THE BENEFITS OF PLYOMETRIC TRAINING - WHAT IT IS, WHY IT'S IMPORTANT AND HOW IT CAN BE INCLUDED INTO A TRAINING PROGRAMME | MAY 2018

Plyometric training, also called power training or “jump training”, is a term given to training which is tailored towards developing speed and power.  This training involves utilising exercises such as box jumps, squat jumps, burpees, explosive push ups, skipping and other “power” based activities. 

Plyometric training improves the athletes’ capacity to apply a greater amount of force more rapidly. The rationale behind it is that a reduced time between the muscle fibres’ stretch and contraction phase of a movement enhances the power output and the force the muscles can generate. This is partly due to mechanical reasons linked to the structure of muscle fibres and partly to neurological ones [1].

Most sports heavily rely on plyometric movements; virtually any ball sport, athletics, gymnastics, fight sports and so on. In field sports for example, ground contact time is reduced to a minimum during sudden changes of direction and the stretch shortening cycle accelerates dramatically.

According to the currently available literature, incorporating plyometric movements in a well-designed training cycle can improve:

- Strength

- Speed

- Power

- Change of direction speed

- Balance

- Bone density

- Jumping

- Throwing

- Kicking

- Metabolic Rate

A 6-week plyometric training programme for runners has been found to significantly improve a 3-km running performance.  This is due to the aforementioned adaptations that a plyometric programme is able to provide which can in turn lead to a more efficient running economy [2].

Plyometrics improve muscle contraction speed, which leads to an increase in maximal force production [3]. Combined with the effects on connective tissue and movement economy, this kind of training has been proven to have positive effects on agility, especially if combined with traditional resistance training [4]

On closer inspection, the benefits of plyometrics can be explained by the following physiological adaptations:

- Increased muscle working range

- Enhanced reflexes

- Increased activation of muscles

- Enhanced coordination

Since plyometrics require the production of high levels of force for fast movements; the tension placed on joints and connective tissue is considerably higher than other training modalities.   Due to this, coordination, balance, rest-time and good technique are key safety factors. Proper warm up and thorough coaching are even more important when implementing this training strategy.   

Novices in particular could find plyometric training quite challenging and may need to first go through a phase of general conditioning and proprioceptive work before incorporating it in their training program. It’s been estimated that you should be able to back squat 1.5-2x bodyweight for lower body plyometrics and bench press 1x bodyweight for upper body plyometrics.  Though these conditions don’t always need to be met as a good coach will be able to adapt a programme to suit each trainee’s specific needs.

Any underlying musculoskeletal issues are considered red flags as joint and soft tissue integrity are an essential requirement to safe plyometric training.  Therefore, any clients that suffer from back pain or injury would be well advised to abstain from plyometric training until they are fully recovered.

Finally, landing surface is an important component of the plyometrics session as most of the injuries come from improper landing. Adequate shock absorbing properties of the landing surface are essential hence surfaces such as grass or rubber mats would be ideal.  The plyometric boxes at OPUS are specifically designed to enhance plyometric training but also to limit any chance of injury through their absorbent properties.

Due to the above points, it is advised that plyometric training is conducted under the guidence of a qualified coach or an experienced person. Though the above areas may dissuade a person from trying plyometrics, as long as it is done with proper supervision, it can be a hugely beneficial training technique that will greatly increase a person’s athletic capacity.  The PERFORM classes at OPUS are taken by trainers who are well versed with plyometric training and with the added benefit of having specific plyometric equipment, you can expect an intense yet hugely rewarding class.

 

 

[1] J Anderson, The Physiology of Plyometrics, 2017.

[2] R W Spurrs, A J Murphy, M L Watsford, The effect of plyometric training on distance running performance; 2002.

[3] A Kent, J P O’Shea, K L O’Shea, M Climstein, The Effect of Six Weeks of Squat, Plyometric and Squat-Plyometric Training on Power Production; 1992.

[4] MJ Miller, JJ Herniman, MD Ricard, CC Cheatham, TJ Michael, The Effects of a 6-Week Plyometric Training Program on Agility; 2006.