Lower Body Plyometric Training

This article is about lower body plyometric training. It was written because of many people’s misconception of this type of training. By the end of this article you will know, the pros and the cons of plyometric training and you will be able to construct a correct plyometric session, with ease.Plyometric training is also known as “shock training.” It was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky in 1977. Plyometric training is when a person performs explosive movements which generate large amounts of force quickly. The aim of these exercises is to increase concentric power output by lengthening the muscle prior to the contraction. This will produce greater force through the storage of elastic energy. Athletes who participate in power sports i.e. football, basketball, hockey, use this method of training to develop explosive power. Performing Plyometrics correctly can increase power output dramatically on the other hand lack of knowledge in this subject usually leads to injury.

To achieve plyometric effect an athlete can jump of a height and bound back up, with minimal absorption time, to create a greater stretch reflex. This is usually done from heights of 30cm and up to one meter. Advanced athletes may only train at maximal heights and not beginners. The reason for advance athletes, who have a strong base, train on tall platforms, is because they are professional athletes and can handle these heights. For example you wouldn’t go and train with top powerlifters because you

I have seen many new athletes trying out plyometric exercises and to put it simply, failing miserably at them. Reason being is lack of education or in some cases to much of it. When people first hear about Plyometrics, they try and attempt them, without putting much though into it rather than that you just need to jump. The main down fall is not planning a training session correctly and not understand the full effect of Plyometrics.

Now looking back at weight training again, when a new person ever tries to create his own training routine besides the fact that it is usually crap, it always has high amounts of volume. This is because he tries to cram in is as many exercises as possible with high set and rep scheme. This is the exact same problem with Plyometrics and how people miss use them. They add all of the lower body plyometric exercises together with an insane amount of volume. Hoping that performing by quantity not quality they will achieve the desired effect. We all know that when doing weights with the same mind set, you will achieve very little or injury. We know this because we all did it and now people are doing the same thing to Plyometrics.

Performing Plyometrics at high amounts and intensity is very dangerous. As fatigue sets in you are more prone to loose form and perform the movement incorrectly. These jumps should be done sparingly and each jump should be done for quality not quantity so doing death jumps from the top of your garage roof over and over again, isn’t going to help you much.

This simply means perform Plyometrics same as when you lift weights. Concentrate, keep perfect form and give it all you got; jumping as high as possible. This will also max out your anaerobic system. This is because the stretch shortening cycle affects the sensory response of the muscle spindles. The muscle spindles are involved in the stretch reflex and are triggered by rapid lengthening of the muscle. At the end of the rapid eccentric contraction, the muscle has reached a great length at a high velocity. This may cause the muscle spindle to enact a powerful stretch reflex, further enhancing the power of the following concentric contraction. The muscle spindle’s sensitivity to velocity is another reason why the amortization phase must be brief for a plyometric effect. This just means performing Plyometrics on your body is extremely taxing and should only be done for short periods of time.

It is now the latest fashion between young people, to perform these routines, which have been poorly constructed. It is something along the lines of 4×20 death jumps, 4×15 box jumps, 4×20 lunge leaps and to finish this disaster off with hurdles, miles and miles of hurdles. This isn’t the greatest of routines but this scenario is made worse by performing this, three times a week, in combination with lengthy lower body training routines and long distance running. This isn’t wise because you don’t have enough time to recover for the next session to be productive.

People also want to be conditioned at the same time. This is because most people that attempt plyometrics are sport participating athletes therefore they require a certain level of conditioning. By doing this the athlete are reversing what they have achieved as a result of muscle fiber mechanics. The result, lack of improvement in power, is because when you perform plyometrics and heavy weight lifting you harness the growth of fast twitch fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for short explosive movements despite this condition work harnesses the growth of slow twitch fibers. Slow twitch muscle fibers are responsible for movements which are repeated without fatigue setting in. The human body will react negatively from a bombardment of both types of training. This is because you are converting the fast twitch muscle fibers back to slow twitch resulting in no gain in power and masses of lactic acid. Not too clever as you will be too sore and too tired to do anything. To clear things up so far, plyometrics will result in growth in fast twitch and pro-longed activities will result in slow twitch muscle fiber growth. Two main sporting comparisons of this would be a football player, a line backer preferably, who has large amounts of fast twitch muscle fibers. This results in extreme speed on the pitch, powerful tackles and for most a 30 plus vertical jump. Now in contrast a cross country runner would have large amounts of slow twitch muscle fibers: responsible for the athlete being able to run 20 miles tireless.

“Guess who has more explosive muscle fibers, yeah I will wait”Looking back on the vertical leap comment, if you are looking to increase your vertical you are probably doing this so that you could dunk in basketball. If I am right; a sure fire tip that always ads inches in seconds to most of my athletes is practicing the movement correctly as many times as possible. Try to break up the movement and concentrate on the correct foot placement needed in the take off. You will be amused by how much your leaping will improve from this simple hint as many people do this wrong. The correct technique allows far greater transfer of power from your legs to gain maximum height in your jump.

Another mistake that beginners practice in their Plyometric training is the over use of them. Plyometric work should only be done once or twice in a year. Yes, it should be done to shock your system and it works the best that way. You will receive most boost in your power when shock training is introduced for short periods of time. Plyometrics are most effective when done once or twice a year, no more than eight weeks in one go, so that your body wouldn’t adapt to this tactic. Pro longed training will not be as effective as introducing short periods of 3-5 week blocks preferably once or twice a year, no more. This rule is the most effective and what has worked for many athletes.

Doing this yearly will cause joint problems in the knee and flexibility problems in the ankle as your achilles tendon will be thrashed. It is also recommended that an athlete take at least three to four weeks in between Plyometric training gaps. Many strength coaches recommend that you should not perform more than 2-3 blocks yearly. Plyometric training isn’t the greatest thing for your knee that’s why proper footwear and surface areas need to be used to reduce the friction shock to the joints.

Plyometric exercises should only be performed when an athlete is sufficiently warmed up. For example a light jog and some dynamic movements to stretch, don’t overdo the warm up it isn’t necessary. Absorbing the shock when landing for too long is another mistake people make. The aim is to spend the least amount on the ground because your muscles are relying on stretch reflex to explode up as fast as possible. For example if you jump of a 30 inch box and you spend three seconds on the ground absorbing the shock of the impact and then leaping up 15 inches in the air that will do you no good. To fix this you need to lower the height of the platform. A height at which you perform at your optimum, you need to keep your absorption time less than a third of a second, when on the ground. Doing this is way more beneficial than jumping of a great height but absorbing for too long.

Make each jump count because quality of jumping is far more important than quantity, this means stop doing thousand leaps and cut down to a select few and make each one count . To perform Plyometric jumps you have to be 100% and not fatigued because that can cause many injuries so don’t jump when tired or directly after a leg training sessions with weights. This rant so far should start to make you rethink your Plyometric sessions because you’re probably doing it wrong. Now I will show what a good Plyometric routine looks and how it should be set out. It usually depends on what sport you are doing, power lifters training routine will look slightly different than a basketball or football players.

Example Plyometric Template

Monday: Lower body workout + Deep tissue work
Tuesday: Flexibility/Mobility work
Wednesday: Upper Body workout A
Thursday: Off Rest
Friday: Plyometric and sprinting session
Saturday: Upper Body workout B
Sunday: Off Rest

I only did one session with Plyometrics because allot of people will try to set out there template whilst they are in season which is a big no no. This is because you already do allot of Plyometric work in your sport specific training sessions for example a basketball player jumps and sprints over and over again in his training session. I left some spaces as rest days, an athlete should use these to practice their sport related skills. To be great at something you need to practice.

Best Plyometric exercises:

Box jump: Feet shoulder width apart and try to jump on a platform. Land on the balls of the feet as softly as possible not letting the heal touch. Use a deep squat position to start and make sure you use your arms. Some variations are: one leg box jumps, can be good through breaking plateaus and improving power in each leg individually.

Death jump: Stand on the edge of a platform and drop, landing on the balls of the feet. Try to spring back up as soon as possible, keep contact time with the ground minimal. Same as box jump quality not quantity. Time spent on the ground has to be minimal. Same can be done with single legs but only for advanced athletes.

Single leg bounding: These are long lunge skips; try to be explosive as possible leaping as high and far as possible but keeping the contact time with the ground minimal. Try to push off as hard as you can with your leg and try to land on the balls of your feet. Now alternate legs and repeat, make it a fluid motion.

Max Vertical jumps: This is easy, jump as high as you can and try to reach something, make these explosive as possible. You won’t increase your vertical if you don’t jump simple as. This is a great way of measuring your leap.

Run up leaps: These are great for basketball player that are practicing dunking, run up as you would go for a layup, leap as high as possible and try to touch the back board and for more advanced athletes touch the rim and so on. Make sure your run up isn’t max as this will slow down your take off. Do both legs. Quality is very important here don’t do millions. This will improve your technique and foot placing which is needed when dunking. This exercise can be made harder with different feet placements.
Sprinting: This is a great exercise for developing speed and vertical jump because sprinting is a Plyometric exercise. This is a great way to become more explosive when trying to improve your athletic power.Don’t do all of these in one training sessions. For a big Plyometric session two jumps should be picked out and then some sprint work after should be done. For a small Plyometric session only two jumps should be used.

Example Plyometric Workout:

Death Jumps 3, 3 using both legs then do 3 more jumps only on one leg and alternate once so use both legs. This is done to make each jump count and concentrating on rebounding and spending less than one second on the ground because you have a window of less than one second. Your aim should be to reduce the time spent on the ground not the height of the platform.

Box Jumps 3, 3 and single leg jumps, alternate legs, each leg 3 repetition jumps once only. This is one of the only exercises where the height of the platform is your aim. When doing single leg bounding and jumping, your platform height will be significantly lower than when using both legs that’s just common sense.

Sprinting 3 sprints of 40 yards (36 meters for us Europeans) Try to improve your sprinting time, that is your aim. When you reach a barrier of where you cannot improve any more add 1-2 more sprints and decrease the distance. This should bust through any plateaus you encounter. Concentrate on technique and powerful, quick strides.

Summary:

– When designing a Plyometric program try to stick to 15-25 repetition schemesand no more.

– For advanced athletes you can perform Plyometric work twice a week if necessary see what works best for you.

– Don’t make your lower body Plyometric work and lifting work to close, give time for sufficient recovery.

Warm up properly but don’t overdo it.

– Don’t make dumb ass mistakes when doing Plyometrics stick to low rep max effort workouts and no more than five weeks in total.

– Have fun when training but be in a state of mind that will allow you to work out best. Take Plyometric training as serious as weight training.

– Take time to rest and recover before bounding again this will allow you to make the most out of your jumps. Don’t get confused with the rebound movement.

Don’t be a moron stay safe and hope this has helped.

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