We’ve all seen the impressive videos from professional athletes. Casually box jumping close to your own height, or bounding over a team mate as if its nothing. These impressive jumping feats sure do make good media content but are they a useful inclusion to your training?
And if so, how on earth do you build up to that?
The science-y bit
Simply put, plyometrics is a form of training that involves an eccentric contraction followed by a rapid concentric contraction. The eccentric loading stretches the muscle spindle and the series elastic component of the muscle tissue. This pre-stretching enhances the subsequent concentric contraction.
Think of a huge spring, being stretched then released. A big stretch on that spring will give it a good recoil upon release! That is the same as what plyometrics training is trying to do with your muscles
After the eccentric phase (spring being stretched), there is a time delay between overcoming that stretch and generating the subsequent contraction. This is known as the amortisation phase.
They key to plyometric training is minimising the time of the amortisation phase, to ensure the stored energy from the eccentric loading is used to active the stretch reflex and enhance the following concentric contraction. Too long in the amortisation phase can dissipate the stretch reflex and also waste energy within the muscle as heat.eccentric loading and generating the subsequent contraction.
What’s the benefit of plyometrics?
Plyometrics is a form of power training. By using plyometrics, you are generating maximum force production in the shortest amount of time. Due to the high intensity nature of this form of training and the amount of muscle fibres recruited, this is an efficient form of training giving you lots of benefits in a short amount of time.
Plyometric training has the primary goal of increasing muscular power; however added benefits are increasing strength levels and a metabolism boost due to promoting lean mass.
By improving your power output, you improve your ability to jump higher, be more reactive when changing direction and allow for greater force output in certain movements.
So how do I begin plyometric training?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll be copying those feats of athleticism you’ve seen on social media within the first month. Plyometrics is a high intensity, skilled form of training requiring high levels of coordination. But its easy to start off small.
Think back to the last time you were in a kids playground. See many kids using skipping ropes? See any kids jumping off climbing frames then running off to catch up with their mates? All plyometric movements.
Skipping with a rope is probably one of the easiest ways to get into plyometrics. The relatively low impact prepares your joints and builds the compliance of muscle tissue ready for greater impacts with bigger jumps. So try adding some skipping into your workout.
Another easy introduction is to try some bounding. Simply hopping from one foot to another in a forward motion forces that plyometric action and as you get more competent, simply increase the distance you are bounding.
The key with all plyometric training is remembering to keep those contacts on the floor as short as possible. Minimise “loading” as you land; think instead about tapping the floor and aiming to get into your jump as soon as possible.