Friday, February 27, 2015

What are plyometrics?

When, why, what and how seem to be questions that always surround plyometric training. Most people do not understand exactly what it is, or how incorporating plyometric training into your workouts can improve your athletic ability and also help to decrease injury.

What are plyometrics?

When, why, what and how seem to be questions that always surround plyometric training. Most people do not understand exactly what it is, or how incorporating plyometric training into your workouts can improve your athletic ability and also help to decrease injury. 

What is plyometric training? Most people think plyometric training is just jumping. In its simplest terms, that is exactly what it is. But the type of jumps and explosive movements performed makes a big difference. It is not just jumping; it is knowing how to progress through different types of jumps that work different muscles and different muscle patterns that will give you the most benefit from plyometric training. 

Plyometrics involve the stretch-shortening theory of training. This means that the muscle moves from the stretched position to the shortened position in a very short period of time. This allows the muscles to produce a high amount of force over a short period of time.

There are many phases to the jumping movement. There is a loading phase. For example, bending your knees before you jump will put certain muscles on stretch and will load the muscles. This will allow the muscle to generate more force. 

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The next phase is the coupling phase. In this phase the position stays the same but the direction changes.  For example, at the bottom of the squat right before you propel yourself off the ground is the coupling phase. The shorter the coupling phase, the higher the force that will be generated. 

Finally is the unloading phase, where you propel yourself off the ground. Understanding the different phases will help you train appropriately so that each phase is performed optimally to create the most desirable jump. 

Incorporating ploymetrics into your workout safely and successfully should focus on several factors. The first and foremost factor is that there should be no pain with any movements. If you have pain with jumping or explosive movement, then you need to seek advice from a medical professional. Pain with jumping is not something that you will just work through. 

Form is the top priority when adding plyometrics into your workout. Being able to perform the jumps in front of a qualified professional or in front of a mirror will make sure that you are utilizing the correct muscles and not setting yourself up for injury. Landing is one of the most important things to watch. Upon landing, one of the tendencies is for the knee to collapse inward. There are a number of reasons that this occurs but repeated motion like this is actually setting you up for injury. 

Landing with your knee collapsing inward is an indicator that there are problems going on elsewhere that need to be addressed. It is also imperative that you stop the exercise altogether if you are not able to keep the knee equidistant upon landing, even with verbal and visual feedback. 

Frequency is one of the top things to consider when adding plyometrics into your workout. There is a rest period that is needed between plyometric exercises; usually 48-72 hours is ample time to allow the muscles to recover from training.  You can do plyometric training 2-3 times per week. If you do lower level intensity plyometrics, meaning the box heights are not as high and jumps are not as intense, then it will take you less time to recover.

Type of movement is another important factor to consider. When you are adding different plyometrics you want to make sure that you are including jumps for height, side-to-side jumps, forward and backward jumps, quick jumps, explosion jumps. Making sure that you have a plan for the week before you get started in order to make sure that you work all the directions necessary is very important when beginning to add plyometrics into your workout.   

It is not just enough to add ‘jumping’ into your workouts. It is important to take note of the factors listed above to make sure that you get the most out of the plyometric exercise and to make sure that you are not injuring yourself.  


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales and Hatfield, PA
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Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales and Hatfield, PA
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