Plyometrics – Developing power in everyday athletes
Plyometrics or plyometric training makes athletes more explosive.
It is a method of training which aims to enhance force production and power, plyometric training can be useful for both the upper and lower body and has a range of benefits across different sports.
When we talk about plyometric training, we are referring to exercises which stimulate several different muscle groups at the same time e.g., vertical jump or box jump. During these movements the muscles stretch and then shorten (Stretch-Shortening Cycle – SSC). Plyometrics is a quick, powerful movement involving explosive eccentric contraction (e.g. lowering yourself into a squat position) followed by concentric contraction (e.g. lifting yourself out of the squat position).
An athlete can be very strong but still not very powerful. This could be due to their inability to contract strong muscles in a short period of time. Most athletes will benefit from an increase in power. For example, a basketball player needs power to jump high, a sprinter will need power to enhance stride and a rugby player needs power to jump and sprint.
Sprinting performance improves by suddenly applying an increased force to the ground. The fastest sprinters in the world can generate up-to five times more vertical force into the ground when compared to slower sprinters. A good example of this would be a 100m sprinter, the higher the initial force and explosive power, the greater advantage they have over their competitor.
Whereas in basketball high vertical force leads to shorter ground contact time helped by an immediate and explosive leap. Let’s put it into context – let’s say your goal was to slam dunk a basketball. Plyometric training would be a good place to start. Dunking a basketball is one of the most challenging movements in basketball. A net (basketball goal) is set at 10 foot (3.05 meters) above the court floor and you must jump so that the ball held in your hand is higher than this to achieve a slam dunk. Increasing your vertical jump increases your ability to dunk.
A box jump is one of the best exercises to help explosive power in a vertical jump. If you have not performed a box jump before you can start by jumping up and down on the ground, swinging your arms back and forth. You can then try performing a few step-ups onto a box gradually transitioning in-time to jumping with both legs, using the swinging motion of your arms, landing with two feet on the box. Repetition will improve force production and power.
Introducing plyometric exercises into your cardio routine can spice up your workout. It challenges your muscles and encourages speed, agility and endurance in the muscles. It also burns a good level of calories and is more fun than just pounding the treadmill day after day. Plyometric exercises are very high impact and are best approached under the guidance and supervision of a Personal Trainer or Sports Coach.
When embarking on a new training program it is important to also pay attention to what you are eating. What you put into your body will determine how you feel, perform and recover during and after training. Eating protein with every meal and including at least one or two protein snacks (i.e. Musashi Whey Protein powder Or Musashi High Protein Bar) per day helps athletes of all levels achieve ultimate muscle recovery.
Author: Gwen Gothard – Performance Nutritionist