Plyometrics

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Overview on my philosophy regarding Plyometrics to improve an athlete’s performance:

  • Optimization of the Stretch Reflex and Stored Elastic Energy of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) for increased muscle recruitment in a faster period of time.

  • Increased tendon stiffness that allows for greater and more efficient force production and transfer.

  • Development of force absorption capability for deceleration and reducing the risk of injury.

  • Enhancement of Rate of Force Development (RFD) and the utilization of strength in sporting movements (sprinting, jumping, cutting, changing direction).

  • Helps to bridge the gap between strength work and performance on the field or court.

  • Manipulate different joint angles and muscle actions of the SSC using a combination of double leg single leg, and rotational variations to enhance different aspects of athletic ability.

  • Goal of increasing the musculotendinous stretch so as to enhance muscle recruitment of the subsequent concentric muscle action.

  • Increased excitability of high-threshold motor units for enhanced neural drive leading to greater RFD and impulse.

  • Improved explosive power and injury prevention.

For a more in-depth view on my philosophy regarding Plyometric training to improve an athlete’s performance, see below.


Plyometrics help to develop the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC) of the musculature in order to achieve higher velocity of movement, greater tendon stiffness, and therefore more force transferred in a faster manner. Plyometrics help to bridge the gap between strength training and the field or court for increased utilization of that strength to sporting movements (sprinting, jumping, cutting, changing direction).

The SSC is the rapid lengthening and rapid subsequent shortening action of the muscle. The SSC optimizes both the stretch reflex and stored elastic energy of the muscle spindle. The SSC essentially underpins, underscores, and optimizes almost all human performance movements. Potach and Chu outline the SSC as “employing the energy storage capabilities of the SEC and stimulation of the stretch reflex to facilitate a maximal increase in muscle recruitment over a minimal amount of time” (472). Further, Plyometric training can lead to increased tendon stiffness that leads to a greater transfer of force—i.e., a stiffer ankle joint that allows for optimal force production in sprinting. Ultimately, the goal is to increase the rate of the musculotendinous stretch so as to enhance the muscle recruitment during the subsequent concentric muscle action. Important to note is the fact that sprinting is the purest form of plyometric. As such, my programs for plyometrics (and obviously speed development) provide a logical progression of actually sprinting, and doing so at a max-effort and strong technique.

Additionally, understanding how to land and limiting knee valgus (along with strengthening of the hips) is critical in reducing the risk of injury (particularly for female athletes and reducing their risk for ACL injuries). An athlete has no business producing large amounts of force if they first do not have the understanding or capacity to absorb it. Often, for my athletes, I liken it to building a powerful, forceful engine for a car but failing to install brakes—bad things are bound to happen. Therefore, the ability of athletes to absorb force and decelerate is paramount in my plyometric programming. Coinciding with this absorption of force concept, my training programs (depending on time of year and current training goal) accentuate eccentric strength training in order to promote strength in that phase of the SSC (leading to greater tissue health, muscle strength, and reducing injury risk).

Particularly for my vertical jump athletes (basketball, volleyball) do Plyometrics play an important role in bridging the gap between strength work and increased vertical jump. High rates of force development are enhanced within an appropriate strength and plyometric program leading to elevated vertical jump performance. Further, sprint and change of direction performance can also be improved following a plyometric program in athletes. Understanding plyometric volumes, intensities, frequencies, length, progressions, and recovery is integral to the success of the plyometric program. As such, proper, safe, and logical progressions (especially in youth athletes) is paramount in my plyometric programming.


References

Deweese, Brad & Nimphius, Sophia (2016). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 4th Edition. Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training.

Potach, David & Chu, Donald (2016). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 4th Edition. Program Design and Technique for Plyometric Training.

Ebben, William & Suchomel, Timothy & Garceau, Luke. (2014). The Effect of Plyometric Training Volume on Jumping Performance. 10.13140/2.1.1551.4245.