletic domination during the 1960s and 1970s

Frederick (Fred) Loren Wilt (December 14, 1920 – September 5, 1994) 

Fred Wilt was an American runner and FBI agent, competing in the 10,000m at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, finishing 11th and 21st, respectively. Wilt held eight AAU (Former Amateur Athletic Union) titles, the indoor mile in 1951 to cross-country in 1949 and 1952–1953. He won the James E. Sullivan Award as best American Amateur athlete in 1950 and was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1981.

He visited the Soviet Union to observe their training methods. In 1975, Wilt coined the term plyometrics while observing Soviet athletes warming up. After returning to the US, he began to implement the new training method. Subsequently, sports teams throughout the country and around the world started to incorporate plyometrics into their training programs.

His book “Run Run Run” was published in 1964 by US Track & Field News. It contained chapters by Wilt, notable coaches like New Zealand’s Arthur Lydiard, and Soviet gold medalist Vladimir Kuts; the book went through six printings over the next ten years. He reached out to Dr. Michael Yessis, who had previously introduced this concept to the United States through Russian translation of Verkhoshansky’s work. It inspired their later collaboration to get this information to U.S. coaches with “Soviet Theory, Technique and Training for Running and Hurdling.” After retirement from the FBI, he worked as head coach for the Cross-Country and Track and Field Women’s team at Purdue University. 

What are Plyometric Exercises?

Plyometric Training = Power

Athletes across all sports, regardless of age or gender, benefit from plyometric training. The best news: it only takes 5 minutes to add a ‘plyometric boost.’

Definition and Types 

Plyometric exercises are powerful, aerobic, quick, and explosive movements designed to increase speed, endurance, and strength. Plyometrics also known as ‘jump training or plyos’ as they require athletes to exert muscles to their maximum potential in short periods of time. The exercises are usually geared toward highly trained athletes or people in peak physical condition. However, they can be modified for younger athletes, and those wanting to improve their fitness. 

Two forms of plyometrics have evolved. In the original version, Russian scientist Yuri Verkhoshansky defined the training as ‘shock method.’ Athletes would drop down from a given height (box), and experience ‘shock’ upon landing. This, in turn, would produce a forced eccentric contraction, which was immediately switched to concentric contraction as the athlete jumped upward. The landing and take-off were executed in an extremely short period of time, ranging from 0.1-0.2 seconds. 

The second version, seen to a greater extent in the United States, involves any form of jump regardless of execution time. The term plyometrics has hence become popular with the increase of publications and books on the subject.

Leg Exercises:

There are numerous exercises to develop leg strength and explosive power. 

Examples:

Squat Jumps

Stand upright, feet slightly wider than the hips, lower body to squat position, press up through the feet, engage abdominals, and jump explosively upward, lifting arms overhead for the jump, land, bending knees, lower back down to squat position, 2-3 sets, 10 repetitions

Reverse Lunge Knee-ups

Stand upright in standing lunge, L foot forward, place R hand on the floor next to the front foot and extend L arm straight back, explosively jump up to bring R knee up as high possible, lifting L arm and dropping R arm back and down, land, bending knees, move to starting lunge position, continue 30 seconds, repeat with opposite side/leg/ foot 

Box Jumps

Equipment: boxes, depending on level/skill of athletes (range: 12-36 inches high)

*Advanced athletes can perform the exercise with one-leg to increase intensity

Stand upright, lower to squat position, jump onto box with both feet, lift arms up to gain momentum for the jump, jump backward off box, gentle landing, bending knees, 2 to 3 sets, 8-12 repetitions

Stairway Hops

Start at the bottom of a staircase

Stand upright, hop up the stairs on R leg/foot, return, walking down, 6-8 repetitions, repeat opposite side/leg/foot

Tuck Jumps

This exercise improves agility, strength, and stability. It is useful for any activity that requires quick change of direction

Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, bend knees, jump upward as high as possible, bringing knees towards chest, 2-3 sets, 10-12 repetitions

Lateral Bounds

Start in a squat position, balancing on R leg/foot, explosively jump to L side as high and far as possible, land on L leg/foot in squat position, explosively jump to R side as high and far as possible, continuous, landing back and forth from starting position, 

3-5 sets, 5-10 repetitions

Benefits:

There are many benefits to performing plyometric exercises, especially since they require little to no equipment; they can be performed anytime and anywhere. In what’s known as the stretch-shortening cycle, concentric contractions (shortening the muscles) are followed by eccentric contractions (stretching the muscles). This provides excellent results in strengthening muscles while improving agility, stability, and balance. These combined benefits allow muscles to work more quickly and efficiently.

The biggest benefit is mostly neurological because the central nervous system becomes more explosive, and thus allows athletes to jump higher, leap further, sprint faster, or kicking harder. ​The focus of a plyometric exercise is on training the mind/body connection to activate more muscle fibers more quickly in order to increase efficiency and speed of muscle contractions. Plyometrics ‘tone’ the entire body, burn calories, rapidly stretch the muscles, and improve cardiovascular health. They also boost stamina and metabolism. In addition, the exercises rapidly stretch muscles, allowing athletes to move more efficiently. The result is increased power and athletic performance.

Classification of Plyometric Drills

Macintosh HD:Users:monikaschloder:Desktop:Plyo.jpg

Reference: Schloder, M. E. (2017). Lecture Series. Training principles for athletes. Calgary, AB.

Cautions:

  1. While the method is good for increasing force, caution has to be used since it can increase stress and injury. At the same time, performing these exercises correctly has been shown to help prevent injuries.
  2. Use caution when adding plyometric exercises if athletes are beginners or have an injury or chronic condition. It’s best if they already have an established workout routine, and are physically fit before beginning plyometric training. 
  3. Slowly add plyometric exercises to workout routines, starting with basic, lower-intensity moves before moving into more challenging movements.
  4. Gradually increase intensity, duration, and difficulty once the body is strong enough to handle the exercises. If plyometric training is too intense, try a different method of exercise. 
  5. Talk to a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, or exercise professional to learn more about this type of training. It may be beneficial to have at least a few one-on-one or group sessions to help get started.
  6. Touch base with an exercise professional at least once a month to make sure the program is on the ‘right track’, provide helpful feedback, and discuss new techniques. Proper form is essential in order to ensure safety.
  7. Talk to a medical expert before starting any new exercise program. This is especially important if a medical condition or injury exists, and/or medication is taken.

Safety Considerations

The exercises involve an increased risk of injury due to large force generated during training and performance, and should only be performed by well-conditioned individuals under supervision. 

Plyometric exercises have shown benefits for reducing lower extremity injuries in team sports while combined with other neuromuscular training (i.e. strength training, balance training, and stretching). 

Good levels of physical strength, flexibility, and proprioception should be achieved before beginning plyometric training. 

The specified minimum strength requirement varies depending on where the information is sourced and the intensity performed. Chu (1998) recommends that a participant is able to perform 50 repetitions of the squat exercise at 60% of his or her body weight before doing plyometrics (may be difficult for younger athletes!). Core (abdomen) strength is also important. 

Flexibility is required both for injury prevention and to enhance the effect of the stretch shortening cycle. In fact, some advanced training methods combine plyometrics and intensive stretching in order to both protect the joint and make it more receptive to the plyometric benefits. 

Proprioception is an important component of balance, coordination and agility, which is also required for safe performance of plyometric exercises. 

Further safety considerations include: 

Age: needs to be considered for both pre-pubescent and the elderly because of hormonal changes.

Technique: a participant must be instructed on proper technique before commencing any plyometric exercise. He/she should be well rested and free of injury in any of the limbs to be exercised.

‘Loaded’ Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises are sometimes performed with an additional load or added weight, held or worn. This may be a barbell, trap bar, dumbbells, or a weighted vest. (example: vertical jump holding a trap bar; jumping split squats holding dumbbells. In addition, a regular weight lifting exercise is sometimes given a plyometric component, such as the loaded jump squat. Jumping onto boxes or over hurdles holding weights is not recommended for safety reasons. The advantage of ‘loaded’ plyometric exercises is that they increase overall force with which the exercise is performed. This can enhance the positive effect of the exercise and further increase the athlete’s ability to apply explosive power. 

Guidelines

  1. Non-athletes can use plyometrics to promote general fitness, which is helpful to perform daily activities. It’s important that exercises are executed properly in order to gain benefits and prevent injury. 
  2. Using correct alignment and form helps prevent strain and injury. Athletes should perform the exercises when fresh and full of energy.
  3. Athletes should have strength, flexibility, and mobility, especially in the ankles, knees, and hips. 
  4. Core, lower back, and leg strength are equally important. 
  5. Many plyometric exercises are also full-body exercises. They help tone the body by engaging lots of different muscles. Connective tissue is strengthened and athletes can increase resiliency and elasticity.
  6. 10-minute Warm-up should be performed prior to plyometric exercises to loosen and warm up the body. Follow each session with the Cool-down. 
  7. Yoga may be the perfect complement to a plyometric workout since the activity benefits the connective tissue and joints.
  8. Before undertaking plyometric training, it is necessary to distinguish jumps that are commonly called ‘plyometric’ and true plyometric jumps as exemplified in the ‘depth jumps’ of the shock method (refer to Introduction and Chart).

The Bottom Line

  1. Plyometric exercises can help improve athletic performance in athletes and develop physical fitness in non-athletes. 
  2. Plyometrics increases speed, power, and quickness. 
  3. The exercises use force and require strength, mobility, and flexibility. requiring athletes or people to be relatively physically fit before beginning the training.
  4. Consider working with an exercise professional when starting out. This reduces the risk of injury and allows athletes to learn proper form and technique. 
  5. While ‘plyometric’ exercises can be challenging, athletes should enjoy the experience as well as the results.

References:

Alot Health (2018). Pros of the Plyometrics Workout. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://health.alot.com/wellness/pros-of-the-plyometrics-workout–1050

Andrews, E. (2016). Explosive plyometric workout. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5869/explosive-plyometric-workout

Bartholomew, B. (2018). Beginners Guide to Plyometrics. Art of Manliness. Cardio, Health & Sport. Updated November 2, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/beginners-guide-to-plyometrics/

Davies G., Rieman, BL., & Manske, R. (2015). Current concepts of plyometric exercise. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Vol. 10(6), 760-786.

Chu, D. (1998). Jumping into plyometrics (2nd ed.), pp.1-4. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Gas, DV. (2017). Body-weight training: Ditch the dumbbells. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/body-weight-training-ditch-the-dumbbells/art-20304638

Google Books (n.d.), co-authored by Fred Wilt.

Hansen, D., & Kennelly, S. (2017). Equipment in Plyometric Anatomy. Leeds, UK. Human Kinetics and Amazon.com

Hansen, D., & Kennelly, S. (2017). Plyometric anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Healthline (2019, January 23). How to do different plyometric exercises. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/plyometric-exercises#leg-exercises

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) (2013). Developing power in everyday athletes with plyometrics. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://blog.nasm.org/fitness/developing-power-in-everyday-athletes-with-plyometrics/

Patterson, B. (2015). Verkhoshansky’s 5 Rules from ‘Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.’ Elitefts. Retrieved, January 19, 2020, from https://www.elitefts.com/education/verkhoshanskys-5-rules-from-special-strength-training-manual-for-coaches/

Schloder, M.E. (2017). Lecture Series. Training principles for athletes. NCCP Module: Prevention and Recovery. Calgary, AB.

Thompson, B. (2010). Incorporating plyometrics to a gymnasts’ training program. usagym.org/docs/ Education/library/2010_aug_12.pdf

USA Track and Field (2018). Fred Wilt. Archived from the original, September 18, 2018.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd edition). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/PAG_ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Verkhoshansky, N. (2011). Specialized strength and conditioning, manual for coaches. Verkhoshansky SSTM. 

Yessis, M. (2013). Why is plyometrics so misunderstood and misapplied? Dr. Yessis SportLab. Building a better athlete. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://doctoryessis.com/2013/01/02/why-is-plyometrics-so-misunderstood-and-misapplied/

Yessis, M. (2009). Explosive plyometrics. Ultimate athlete concepts. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, Muskegan, MI and Amazon.com

Yessis, M. (2000). Explosive Running (1st edition). NY: McGraw-Hill.

Wilt, F. (1964). Run-Run-Run. Mountain View, CA: Track & Field News.

Wilt, F. (n.d.). USA Track & Field

Wilt, F. sports-reference.com

Wilt, F. trackfield.brinkster.net

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