Plyometric Exercise Benefits: Increasing Speed and Power With Plyometrics
Plyometrics are a proven form of training for increasing the speed, power, height and distance of your jump for competitive athletes. In fact, some form of plyometric training is necessary in any sport that involves quick reaction times, sudden changes in direction involving deceleration and acceleration, or generating explosive power.
While a proper plyometrics training program can do all of this for amateur, collegiate, and professional athletes, how does it help the average person who just wants to stay fit?
The benefits of regular plyometric workouts for non-competitive athletes are the same: better ability to generate power rapidly; increased speed/improved reflexes; and better bounding/jumping ability.
The purpose of this article is to review what plyometrics training workouts are and how to incorporate them into workout routines for everyday athletes.
Defining Plyometrics Exercises
A ‘plyo’ exercise is any movement that uses maximum muscle force over a short period of time. Exercises falling into this category include:
-Jumping; including jump squats, broad jumps, and calf jumps.
-Vertical Jumps with arms overhead (measured for height.)
-Clapping pushups or ‘Bouncing’ pushups
-Medicine ball slams
-Med ball side throws
-Med ball throws against rebounder or to a partner
-Overhead push throws with medicine ball
-Box jumps, single or double leg
-Single leg hops or line hops with both legs
-Knee tuck jumps
These exercise examples require fast, explosive execution, training the muscles and the nervous system to generate higher velocity and more power.
For the greatest benefit, plyometrics exercises should not be done to failure. Sets should be stopped when form or speed break down. Use exercises that simulate a specific movement. For example, tennis players, baseball players and boxers can all derive direct benefits from doing wall throws from both sides.
Basketball players and volleyball players should incorporate depth jumps, squat jumps and maximum effort vertical jumps into their program to increase the height and speed of their vertical jump.
Plyo training exercises should be done no more than 3 times a week for well-trained athletes, less for people of average fitness.
The ideal number of repetitions for any given workout should follow these general guidelines:
40-80 foot contacts (repetitions.)
80-100 foot contacts
Up to 120 foot contacts
When designing a plyometrics training program:
-Schedule the exercises when rested; either a separate workout or, at the beginning of a workout after warm-up.
-Get 5-10 times rest to work between sets. If a set takes 20 seconds to execute, rest 100-200 seconds. The best adaptations result when the exercises are performed fully rested.
-Keep repetitions low, stopping when execution speed breaks down. This keeps the emphasis on speed and power instead of endurance.
-Vary the repetitions per set. For example, combine multiple low-intensity efforts of 10 repetitions with several sets of single repetition efforts for maximum height or distance.
-Beginners or those starting plyometric exercises after a lay-off should spend the first couple of weeks doing low intensity movements. Examples of low intensity would be:
-Medicine ball push throws with light ball against rebounder/wall
As the individual adapts to low intensity exercises, higher intensity exercises can be added. These include:
-Single Leg Hops, Vertical Jumps or Depth Jumps
-Heavier medicine ball throws or throws to partner
-Knee Tuck Jumps
-Quad hops (some call these ‘Rabbit Hops.’)
-Increasing height of box for box jumps or depth jumps
*It is important to note that intensity is determined by the height of the jump and the ground reaction forces created. An 18” depth jump creates greater ground reaction forces than one from 12”, and a 36” vertical jumper creates greater ground forces than someone jumping 14” holding dumbbells.
Don't have a medicine ball? Use a rock like this guy!
Necessary Workout Equipment
Plyometrics exercises can be performed entirely with bodyweight, but having medicine balls available will add several exercise options.
If you plan on doing medicine ball slams or wall throws, it is important to buy a ball designed for this. Start off with a lighter ball than you think you need, from 2-4 pounds. Never use a ball that is too heavy, as it will inhibit maximum speed and power generation.
Another fun and useful piece of equipment is the plyometrics rebounder. Basically a stabilized, angled mini-trampoline, the rebounder allows you to do various throwing exercises when no partner or wall is available. However, in most cases a sturdy wall and the right ball are adequate and the wall is free.
Consider buying a set of three medicine balls to get a break on the price. A set with either 2,4 and 6 pound balls, or 4,6 and 10 is sufficient for most people.
Use plyometric training exercises to improve sports performance or just to feel more athletic. The exercise variety is endless, fun and effective.