Plyometric Training

Plyometrics were developed in Russia during the late 1970s and used as a way to increase explosive power in Olympic athletes. Since then, numerous studies have confirmed this initial belief: properly implemented plyometric training can significantly increase an individual's power production during explosive movements.

 
To keep things simple, we'll divide plyometric exercises into two basic categories: high-intensity and low-intensity. If you're interested in adding plyometric training to your own routine, consider the guidelines below:
 
High-intensity Plyometrics

 

  • Exercises: Depth jumps and variations.

 

  • Description: Stand on a platform and drop (don't jump) from a fixed height (typically between 1 and 2.5 feet). Land at a depth close to that of an important sport action and immediately jump as high as possible.
  • Frequency: In four-week blocks, 2-3 times a year. Perform 40-70 ground contacts* per week.
  • Other considerations: High-intensity plyometrics can be stressful on the joints, tendons and ligaments -- they easily lend themselves to over-training. Try to avoid high-intensity plyometrics during a season, especially if your sport already involves a lot of jumping (e.g., volleyball, basketball). The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that you be able to squat at least 1.5 times your body weight before attempting high-intensity plyometrics. (Your heels should not touch the ground during the landing phase of your plyometric drill -- if they do, the drop height is too high for your current strength level [Laputin and Oleshko 1982].)

Low-intensity Plyometrics
  • Exercises: Various jumping, bounding and hopping movements.
  • Description: There are hundreds of low-intensity plyometric exercises that can be performed. Examples include: box jumps, alternate-leg bounding, hops (for maximum height), hops (for maximum horizontal distance) and side-to-side hops. Minimize your ground contact time with all exercises.
  • Frequency: As desired, but always keep a one-to-one ratio of work-to-rest (i.e., if you perform low-intensity plyometrics for one month, be sure to take the following month off). Perform up to 100 ground contacts per week.
  • Other considerations: It's a good idea to maintain an equal balance of vertical (jumps and hops for height), front-to-back (long jump or single-leg bounding) and lateral (side-to-side hops) movements. You should also spread your total weekly ground contacts over three or four days.

Finally, keep in mind that plyometric training is not meant to create a significant amount of muscle fatigue (although it may at first); plyometrics are designed to train your nervous system. Stop your set when you notice your performance (jump height/distance, explosiveness or reaction ability) decreasing, not when you reach complete muscle fatigue.
 
*A ground contact is basically a repetition. Each time you land on the ground (after a jump, depth landing, hop, etc.) you are making a ground contact.

References:
  • Mike Boyle, MA, ATC. Plyometric Training. pp. 16-18
  • Christian Thibaudeau. 2007: High-Threshold Muscle Building. pp. 41-45