Plyometric activities like those seen in the video aren’t new, they were first introduced in the 1970’s in the USSR (the former Soviet Union) and then introduced and disseminated throughout the US in the 1980’s throughout running and jumping based sports.
Yet in 2015, many people are still unaware of what, how and why plyometric training forms a staple aspect of speed/power based athletes’ programs. It appears all over the place you’ll see people in gyms jumping off and on ‘plyo’ boxes, box jumping etc. The question remains though, why?
Let’s get to the crooks of it, plyometrics are a great form of training……if used appropriately!!
Firstly the video above is demonstrated by someone who is well versed in plyometric and sprint/jump training and he will actually only complete around 5 sets of this at maximum. People often forget that even though there is no weight the force (ie your bodyweight x gravity) applied over a short period of time equate to around 3x bodyweight in simple manoeuvres and up to 7x bodyweight on more complex ones.
So this in fact is a very demanding activity, yet it’s often done in sessions for duration with no regard for appropriate technique!?
Plyometric training originally involved dropping ‘from a height’ of approx. 30cm or more, landing in an athletic position (squat) and rebounding quickly up into a second jump and then landing again. It has been used in the US by Greg Myer and Tim Hewitt to prevent knee injury (ACL for example) in female athletes in team sports.
The basic premise works on the stretch shorten cycle with a rapid eccentric (lengthening) of the muscle followed a concentric (shortening).
We now know that actually the muscle aspect contracts isometrically, with the tendon lengthening like the string on a bow. Watch the video again, my colleague doesn’t include much knee bend when landing and propelling himself onto the next box, his toes are pointing forwards (the cue from coaches for this is point your toes up) and this lengthens the ‘calf’ muscle complex and applied ‘tension’ to the Achilles, like a spring, upon impact releases that elastic energy and propels you off the floor.
The why we use it aspect of this depends on the activity you wish to augment through plyometrics, you can tailor this for acceleration in running or jumping, for control in knee injury prevention in female athletes or for top end running speed and more. Then apply the appropriate movements needed, sets, reps, rest duration etc
Beginners are advised to ‘build up’ by completing 3 sessions max per week of approx. 80-100 contacts (a single landing is 1 contact) and to start simple and small. Remember, go to big and suffer injury or difficulty, like the person in the gym trying to jump on soft boxes stacked as high as their chest, do they actually jump that high or are they flexible enough to get their knees by their ears?
There’s no shame in a 12cm drop jump or box jump, if that’s the height you can get your feet off the floor to. It’s a start. As a rule I always look at these movements first – a. To assess their capability and b. as a safety measure (regardless of your conditioning level you will have severe doms after plyo’s)
- Toe bounces – 20 reps of on the spot, forwards and back, side to side
- Squat Jump / box jump and drop jump
- Lateral jump
This would equate to around 100-120 contacts so doable for beginners. It’s all about technique, if you want to get a sweat on the jump on the bike after and do some HIIT, if done properly this is taxing enough and you often won’t feel it until the next day….DOMS!
At first I have patients/clients/athletes complete work on two feet, gradually when ready and happy moving onto single leg work, alternating legs, multiple ‘jumps’, bounds varying the contact time and intensity based on the athletes’ need, stage of injury or conditioning and capability. The number of contacts increases as appropriate but only part of a planned and periodized program, les is often more if you’re training for quality high speed movement augmentation!
It doesn’t have to be ‘sexy’ it doesn’t need theme music or involve jumping over cars, simplicity with a goal is the key to progression. People that can do that have been training for years and what you don’t see unless its a time lapse video is where they started, how many sessions they’ve completed to get to that point.
My point to this is that Plyometrics are a very good from of training, but only if utilised in the correct fashion and over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking this down further with each post, structuring it based on case study examples of use, so if you have any questions by all means please get in touch.
Happy to help!