Plyometrics: What is it and what is it for?

Plyometrics: What is it and what is it for?

Plyometrics and plyometric training are particularly important in the vast majority of sports to develop and enhance jumping capacity, reactivity and the elastic strength of muscles and tendons.

Not every jump made in a training session is a plyometric, and this is the most frequent mistake made about the concept. Let’s look at what Plyometrics is and how to train it!

What is Plyometrics?

Plyometric exercise refers to activity that allows a muscle to reach its maximum strength in the shortest possible time.

Box jump - Plyometrics

In practice, we can say that it alludes to a powerful and rapid movement, through a counter-movement in which the stretch-shortening cycle intervenes.

To understand this term, we have to understand the mechanism of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC), as it is the foundation; as well as the neuro-physiological model of the plyometrics.

Mechanics of Plyometric Exercise

In this model, the elastic component is the central energy of the exercise, with the tendons being the main actors.

How does it work?

A stretching of the muscle-tendon unit (eccentric phase of the movement) takes place and those muscles and tendons act as a spring and lengthen.

At this moment this elastic energy is being stored, which we can make use of if immediately after the concentric action is carried out.

That’s to say, that energy contributes to more force being freely produced in concentric action

If, on the other hand, this muscle action does not occur immediately, or if this eccentric phase is too long, this stored elastic energy ends up being dissipated.

Split squat jump

Therefore, when the concentric action is to be performed, without that free energy, the body will make use of its muscle strength, being less efficient and having a higher energy cost.

It’s simple if you imagine the action of rope jumping:

  • If you do short jumps, with a minimum contact time on the ground, making use of that elastic energy, you can probably spend quite some time doing that action without getting tired.
  • If, on the other hand, the jumps are less continuous, your feet are less reactive, and the contact time for them on the ground is greater, you will feel how the action is more muscular and you will fatigue immediately.

Neurophysiological Model of Plyometric Exercise

This is where the concept of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) comes into play.

From this perspective, what’s analysed are the changes in the force-velocity of the contractile components of the muscle caused by the stretching of the muscle action in its concentric phase through the reflex of this stretching.

What is the Stretch Reflex?

This is the body’s involuntary response to the external stimulus that causes this stretching through the muscle spindles.

To the magnitude of the proprioceptive organs sensitive to the magnitude of the stretching, increasing muscular activity in the face of rapid stretching.

How does the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) work?

  1. PHASE I – Eccentric: Stretching of the suffering muscle (main action). In this phase, the elastic energy is stored in the elastic component, the muscle spindles are stimulated.
  2. PHASE II- Transition: Pause between phases I and III: at this point, the afferent nerves form synapse-unions with the motor neurons, and these transmit the signals to the agonist muscle group.
  3. PHASE III – Concentric: Shortening of the agonist muscle fibres. In this phase, the stored elastic energy is released from the elastic component, assisting in the application of force .

Vertical jump - Plyometrics

Vertical jump.

The CAA cycle is the phase of plyometric exercises. A rapid eccentric muscular action is produced by stimulating the stretching reflex and the storage of elastic energy, thus increasing the force produced in the subsequent concentric phase.

What are Plyometric Exercises for?

The main objective of this training is to improve the power of movements thanks to the use of natural mechanisms of elastic component of muscle and tendons as a reflex of stretching.

Once we understand that, our muscles and tendons are capable of freely producing “elastic energy”, to apply more force, your perspective on this type of training will be different and you’ll be more efficient.

Which muscles work the plyometric exercises?

The mode of plyometric training is determined by the region of the body being worked on, so both specific exercises for the upper limb and exercises for the lower limb.

Each specific exercise will work a specific area of the body and muscle/s.

For example:

  • Throwing a medicine ball with both hands: works the upper body and core.
  • Rope jumps: focus on the lower body, working in particular the calf muscles and the muscles intrinsic to the foot.
A correct plyometrics training programme must take into account the specificities of the sport, as well as of the athlete and their previous experience.

What types are there?

Generally, more work is done with plyometric exercises for the lower body than for the upper body.

If we had to classify the exercises, the ideal would be to do it according to the intensity of each of them.

The intensity is also determined by:

  • The number of contact points;
  • Speed of execution;
  • Height of the exercise (except from a box, or throwing a ball from a box to the subject who is lying down to receive it); as well as
  • The athlete’s body weight.

Plyometrics Benefits

As I pointed out above, the main objective of plyometric training, and therefore its benefit, is to learn to apply force quickly, thus increasing muscle power.

While scientific studies do not accurately determine whether the improvements that occur are at the mechanical or neurophysiological level.

Tuck jump

It shouldn’t be seen as an end in itself, but as part of a training programme.

Obviously, the efficiency and success of the plyometric movements will depend on the functioning of the muscles and the speed with which the muscular forces are applied:

Power = Strength x Speed.

Plyometric Exercises

Low Impact

Lower Body:

  • Rope jumps / short and fast jumps in one place: looking to utilise that elastic energy, minimising the contact time of the feet on the ground, working the reactivity of the feet.

Upper Body:

  • In a supine position or standing, receiving and throwing a ball, for example.
  • Same as the previous case, minimising the contact time of the ball in our hands.

More Intense

Upper body:

  • Medicine ball throws from a height, with one hand, with two.
  • Press-ups.

Lower Body:

  • Short Jumps on one leg with / without displacement.
  • Box Fall exercises.
  • Vertical Jumps with feet together.
  • Box Jumps.
  • Bounces.
  • Multiple Jumps with displacement in different planes.

Plyometrics Contraindications

Landing technique becomes a fundamental aspect of performing this type of exercise and, therefore, of improving and avoiding injuries caused by a bad fall.

Proprioceptive and balance work are complementary to improve the skills and technical abilities of the athlete.

Landing technique

You should always start with low intensity exercises with landing on both feet and progress to more complex and intense exercises such as jumping FROM height.

Likewise, for people who weigh more than 100 kg, the maximum recommended height for jumping to and from a box should be 46 centimetres (greater weight increases the compression forces on the joints).

Plyometrics Training Routine

Before you start introducing plyometric training into your routines, it’s necessary to analyse what the real needs are for your sport and fitness level, as well as analysing landings in the case of undercarriage work, to avoid injuries.

Upper Body Plyometric Exercises

  • Throws: chest pass, ball pass from a height, hand side pass, vertical ball pass, vertical ball above head pass, one-handed throw.
  • Plyometric press-ups: deep press-ups.

Horizontal Ball Throw

Horizontal Ball Throw.

Lateral Ball Throw

Lateral Ball Throw.

Lateral ball throw on the knees

Lateral ball throw on the knees.

Vertical Ball Throw

Vertical Ball Throw.

Plyometric push-ups

Plyometric push-ups on ball.

Slam ball

Slam ball.

Lower Body Plyometric Exercises

  • Jumps without movement: with feet together, on one foot, with a rope, squat with jump, vertical jump with knees to the chest, vertical jump on one leg.
  • Standing Jumps: vertical jump with feet together, obstacle jumps with two feet together, long jump without previous run or impulse
  • Multiple Jumps: long jump with feet together, zig-zag jump, hurdle jump with feet together, long jump on one leg, jump with 4 obstacles etc.
  • Bounces: Skipping, walking, side or back skipping, bounces alternating legs and arms ( – long jumps in succession).
  • Exercises with a Box: two-legged box jump, one-legged jump, squat with vertical jump to a box, side jump to a box.
  • Exercises from a Box: box fall and land in a squat, fall from a box and perform a vertical jump, fall from a box and perform a squat jump, fall from a box and perform a lateral movement.

Lateral jumps

Lateral jumps.

Tuck jumps

Vertical jump with knees to chest.

Broad jumps

Broad jumps.

Skipping

Skipping.

Zig-zag

Zig-zag.

Box jump

Box jump.

Lateral box jumps

Lateral box jumps.

1 leg box jump

1 leg box jump.

Deep jump + vertical

Deep jump + vertical.

Routine

We can add as part of our regular at the beginning. If you have any doubts about the nomenclature, leave them in comments.

Day 1

Upper body
  • Horizontal Ball Throw::5 Rounds of AMRAP 20″ on, 20″ off.
  • Vertical Ball Throw::5 Rounds of AMRAP 20″ on, 20″ off.
Lower body
  • Zig-Zag::5 Rounds of 3mts one way + 3mts return (lateral movement).
  • Skipping::5 Rounds of AMRAP 20″ on, 20″ off.

Day 2

Upper body
  • Plyometric push-ups::5 Rounds of AMRAP 20″ on, 20″ off.
  • Lateral Ball Throw::4 Rounds of 12x; switch sides each round..
Lower body
  • Lateral box jumps::5 Rounds of 3mts one way + 3mts return (lateral movement).
  • Deep jump + vertical::20 Rounds, alternating foot in each round.

Day 3

Upper Body + Lower
  • Combo::10 Rounds

5x Slam Ball + 5x 1 Leg Box Jumps + Vertical Jump.

Day 4

Upper body
  • SuperSet::6 Rounds

20″ Slam Ball, 20″ off, 20″ Vertical Ball Throw, 20″ off.

Lower Body
  • Vertical jump with knees to chest::5 Rounds of 8x jumps.
  • Broad jump::20 rounds.
Training with plyometric exercises, whose aim is for the body to learn to apply greater force at greater speed, should be included as part of a training programme, and once the athlete has previously developed other physical qualities and possesses good technique in the execution of such exercises.

Related Entries

  • Don’t make these errors when rope jumping!
  • Do you know the difference between supine and prone steps? We tell you in this post.
  • Find out everything about Medicine Ball Throwing technique by clicking here.
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About Isabel del Barrio
Isabel del Barrio
Sport runs in the blood of Isabel, which she has proven since she was very little up until now. She wants to share that passion with all those who are passionate about sports.
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