Plyometrics are designed to improve explosiveness and power by training the elastic properties of the muscle. Plyometric exercises are the bridge between strength developed in the weight room and agility, speed and quickness developed on the field. Using plyometrics in conjunction with strength and speed training will improve speed, strength and power.
What Are Plyos?
In many programs plyometrics are synonymous with “Jump Training”, because the many of the of plyometrics exercises for the lower body involve skipping, jumping and bounding. There are also upper body plyometrics exercises that are located in the “core routines section” under “medicine ball throws.” Plyometrics can be described by thinking of your muscles as rubber bands. When you initiate a squat jump, you usually start with a counter-movement, i.e., you lower your hips quickly before you explode upward. When you lower your hips quickly (counter-movement), you are stretching the rubber band and developing strain energy in the muscle. When you explode up, you releasing the rubber band (recovering the strain energy) to produce a faster, stronger, more coordinated muscular contraction. The stretch and release movements are called the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC).
Plyometrics exercises use the SSC to improve the elastic and reactive qualities of the muscles to increase strength, speed and power in game situations.
Landing technique is paramount in plyometric training. Every stride when you start, stop, run, change direction, jump, hop, swing and throw requires the muscles to absorb force quickly (develop strain energy) and then reapply force quickly (recover strain energy) into the ground. You have to absorb force (reduce force) before you can apply force (produce force). In sports, performance is a constant interplay of force reduction and force production over a background of stabilization. Think about the loading or counter-movement phase in hitting and gathering phase of pitching). You move backwards and or downward (absorb force and develop strain energy) before you move forward (recover strain every and apply force).
When you perform plyometric exercises, especially lower body plyos, how you land will determine how you take off. If you land under control with a stable body, force production will be maximal. If you land out of control with an unstable body, a lot of the strain energy that you developed in force reduction stage will be lost and performance will suffer. When performing plyometric jumps, your landing should be on the balls of your feet and as soft and quiet as possible. Also make sure that you land with your head up and your shoulders over your knees, and that you take-off as quickly as possible. In plyometrics, the speed of the stretch is more important than the size of the stretch. You want to minimize the time between landing and take-off. Think “the ground is hot” when landing and try to jump off the ground as fast as you can.
What Should I Focus On In Training?
There are 5 phases of every jump; 1) stance: 2) counter-movement; 3) take-off: 4) flight; and 5) landing (see the image below). The most important part of the jump occurs between the second (counter-movement) and third (take-off) phase. This in-between phase is a transition from moving downward (force reduction) to moving upward (force production). You must minimize this time or most of the strain energy developed during he counter-movement phase will be lost. Effective cues when moving from force reduction to force production include:
- “Quick-Down, Quick-Up” – Minimial time between the counter-movement and takeoff.
- “Triple Extension” – Complete extension of the ankle, knees and hips.
- “Soft and Silent” – Triple absorption of the ankles, knees and hips to absorb force as quietly and efficiently as possible.
No plyos until you puke! Power development requires optimal recovery. Plyos are quality work, not quantity work!