Plyometric exercises train our muscles to reach maximum strength in minimal time.
Translated: Plyometric exercises can help you get stronger, faster, and more efficient.
Strength + Speed = Power.
When we run speed and endurance workouts, we are training our body’s energy system to handle various states of aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
When we do plyometrics, we are training our neuromuscular system to respond quickly to increased loads.
How do Plyometrics work?
Our muscles are inherently elastic. By making us of this elasticity and neuromuscular reflexes, we can increase the speed and power of our steps, jumps, kicks, and throws. An athlete that is trying to maximize their performance could benefit by adding some simple plyometric exercises to their workout routine.
Most plyometric exercises involve a stretch / recoil phase in which the muscles are “cocked” and ready for action. Examples of this are bending our knees before we jump or pulling our arm back before we throw. This lengthens our muscles and stores energy in them like a recoiled spring or a stretched rubber band. The goal of plyomteric training is to maximize the efficiency of this process so the maximum amount of energy is converted in the least amount of time. And like of all of our other training, this comes about through repetitions.
When you start a plyometric routine, make sure that you use footwear that provides proper ankle, arch and lateral support. Be careful - These exercises can cause a lot of stress on our body, and without proper precautions and rest, injury could result.
Another consideration is the surface used for training. A grassy surface would be best, but make sure to avoid surfaces that are too hard (concrete, pavement,,,) and also avoid those that are too soft (sand, exercise mats,,,). Hard surfaces are unforgiving and translate a lot of force onto our joints. Soft surfaces will absorb much of the energy of our lengthened muscles and reduce the power of our exercises.
Depending on your physical condition, strength , and training program, you should limit your plyometrics workouts to 1-2 per week. These workouts can lead to overuse injuries if proper rest periods are skipped. Also, make sure to match the repetitions with the intensity. For example, vertical jumps / landings are higher stress than horizontal jumps / landings and should be lower in repetitions. And one-legged jumps should have a lot fewer repetitions than 2-legged jumps for the same reason.
Plyometric exercises are fairly advanced and should only be added to your routine after you’ve built a solid based of strength training. The examples above are just a few of the many variations that you can do.
Try lower intensity exercises at first and progress to medium and high intensity over the course of several weeks. A good “standard” exercise set could be 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions. And just like intensity, repetitions should be gradually increased over time.
Be your own best judge! If it causes pain and long recovery times, decrease the intensity and repetitions or take a break from it all together. It’s not worth it, if it causes weeks of downtime in injuries.