Plyometrics are an essential component of sports conditioning for all activities requiring strength, power and speed. It is a method of developing explosive power, and it refers to activities that enable a muscle to reach maximum force in the shortest period of time. Integrated correctly into an overall training program, plyometrics can significantly improve athletic performance.
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The term plyometrics first appeared in coaching literature in the 1960s. Before that it was called jump training. Due to the lack of a systematic approach, it was used throughout the world for years without notable results. In the 1960s, there was renewed interest in plyometrics due to the success of Russian high jumpers and triple jumpers who methodically incorporated plyometrics into their training.
Getting Ready for Plyometrics
Plyometric training is strenuous and puts stress on your body. As such, you need to evaluate several factors before engaging in plyometric exercises. You should have enough cardiovascular conditioning to exercise continuously for several minutes or more, sufficient strength to handle your own body weight movements in all planes and directions, and flexibility to manage a wide range of motion.
It is important to follow certain guidelines to ensure safety and effective performance. All plyometric drills should be preceded by an adequate warm-up and conclude with a proper cool-down. Warm-ups should begin with general activities such as light jogging and calisthenics and then proceed to more specific movements, such as lateral running, skipping, or throwing motions based on the plyometric exercises to be performed. According to James Radcliffe, the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Oregon, workouts should consist of six basic elements: warming up, dynamic work with explosive movements (snatches, jumps and throws), strength work with heavy multiple joint movements (squats, jerks), isolated work with lying or seated movements (bench press, leg press), mobility work with fluid full body movements (agility, stretching) and cool-down.
Lower-body plyometrics will benefit any sport that requires an athlete to produce a maximum amount of force in a short amount of time. Jumps in place: This is simply jumping and landing in the same spot. Jumps in place emphasize the vertical component of jumping and should be performed repeatedly without rest between jumps. Variations can include squat jumps, knee tuck jumps and zig-zag hops. Bounds: Bounding drills involve an emphasis on horizontal speed. Bounds can be equated to running with an exaggerated jumping movement. Drills are measured by distance covered rather than by repetitions. These drills can include single-leg and double-leg bounds. Box drills: These intense drills incorporate the use of a box to jump on or off. The greater the height of the box, the more intense the exercise. Box drills may involve one, both or alternating legs. Depth jumps: These drills use gravity and your weight to increase exercise intensity. You assume a position on top of a box, step off, land and immediately jump vertically, horizontally or to another box. This may involve one or both legs. Standing long jumps: These are repetitive. After finishing one standing long jump, immediately perform as many as you can in the space you have.
Rapid, powerful movements of the upper body are required for a variety of sports, including baseball, tennis and golf. Plyometric training of the shoulder joint and upper-body musculature will not only increase limb velocity, but also help to prevent injury. Although plyometric drills for the upper body are not used as often as those for the lower body, they are essential to athletes who require upper-body power. Such drills include medicine ball throws and catches, and plyometric push-ups.