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.
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.
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.
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.
How does the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) work?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 .
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
It shouldn’t be seen as an end in itself, but as part of a training programme.
Power = Strength x Speed.
- 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.
- 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.
- Medicine ball throws from a height, with one hand, with two.
- Short Jumps on one leg with / without displacement.
- Box Fall exercises.
- Vertical Jumps with feet together.
- Box Jumps.
- Multiple Jumps with displacement in different planes.
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.
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.
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.
Lateral Ball Throw.
Lateral ball throw on the knees.
Vertical Ball Throw.
Plyometric push-ups on 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.
Vertical jump with knees to chest.
Lateral box jumps.
1 leg box jump.
Deep jump + vertical.
We can add as part of our regular at the beginning. If you have any doubts about the nomenclature, leave them in comments.
|Upper Body + Lower|
5x Slam Ball + 5x 1 Leg Box Jumps + Vertical Jump.
20″ Slam Ball, 20″ off, 20″ Vertical Ball Throw, 20″ off.
- 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.