Jan 27, 2017
Plyometrics 101

Athletes that are more explosive and powerful with their movements will almost always have a physical edge over their competition. No matter the sport, explosiveness is key to high-level performance. One of the most effective ways to get your athletes to maximize their physical potential is through the time-tested training method of plyometrics.

Essentially, plyometrics work by performing a powerful stretch of the muscles, followed by an immediate explosive contraction. These motions can easily be compared to the expansion and contraction of a spring. Though muscles are slightly more complicated than springs, the effects and basic actions of plyometrics are very similar.

Whether your athletes need help getting off the block, running past a defender, or making a tackle, these types of exercises will provide them with many of the tools they need. Expanding and contracting muscles in rapid succession will better prepare athletes for many of the challenges they face in competition. “This type of training helps produce strong physiological changes that can result in greater power production,” writes Phil Groves of CoachUp.com.

Before starting plyometric training, it’s important to make sure that your athletes are physically prepared. Performing these exercises before your athletes have build up the necessary muscle can be very dangerous and may result in injury when done improperly. Be sure to do some basic strength testing before delving into the dynamics of plyometrics.

“The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that athletes have a 1 rep squat max of 150% of body weight and can perform 5 reps at 60% in 5 seconds or less before beginning lower body plyometrics,” Groves writes. “The guideline for the upper body is the ability to perform 5 clap push-ups in a row. Until these guidelines are met, explosive training should probably be kept to sport specific drills.”

Once your athletes have met the necessary strength requirements, try starting them out with ground based training, such as hops, scissors jumps, and different types of bounding. For upper body training, have them start with medicine ball throws and clap push-ups. These exercises will prepare their muscles for the explosive demands of more advanced plyometric drills.

Here are two plyometric exercises that have been proven to help improve power and explosiveness:

Depth Jump: Have the athlete stand on top of a box (12-42″ tall), step off, land, and immediately perform a powerful jump from the floor. Repeat this exercise based on the number of reps that seem appropriate, but be sure that your athletes are not over fatigued. Plyometrics are much more effective when athletes are well recovered. Allow for 48-72 hours between sessions.

Plyometric Push-ups: Have athletes start with their hands on 2 boxes (3-12″ high), drop to the floor, and perform an explosive push-up. This can be adapted to multiple variations, such as utilizing multiple boxes or performing multiple plyometric push-ups. This is a great way to increase upper body power.

Keep in mind that heavier athletes should be cautious when approaching advanced plyometric exercises. Greater mass means greater pressure on the muscles and joints when performing these rapid movements. “Heavier athletes may have an increased risk of injury from progressing too quickly to high-intensity plyometrics, and the NSCA recommends athletes heavier than 220 lbs perform depth jumps from no higher than 18 inches,” writes Groves.

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