Are Plyometrics for Me?

Have you ever seen Michael Jordan or LeBron push off and sail through the air to dunk over the other players?  Or that long jumper who can jump 20+ feet unaided by any spring boards or machines?  How about the volleyball player that not only jumps higher than the net, but also spikes the ball w/ explosiveness and precision?

These athletes likely included plyometrics in their training to develop their power, strength, balance, and control.  Plyometrics are activities that allow muscles to quickly utilize its maximal force.  It involves putting muscles on quick stretch, which allow the muscles to act like a spring and store energy.  If you immediately follow that stretch with a countermovement then that energy can be released, helping those muscles reach their maximal force.  Sounds technical, but really it’s jumping and throwing.

Sounds really high level, but did you know that it’s not just elite athletes that benefit from plyometrics?  It can help recreational athletes and kids improve their performance and develop motor control.  In addition, recent studies on women and osteoporosis have incorporated gentle plyometrics in the training programs, which demonstrated positive changes in bone density in the hip and spine.

Because plyometrics can be harder on the joints and muscles, it is important to begin at the right time and not to over train.  There is little understanding of how much to do when it comes to plyometrics.  However, there are some general rules to follow to keep you safe and injury free.

The individual should have proper:

Strength: the individual should be on a consistent resistance and aerobic exercise program, approximately 1-2 months, prior to adding plyometrics to their program.

Technique: The individual should have good landing techniques.  Shoulders should be over the knees with hips, knees, and ankles bent.  Landing should be soft onto the toes then the rest of the foot

Balance: The individual should be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds.  This is especially important in the older population.

– Landing surface: The landing surface should possess good shock absorbing properties like rubber mat, grass, or suspended floors.  Concrete and hardwood are not recommended due to their lack of shock absorption

–  Footwear: Your shoes should have good foot and ankle support as well as a good non-slip tread

How much do I do and how do I progress?

Warm up: Plyometrics must always begin with a proper warm up of dynamic stretching and movements, for example, marching, skipping, straight leg kicks, butt kicks, and arm swings

– Frequency: You can add plyometrics to your existing exercise routine 1-3x/week depending on your sport and time of year

– Recovery: Plyometrics require maximal effort.  Therefore adequate recovery time is crucial.  It generally takes about 2-3 days of rest between plyometric sessions.

– Volume: Exercises can be performed for 30 seconds to 1 minute for 2-3 repetitions

Progression: Start with double legs and progress to single leg. Exercises can then be progressed to a unstable surface or more height

Age Considerations:

–  If you are osteopenic or osteoporotic consult your physician and/or physical therapist prior to adding gentle plyometrics into your exercise program.  It’s important to have adequate strength and balance before performing plyometrics to avoid unnecessary injuries and falls.

– Children who are still growing should not be performing high intensity drills as it may stunt their growth.

If you’d like to incorporate these drills into your routine, check out our Core fitness or Total Body Fitness classes for how plyometric exercises can be added to your workout and a safe progression of your exercise program.  See the videos below for examples of a progressive lower body plyometric routine and upper body plyometric routine. 

Happy Training!

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