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.