What are plyometrics ? Plyometric exercises were introduced in the 1970s when Russian Scientist Yuri Verkhoshansky noticed that athletes who jumped down from a higher level, seemed to have more power and strength upon landing.
The force created when dropping from a greater altitude increased an athlete's explosive ability and improved their performance. This discovery inspired the development of “shock training” which was originally used primarily for Olympic competitors.
Eventually, due to its proven success, professional athletes from every sport began adding these exercises to their workout regime.
As this type of training has become more popular, the definition of Plyometrics has broadened to include any exercise that involves jumping, hopping, or bounding. These high-intensity movements use your body weight to create a resistance that will stretch the muscle (known as the eccentric phase) and then quickly shorten it (known as the concentric phase).
This process is called the “Strength-Shortening Cycle” which is just a fancy way of saying that a muscle is stretched and then contracted at a rapid speed. The energy created in the stretch provides extra power (explosiveness) that will be released during the contraction. Think of it like stretching then releasing a rubber band. The more you stretch the elastic, the further it will fly when released.
Plyometric training focuses on moving rapidly or explosively from the extension (stretching) to the contraction. So, when doing a forward long/broad jump, bending into a half squat position to prepare for the jump is the stretching (eccentric) phase while the high, forward jumping motion is the contraction phase. Explained another way, the muscles are loaded then unloaded rapidly while still maintaining stability.
It is important to keep in mind that plyometric exercises are designed to help improve reactive strength or explosiveness. This is not the best form of training to use if you are trying to increase your endurance or cardio conditioning. Although reactive training does have some heart healthy benefits, its main advantages are in other areas. Some of the best benefits include:
Although plyometrics can be very effective, building strength through explosive movements can also be dangerous, even for conditioned athletes. Many people claim that reactive training can help protect against injury since the muscles are trained to respond correctly to sudden, rapid motions; however, it only takes one mis-step or wrong move to cause a serious problem. Since these exercises are high-intensity and high-impact, there is always a greater risk of injury, particularly to the knees or ankles. So, if you have weakness or joint problems then this type of workout may not be the best choice.
Plyometrics are not for everyone, although many people can work up to more intense exercises with proper training and preparation. Start with little jumps and progress as you become stronger and quicker. However, if you experience continued pain after working out, then you may have to try an alternate form of exercise.
Also, keep in mind that the heavier you are, the more stress there will be on your joints. For some people, it may be necessary to try other methods of weight loss until a healthier body weight is reached.
• Consult with a doctor before beginning a Plyometric workout routine.
• Start with simpler movements and increase difficulty or intensity as you develop speed and strength.
• Always use proper technique. When it comes to plyometrics, quality is better than quantity. When you get tired or fatigued, it is harder to maintain proper form, and this can increase your risk of injury. It is important that you land softly from toe to heel, using the entire foot to help absorb impact and ensure stability.
• Use proper footwear. As with any form of impact exercise, correct footwear is vital. Proper cushioning and support is not only necessary for your feet, but also protects your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
• Choose a safe surface. Avoid exercising on concrete or pavement. Make sure the floor or ground is flat and put foam or shock absorbing material on boxes or other jumping surfaces. Grass is also a great option if you enjoy an outdoor workout.
• Since Plyometrics can be hard on your body, do not do this type of workout more than 2-3 times per week and make sure to rest at least 48 hours between workouts.
Plyometric workouts are an excellent way to burn calories and melt fat. If you've read our safety tips and you're ready to JUMP into plyometrics training, you'll find exercises and workout routines for beginners, intermediate and advanced by clicking here.