Fitness classes across the country are using a training method called plyometrics. Elite athletes have been using this method to push themselves to the next level, such as jumping higher or exploding out of the starting blocks. You may also be able to use it as part of your training.
Approach with Caution
For decades, elite athletes have been using this training method to boost their sports performance. It can help with things like jumping and sprinting. However, other athletes may need to approach this technique with caution. This is because some jumping exercises involve heights up to 42 inches. This can result in injury if you are not prepared. Adding this method to your workout also requires dedication and patience. It can take several weeks to see results. Also, there are no specific guidelines in place for this type of training at this time.
Whether you should try this method depends on your goals. If you have no desire to compete or to boost performance in your sport, then it may not be right for you. But if you have specific, sports-related goals, then you may want to talk with a trainer about how to add it to your training. Before you do anything, though, understand the basics so that you stay safe and injury-free.
A Simple Example
You may not know exactly what this method is, but you have likely done some of the moves before. Plyometrics allow a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest amount of time. Pretend, for example, that you are trying to reach a book on a top shelf. You are going to jump for it, so you squat down a little and then you leap up. That is plyometrics.
Plyometrics means moving from a grounded position and exploding. It can be seen in common movements like hopscotch, jump rope, or jumping jacks. You could also begin from an elevated position, such as a box, and move to the ground. This is a more advanced version of the training method. Athletes do these moves in repetition, much like strength training exercises.
All About Muscles
The real story lies in the muscles. Imagine if you tried to jump for that book with straight legs. You could never do it. But if you drop into a preloaded position and bend your knees slightly, then you can use your hip and leg muscles to propel you upward.
Who it May Benefit
Skiers, basketball players, volleyball players, and soccer players all use explosive movements in their sports. This method might help volleyball players increase their vertical leap or help skiers handle moguls. Athletes in other sports like golf, tennis, and sprinting may also benefit from this method.
Basic Rules for Training
Before you start, you should understand some basic rules for training. You should also have a strong muscle base. If not, you may injure yourself.
This method replicates the stress you will be under in your given sport. This is why it should not be done every day or all year. Instead, it should be broken into different periods.
If you are training for a specific sport, introduce this into your preseason. For example, if you are a downhill skier, you might start this training about 2 or 3 months before you hit the slopes.
Keep It Sport-Specific
Next, make sure you are training correctly for your sport. Ask a friend to videotape you. Or watch elite athletes in that sport and note how they move. Do they move forward and backward? Side to side? For example, if you are a golfer, you don't need to build a vertical leap and would train differently than a basketball player.
Think Quality, Not Quantity
Remember that you are working your muscles at a high level of intensity. More does not mean better. If you feel fatigued, then you have done too much. Instead, stick to 5 to 10 repetitions and quit before you feel like you cannot be explosive in the movement.
Work Up to It
Start with low intensity and fewer repetitions and give yourself enough time to rest between sets. As you improve, then you can increase your repetitions. After that, you can ramp up the intensity. If you are new to this, it is best to start off with the help of a trainer.
Focus on Posture and Form
Watch your body posture. Use the strength in your torso to keep your spine in neutral. If you are jumping, try not to let your head bob from side to side. Land using your feet and muscles to soften the impact.
If you are ready to add this method to your workout, get in touch with a trainer and find out how to get started!
American Council on Exercise
President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Plyometrics: Controlled impact/maximum power. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/pdfs/fitfacts/itemid_2658.pdf. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Plyometric training section. Sports Fitness Advisor website. Available at: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/plyometric.html. Accessed October 7, 2021.
The physiology of plyometrics. Sports Fitness Advisor website. Available at: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/plyometrics.html. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 10/7/2021