This is a video I made of a few exercises you can do on a suspension trainer to work the whole body in one session. The suspension trainer is a great piece of kit as it can be used practically anywhere and packs away into just a small bag so is convenient to carry with you. The one I am using here is called the Rip 60 but there are many others like the TRX for example. The great thing about suspension training is how almost every exercise you do on it hits your core muscles due to the free moving straps. Simply adjusting your feet position or the length of the straps alters the resistance instantly, so no need for heavy weights! I think this type of training is great for sports people as it is very functional with lots of multi joint and multi muscle exercises that can be done on it.
Plyometric training has been around for a while and is believed to have originated in the Soviet Union in the 60’s and 70’s. It was around this time that the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries were winning large numbers of medals at the Olympics and coaches from other countries started taking notice of their unusual training methods. Plyometrics are now used in the training for top level athletes in the majority of sports we see today, particularly those explosive sports such as high jump or basketball.
So how does plyometric training benefit you?
- This type of exercise trains your central nervous system to send a signal to the working muscle to contract stronger, faster and more powerfully. This works through training the motor units and the muscle fibres they innervate to act more efficiently.
- It helps develop your fast twitch fibres which are your anaerobic muscle fibres used for short explosive exercise. You can’t change a slow twitch fibre to a fast twitch fibre in a muscle but you can make the fibres grow and occupy a greater percentage of the muscle.
- The combination of the above two help to develop the speed and force of muscle contraction giving you greater explosive power, which is excellent for most sports including football. (Power is a combination of speed and strength) It is also great for speed training. When I do this type of training for a couple of weeks I find it helps increase my standing jump quite considerably.
- It can also help with injury prevention.
It is very important when doing plyometrics to first learn how to land properly. You put a lot of force through your joints and so landing your body weight so that you absorb the impact efficiently is very important, otherwise you could cause yourself an injury. The key is in landing on the balls of your feet softly and then slowly bringing your heel to the floor. Your knees should be bent and your hips should be straight.
You should never just ‘jump!’ straight into doing plyometrics without any previous training. It is vital that you build up your fitness levels and muscle strength first as this type of exercise is very demanding on the muscles involved. You should have a good base of strength conditioning in your muscles first and be able to squat your bodyweight comfortably. A good level of core strength is also important. This sort of exercise can be gradually built into your own training program depending on your own personal fitness goals, which is good to help keep your training interesting.
Tips for performing effective plyometrics
- Minimise the time you are in contact with the ground between jumps.
- Build up gradually, low reps of the simpler exercises first.
- Make sure you rest the day after as they are very demanding on your central nervous system and it will be very fatigued.
- Only do low reps with plenty of rest between sets to recover, again your muscles may feel ok but your central nervous system will be fatigued even if you don’t feel it.
- Build your core strength up before jumping into plyometrics.
3 Great Plyometric Exercises (Only attempt if you have a good level of muscle strength and fitness as stated above)
- Depth Jump (Advanced) 3 sets of 6 reps
This is a great exercise that I do quite often and really feel the benefits. It involves starting on a step or box about 1 and a half feet high. You step off the box onto the floor and as you land you immediately as quickly as possible jump straight up vertically as high as you can using your arms for extra spring. Keep your back neutral through the whole exercise do not arch and make sure you land softly through the balls of your feet. Take at least 30 seconds between each jump and 2 minutes between sets to recover.
- Lateral Hops Over Hurdle, 2 sets of 20 reps
Use a hurdle around 6” high. Starting one side hop sideways over the hurdle landing on the balls of your feet and immediately hop back over. Repeat until you have done 20 hops. Rest for 2 minutes between sets.
- Depth Push Ups (upper body Advanced), 3 sets of 6 reps:
Similar to depth jumps and clap push ups. Start in the push up position with your hands on pads or two things of equal height about 3” high is perfect. There should be a space in the middle where you can land your hands. From the pads push up as hard as you can so your hands come off the pads and land in between the pads and immediately do another push up again coming off the ground back onto the pads. Keep your core activated through out and build up to 6 reps if you can’t do 6 straight away. Make sure you rest for at least 2 minutes between sets.
The Importance of Core Work
We’ve all seen the guy in the gym who just bashes out a few reps on the bench, throws in a few bicep curls, and finishes off with a couple of sit ups. Not only is he wasting his time, but he is missing out on a very important factor of all training and exercise: the need to train and strengthen the core muscles.
What are your core muscles?
The core is a term used to describe the group of muscles around the mid-section of your body, in the main consisting of the transverse abdominal muscle, the pelvic floor muscles, the rectus abdominals and the obliques. Our core muscles are the root of every movement we make. They stabilize the pelvis, spine and ribs, which can improve posture and can reduce back pain and injuries. In football a strong core is as important as a good first touch. It plays a big role in your balance, speed and power. It provides stability for every movement you make and helps generate power, not just in the core, but throughout the whole body.
A six pack may look good but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a stable, strong core. It’s vital that you work all the muscles around the core to reduce the risk of injury and muscular imbalance and generally any exercise you do where your body is slightly unstable or unbalanced will activate your core muscles.
Top 3 Tips For Greater Core Strength
Lying on your front put your forearms on the floor so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Next lift your body of the ground so that only your toes and forearms are on the floor. Keep your body nice and straight so that you knees are in line with your hips which are in line with your shoulders which should be in line with your ears. Draw in your navel very slightly contracting your core. Try to hold this for thirty seconds. If you can’t manage this bring your knees to the floor but then keep your body straight from your knees to your shoulders.
‘The Back Bridge’
Lying on your back put your hands at your sides, knees bent, feet flat on the floor under your knees. Tightening your buttocks and abdominals very slightly raise your hips off the ground. You want to have a straight line going from your knees to your shoulders. Remember to draw in the navel very slightly. Hold for thirty seconds. If you can’t do it for this long begin with just a few seconds and build up gradually.
Lie on your side with your forearm on the floor. Elbow should be bent and directly below your shoulder. Next lift your hip of the floor until your spine is straight. Top foot should be placed on bottom foot. Hold again if you can for thirty seconds but you can build up to this.
How it Has Helped
It was only through working with a very good sports scientist at one of my first football clubs that I started to take the training of my core muscles seriously, and I have to say that I have noticed a massive improvement in my all round balance, strength, and power.
There are still lots of people inside and outside of gyms that are unaware of the importance of the core muscles. By following these three simple exercises you can slowly start to build up your core strength that will set you on the path to achieving your wider fitness goals.
• Using the gym ball for sit ups is great for the core
• Using the Bosu ball when doing squats is another great way of activating the core
• Pilates is also an excellent and relaxing way to train your core