Plyometrics help maximize power |

Plyometrics help maximize power

CJ Cebul, DPTAlpine Physical Therapy & Wellness Center, PCFraser, Colorado

Plyometric exercise is a sport-specific training method used to obtain maximal muscular power quickly and can add an important missing element to your training program.As traditional exercises increase muscular strength, plyometrics increase power, which results in improved athletic performance. Plyometric exercises are applicable to both arms and legs and can be tailored to fit any fitness level. Plyometrics increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, primarily with the goal of increasing the height of a jump or the speed of a throw.Although the term plyometrics is relatively new; the concept is not. Plyometric exercises have their roots in Eastern Europe in the early 1970s. These types of exercises were first used by Eastern Bloc nations to increase strength and power in sports such as track and field, weight lifting and gymnastics. By incorporating the principles of plyometric training into rehabilitation, you can improve your potential for safe and complete return to sport. Plyometric training is unique in that it is both specific in nature and broad in applicability so that many types of exercises can be used depending on the individual’s ability and goals. The philosophy of plyometrics is to utilize movements that will stimulate a specific pattern of muscle contractions in order to generate the most power in a short time. The purpose is to be able to convert strength to speed. For example, an athlete who can bench press or squat heavy weights over a long period of time may get less distance with a shot put or vertical leap than an athlete who lifts less weight but can generate more force in a shorter time.A muscle has two phases of contraction concentric and eccentric. A concentric muscle contraction shortens the muscle fibers to create movement. During a biceps curl, the biceps muscle shortens to bend the elbow. An eccentric contraction produces force with muscle lengthening. When you land a jump, the quadriceps muscle group lengthens to control the knee bend so you don’t collapse. This eccentric contraction lengthens the muscle while loading it prior to the shortening phase. This process is known as the stretch shortening cycle.The components of a plyometric exercise includes: an eccentric contraction, a brief static phase (no change in muscle length), and a short concentric contraction delivering maximum force over a short duration of time. Considerations: Flexibility is needed to prevent injury and to enhance the effect of the stretch shortening cycle. Proprioception is the body’s awareness in space which is essential for balance, coordination and agility. Strength of the legs and core are critical to sustain the impact of the explosive activities (i.e. hopping, jumping). Age it is recommended for individuals under the age of 13 to perform low-intensity and low-volume due to the possibility of disruption to the growth end-plates. Body weight individuals over 240 pounds should be very careful and perform low-intensity and low-volume. Surface-should be somewhat soft to act as a shock absorber, such as gymnastic mats, grass or artificial track-type surfaces; asphalt or concrete should never be used. Footwear should be supportive and well-cushioned. Technique is most important in preventing injury.There is increased risk of injury due to the powerful forces generated during training and performance; therefore, consultation by a PT is advised before starting into a plyometric exercise program.

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