Plyometrics are one of the most popular training routines and workouts today.
But, why are plyometrics so popular, and what is it?
Plyometrics take advantage of the body’s stretch shortening cycle to create explosive force. A concentric force that immediately follows an eccentric contraction will be much strong.
Another way of thinking about this is how a rubber band works. When you stretch it out and let go, it snaps forward. Plyometrics training works on shortening the time it takes upon landing and then generating a more powerful explosive force.
Many exercises include quick and repeated reps through the upper and lower body. Plyometrics are also referred to as reactive training as it is also a way to train one’s ability to stabilize and react quickly through changes of direction. It also contributes to improving our tendon and muscular strength. It also helps to enhance our neuromuscular efficiency, how well we control our body, and increases the rate of force production.
How are plyometrics utilized?
Plyometrics are often used in group classes and high intensity interval training styles.
Many of the movements include repeated leaps, bounds, and jumps. Before you start adding plyometrics into your training program, spend time building up your body.
Plyometrics can be focused on stability, strength and power production.
Jump squats are an example of a plyometric that most people are familiar with. After doing jump squats as high as you can for 10 to 20 of them in a row (not right now, when you’re warmed up!), you will feel the effects of an increased heart rate, and muscles burning from the repeated reps of creating as much force as possible.
One way of changing the function of the plyometric in your workout, is to adjust to things such as how long you land for, how quickly you can move again, and how far you can go. You can hold the landing on a jump squat for 1 to 3 seconds before each rep to focus on stability; jump as high as you can each time or even load it with weight for strength; focusing on jumping repeatedly over hurdles as quickly as possible.
Another thing to consider is the more force that you generate, the more force you have to absorb, so it is important to start building good habits though proper landing mechanics.
Joints are relatively aligned, spine is neutral and we’re in control. This means keeping postural alignment and control throughout the exercises. Although plyometrics have many benefits, they can also be contraindicated for some people and it can be easily over done so be cautious when starting. Plyometrics are very taxing to the body through the repeated ground contacts. This can exacerbate any muscle imbalances or faults in landing mechanics or movement patterns leading to higher risks of injury. We won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits if we’re always injured and hurting after our training session.
One convenient benefit of utilizing plyometrics is that most of the exercises can be done with bodyweight or with minimal equipment. For the upper body, it is often easier to use tools such as medicine balls. Without it, explosive push ups are a great alternative. For some movement patterns or muscles such as our back and posterior chain, we can also incorporate resistant bands.
Here are some examples of some plyometric exercises that can be used as a warm up, or added to a workout:
Ankle hops: Bouncing mostly from your calves and toes with a soft bend in your knees; just like you’re using a jump rope. Focus on bouncing through your ankles as you do these in quick succession.
Pause jump squats: Perform a jump squat and hold the landing position for 1 to 3 seconds, focusing on landing with good form. Brace your core as soon as you land to help stay stable.
Jump squats: Perform repeated jump squats and focus on decreasing the ground contact time as you land. As soon as you land, you want to be trying to explode back up into the air again. One thing to keep in mind is if you are going for speed and repeated hops and jumps, the higher you go, the longer it takes for you to come back down, so adjusting how much strength can also improve timing.
Lateral hops / Speed Skaters: Starting on a single leg, hop to the other and quickly hop back. This can be done in repeated reps as quickly as possible trying to land and launch off or with stability. Lateral hop three times and then hold the position. We can also get fancy after the warm-up by adding a vertical hop to the speed skater for progression. Try doing three lateral hops as quickly as you can and add one, single leg vertical hop before repeating.
Jumping split squat: Start in a split squat position with legs in 90° angles, hop up, and switch legs as you land. Hold the landing to focus on stability, and focus on height of the split squat hop for strength; do them as quickly as possible for power.
For a progression: Try pulling a resistance band that is anchored to a solid object in front of you; holding the band with two hands and starting with the band on the side of the knee that is in front, do a light hop and switch legs upon landing and pull the band to the opposite side.
Incline plyometric push ups: Use a bench or a soft plyo box to help reduce the impacts. Focus on pushing yourself off the bench as soon as you land with your hands. The higher the incline, the easier the push up.
Rotational band press: Anchor the band sideways with your feet squared before initiated through the hip to rotate and press the band out. Use your hips and glutes to generate the power while controlling the band back before exploding back out.
Banded triple extension: Anchor a resistance band to a lower point in front of you, hold the handle with both hands and start in a hinge position. Gently pull the band towards you before exploding up on to your toes, pulling the band above your head. Try to hold the highest point of the extension while you’re on your toes and squeeze your glutes. Think about throwing the band behind you with your full body in a straight line and arms above your head. Then pull the band back down towards the ground before repeating.