Plyometrics - Explosive Training
To many, knowledge is power, but this doesn't always help on the football pitch. In exercise science, power is defined as the combination of speed and strength and is essential in most sports.
Plyometrics is a training system designed to increase explosive power. In essence, training involves the stimulation of powerful muscular contractions following dynamic stretching of muscles. This is achieved with exercises such as vertical jumps, depth jumps and box jumps. For example, in a depth jump the athlete would jump of box of suitable height. As the landing phase finishes the athlete would power upwards in a second jump. It is thought that plyometric training causes adaptations of the neuromuscular system. Gains are therefore made in muscular strength and in the ability of the body to make faster changes of direction. Any sport that requires fast changes of direction, jumping or powerful arm movements can benefit.
Basic Physiology (or how it works!)
Plyometric exercises are based on the stretch (myotatic) reflex. This reflex is initiated when a muscle undergoes a rapid stretch (load). In response to this dynamic loading a strong impulse is sent via the spinal cord, causing the muscles to contract powerfully. A good example is a physician "testing your reflexes". When the hammer hits the tendon that runs over the knee it causes a rapid stretching of muscles in the front thigh. The stretch reflex initiates a contraction of these muscles with the knee "jerking" upwards.
In sport, the stretch reflex is essential to the execution of many skills. For example, in tennis when playing a back hand shot, the triceps are stretched rapidly as the backswing begins. Then when the forward swing is started the stretch reflex causes the triceps to contract powerfully, completing the shot.
How To Train
Before leaping into action there are a few things to note.
Plyometrics is an advanced form of training. Because of the fast directional changes and extreme loads that can be placed on muscles, tendons and ligaments the risk of injury is substantially higher than with "conventional" training. It is therefore important to build a fitness base first. The athlete should be proficient at endurance exercises such as running or cycling. Experience with weight training is also essential - remember that power is speed and strength.
When training with plyometrics it is important to concentrate on each exercise and think about proper execution. The muscles involved must be stretched rapidly. This with allow for greatest intensity and maximum benefit.
Leap Ahead With Plyometrics
BEFORE attempting the following workout. It is physically demanding so if you have any medical problems please contact your physician first. If you have any doubts about technique them please seek the advice of a qualified fitness instructor.
As described, this is a six week training programme for those that are fit and well and wish to improve their power for sport. This workout gives particular attention to jumping sports. Before you begin the programme try this simple test. Stand with a piece of chalk in one hand, facing a high wall (one that won’t be rained on!). Bend your knees down to approximately 90 degrees then jump as high as possible, marking the wall. Have three attempts. At the end of the six weeks try the test again and see how your vertical jump has improved.
The workout gives two sessions of plyometrics (about one hour each), two sessions of weight training (upper only or upper and lower) and up to five sessions of aerobic exercise. Please feel free to amend the schedule to fit with your current training. Just remember not to train legs with weights the day before a plyos session. Tired legs don’t tend to respond well! Also try to leave two days between plyos sessions.
- Monday - Plyo's - (Legs - WT) (Aerobic)
- Tuesday - Upper or Whole Body - WT (Aerobic)
- Wednesday - Aerobic
- Thursday - Plyo's - (Legs - WT) (Aerobic)
- Friday - Upper or Whole Body - WT (Aerobic)
- (...) - Optional
WT - Weight Training Session
N.B. If legs are trained on the plyos day then train upper body only on other WT days
Aerobic training can be performed separately from other sessions and may involve running, cycling, team training etc.
The Plyometric Sessions
Follow these in order:
1) - Warm Up
Gradually raise your heart rate over a period of twenty minutes, being slightly out of breath after ten minutes then maintaining this level. Use activities such as cycling, running, stairmaster etc.
2) - Stretch
Hold these for 10 - 15 seconds each. (See Stretch page) - Quads, hams, calves, hip flexors, lower back, chest, upper back, triceps.
3) - 5 minutes aerobic work, raising your heart rate once again.
4) - Plyos
With all of these exercises keep your back straight and stomach tucked in. Always land with knees slightly bent and make sure your heels go down to the floor. Control each movement and concentrate - remember quality not quantity.
Exercise #1 - Depth Jump
Muscles worked: quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, calves
Mark a line on the floor and stand one side with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and jump over the line, landing with feet flat. As the knees bend during landing, launch yourself upwards, again landing as before. Slowly turn around and repeat. Start with 4 repetitions, rest for one minute then repeat for a further 2 sets. Build gradually until you can perform 3 sets of ten repetitions.
Once stage 1 is mastered, start on top of a box instead of the floor. The height can be increased gradually - I recommend starting with about 8 inches.
Exercise #2 - High Skip
Muscles worked: hip flexors, calves, quadriceps
Skip “normally” across a room. Turn around and repeat but this time attempt to jump as high as possible, raising the opposite arm and knee with each skip. Repeat this for 30 seconds then rest for 1 minute. Perform a further 2 sets. Build the time gradually to 90 seconds skipping.
Exercise #3 - Multi Jump
Begin by marking 4 lines on the floor. This exercise is performed like the depth jump but with each landing you jump over the next line. At the end of the line quickly walk back to the start and begin again for 4 - 10 repetitions. Rest 1 minute then repeat 2 sets. Progress with the initial jump being made off a box.
5) - Cool Down - 5 minutes easy aerobic work.
6) - Optional legs workout or later in the day or not at all!
7) - Stretch
Hold each stretch for 20 - 30 secs. (See Stretch Page) - quads, calves, hams, hip flexors, chest, upper back, lower back.
Remember, take care when training and have fun!