Essentials of Plyometrics and Improving Explosive Power

What are plyometrics and are they for you?

You’ve probably heard the word once in the gym or probably seen people doing crazy jumps onto boxes that are 6 feet high. Or maybe you’ve wondered how some basketball players are able to increase their vertical jump so easily (lots of factors there). This article will look into a training tool known as  plyometrics and is it something you should include in your training? Let’s jump (you’ll see what I mean) in and get to the bottom (depth drops anyone?) of how plyometrics is (there’s no singular, so technically it’s grammatically correct) used.

basketball plyometric dunk

Plyometrics involves explosive movements by your muscles, primarily the fast twitch sets (type 2B) where the duration lasts upto 50-70 milliseconds. Now that is really fast. It’s basically a muscle contraction done with maximal loading (this is key) and recruitment of all fibres (and neurons). Jumping is most commonly thought of as a plyometrics movement. Jumping is not the only exercise involving plyometrics as there are many more including upper body variations.

What’s the point of contracting a muscle so explosively? Maximal muscle fiber recruitment. Your neurological system is heavily involved in those explosive movements and helps with strength development. Sounds dangerous? Well no, there are ways to recruit muscle fibers without all the jumping and explosive muscle action no matter how old you are and what your fitness level is. However, your body has to be primed for it. I would never have someone who works 12 hours daily at a desk perform plyometrics without the appropriate preparation. But, once the person working 12 hours daily at a desk uses the proper warm-up and stretching routine, plyometrics can be included in their training.

med ball slam jump

General Guidelines Through Training

Since we can’t go from never having jumped in 10 years to jumping often, we must take a periodized approach. Proper program structure to allow the tendons to adapt will help us to load the muscles properly. This would be an example to use:

Weeks 1-2:

-Stretching of involved muscles for routine: this is dependent on how tight an individual is. Sometimes we need tightness in certain areas. However, one has to be mindful that since we are working with a stretch response, there can be risk for injury if the warm up has not been done properly.

-Soft tissue work to lengthen muscle fibres: your foam rolling, active release, gua sha etc.

-Neuromuscular adaptation: movement practice and varying rep schemes

-building on eccentric loading (the opposite muscle contraction method) through depth drops, negatives, unilateral or single sided training.

Week 3

-Single joint eccentrics (single leg movements, one arm throwing or pushing)

-Concentric only movements, minus the eccentric. So just the force application part. This would include seated or standing med ball pushes; med ball tosses or slams

Week 4-5

-technique building combining both concentric and eccentric movements

Week 6

-Concentric only with continuous reps, keeping volume low

At this point, when the above in week 6 is manageable, an individual can begin to specialize. Goals will be much clear in terms of endurance, strength or muscle health. If the individual does not require significant amounts of jumping, fast movements

tennis jump one leg training

Plyometrics can be used to improve almost any part of our training and sport. Whether someone is a golfer, hockey player, volleyball player etc. A structured approach is highly recommended to ensure proper loading of the tendons and reducing joint issues.If you would like to develop a powerful program using plyometrics, click here

Published by Shaneh-Abbas @ Myofiber

Registered Kinesiologist Personal Trainer Over 10 years of training experience in a variety of settings. Online trainer since 2017

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