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What Are Plyometric Exercises?

Plyomteric Exercises
Plyomteric Exercises

Plyometrics are specialist exercises that enable a muscle to reach its maximal strength in a short space of time. This works by stimulating the stretch reflex: stretching a muscle and then relying on its elastic properties to produce greater forces than are normally possible in the reflex contraction (as the muscle returns to its resting length).

In order to achieve this greater muscular force, the muscle must contract, following lengthening, within the shortest possible time.

Plyometric Workout Videos

The following two videos will give you an idea of the range of plyometric workouts that can be applied to your training program whether its for the court, track, pitch or ice. Plyometrics can be used to improve performance in many sports where fast explosive speed and power is a core component. This can be in a vertical context such as basketball and volleyball or where fast feet and short bursts of intense speed are required for sports such as soccer or tennis. It is also just as applicable where strength is required to underpin a running program or just your all-round fitness.

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The Classification of Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric Jumps

These can be either in-place jumps (taking off and landing in the same spot) or standing jumps, (which emphasize either the horizontal or vertical components of movement from a stationary/standing position). Jumps begin and end with one or both feet and are usually performed in sets of 5 to 8 repetitions. Jumps form the lowest intensity of plyometric intensity and include many basic exercises such as skipping. Plyometric box jumps increase the intensity of the exercise by giving the athlete something to jump off, over or onto. The height of the box depends upon the size of the athlete and the overall fitness goal.

Plyometric Hops

Hops begin and end with the athlete or the player on one or both feet and are associated with a component of maximum horizontal distance. Training volume is usually measured by sets of 5-8 reps or by distance (i.e. covering 40-60 metres over a series of movements in a set). These are low to medium intensity exercises although intensity can be augmented by increasing the vertical component of the hop (e.g. hopping over something).

Plyometric Bounds

Bounds are the alternating movements associated with the take-off from one foot and landing with the other, in repetitive sequence, usually with the aim of covering as much distance between each ground contact as possible. These are classified as medium intensity exercises and are usually undertaken in sets of 5 to 8 reps, or by covering a distance of around 60-80 metres).

Plyometric Shocks

These are very high intensity plyometrics, which will place significant stress on the neuromuscular system and connecting tissue. Shocks usually constitute an element of depth jumping (i.e. jumping down from a raised platform, a 40cm high box) and will have a vertical component (i.e.jumping down then up) or a horizontal component (i.e. jumping down then out). This approach uses gravity and the athlete’s weight to increase exercise intensity. Only an experienced performer who is sufficiently well trained to cope with the high stresses associated with shock training should undertake training of this nature. The platform height will vary according to the age, weight, training status and experience of the athlete. Note : shock plyometrics should not be undertaken unless the athlete has a strong strength base and are in excellent physical shape.

Plyometrics are skill based high speed movements and as such should only be done when an athlete is in an un-fatigued state. This means that plyometric need to be scheduled into the start of an exercise week or the start of a training session. Plyometrics should also be progressed from low intensity through to high. Never start with high intensity exercises. Its also important not to do high intensity exercises alongside heavy training schedules.

Plyometric Technique

In plyometric exercises that involve landing on the feet, athletes should pay particular attention to the position of the foot upon landing. It is important that the athlete does not contact the ground heel first for two main reasons. Firstly, this increases the impact forces that travel up through the ankle joints into the knees and lower back, and secondly, this is a very slow position from which the athlete can accelerate into the next position. The best way to do this is to accelerate the body by pushing off from the ball of the feet. However, in plyometrics where there is a high vertical component of downward force in landing, if the athlete attempts to land on the balls of the feet the mass of the body will cause the heels to come down into the floor and bring the centre of mass of the player back onto the heels. From this position, little upward and forward acceleration is possible. However landing in a flat foot position will not cause the heel to be driven into the floor in the same way, and the centre of the mass can remain above the balls of the feet, allowing rapid acceleration in whichever direction is required in the movement. In this type of exercise, athletes should therefore land flat footed.

Plyometric movements should be fluid in nature. When landing / talking off, the athlete should ensure that the hips are over the feet and the chest is over the knees. If the knees start to collapse inwards upon landing, due to weak muscles or poorly executed technique it will result in injury.

It should also be remembered that plyometrics are, for the most part, total body exercises and so jumping and bounding with the legs should be accompanied with upper-body action. Jumps that use arms drive can be 35 % higher than jumps that just use leg power only. The aim is for the athlete to generate as much height and distance as possible and therefore should use every limb to get the maximum effect.

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