The Benefits of Plyometric Training

As creatures of habit, our workouts can occasionally suffer from our love of the comfort zone – and if every gym visit consists of 20 minutes on a random cross-trainer programme, or you regularly run the same route in your local park, it’s not just your mind that becomes bored. 

If you repeatedly exercise in the same way, and at the same intensity, your muscles soon switch to autopilot.  Unfortunately, then, the principle of diminishing returns applies and you end up seeing fewer results from your efforts.

However, by changing the type of exercise, as well as the intensity, your fitness will progress faster and you’ll burn more calories ... 

... so get ready to jump-start your routine with a heart-thumping, calorie-pumping, plyometric work out that’s guaranteed to help your body move closer to the sleek and powerful Kelly Holmes model.

Jumpstart Your Fitness

Known in some quarters as jump training, plyometrics involves stretching your muscles before contracting them.  When conducted safely and effectively, plyomteric training strengthens your muscles and lessens impact forces on your joints. 

If you enjoy sports such as skiing, tennis and volleyball, plyometrics could be a good fit, as it mimics the motions used in these activities, with the exercises designed to boost your muscular power and explosiveness. 

However, because this type of training is so intensive, it results in high calorie expenditure, so is valuable in weight management and not purely for the elite sportswoman.

In the 1970s, the Eastern Europeans used plyometrics to improve the strength and power of their Olympic athletes.  Their programmes were based on scientific evidence which showed stretching muscles before contracting enhanced the power of the second jump.  When you perform consecutive jumps, this is when pre-stretching of the muscles occurs.  For instance, when landing a jump, your quadricep stretches as your knee bends and rapidly contracts with the next leap.

Give Your Workout a Spark

According to Dr Dale Wagner, Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at Vanguard University of Southern California: “Plyometrics is a very beneficial training practice for those trying to increase their explosive power.  

“It isn’t something you’d do every workout because it’s fairly intense and your body will need some recovery time.  However, incorporating one day per week of plyometrics into your training could add variety and may be just the spark you need.”

To ensure your plyomteric training programme is safe and effective, the focus should be on the quality of jumps, rather than quantity. Great emphasis is placed on safe landing techniques, including landing from toes to  heel when performing a vertical jump, as well as using the length of the foot as a rocker to scatter landing forces over a larger surface area.

Additionally, the use of “visualisation cues” are important, which can involve picturing yourself landing as “light as a feather” or “recoiling like a spring” to encourage low impact landings. Indeed, when landing, it’s vital to avoid too much side to side motion at the knee. When the knee is bending mainly in one plane of motion, landing forces are effectively absorbed through the musculature (quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius or calf muscle).

As well as jumping-based drills, used to develop power in and re-sculpt the legs, there is a wide range of explosive exercises to target the upper body.  Since correct execution of these exercises requires, and therefore promotes, good core strength, our plyometric workout gives you a true ‘two for the price of one’ deal.

Check out some plyometric workouts below to get you started ...

Your target is 12 repetitions of each exercise, aiming for two-three sets.

Squat Jumps

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, trunk flexed forward slightly with back in a neutral position.  Arms should be in the ready position with elbows flexed at approximately 90 degrees.  Lower your body to a point where your thighs are parallel to the floor and immediately explode upwards vertically, and drive your arms up.  Do not hold a squat position before jumping up. Keep the time between dipping down and jumping up to minimum. Land on both feet with your weight evenly distributed.

Progression: Jump up onto a step, landing softly on both feet.  Walk down and repeat. Do not jump down as this carries a significant injury risk.

Power Lunge

Assume lunge position, one foot about a stride length in front of the other, rear foot resting on the ball.  Your feet should be apart, not on a tight rope, for better balance.  Head is lifted and back is braced in a neutral position by pulling your abdominals in tight.  Lower the body by bending at the hips and knees until your front thigh is parallel to floor, then immediately explode vertically.  Switch feet in the air so the back foot lands forward and vice versa.

Progression: Change direction in the air by 90 degrees, so working your way around an imaginary clock-face, starting at 12 and landing at three, six and nine. Remember to travel anti-clockwise for balance.

Lateral Jump

In this exercise, you’ll jump back and forth laterally over a line. Start on the right of the line, standing in an athletic position with your knees bent, leaning forward slightly at the hips, on the balls of your feet.  Jump off both feet, pulling your knees up towards your chest, and land in a balance position on the left side of the line. Quickly absorb the landing by bending your knees and softening, then explode back over the line, landing back on the right side where you started.

Progression: Add a small hurdle over which to jump.

Lateral Power lunge

Stand with your right foot on the floor, adjacent to a step, and your left foot on top. Push off the step or bench using the left leg only and explode vertically as high as possible. Drive the arms forward and up for maximum height. Land with the right foot on the step or bench and left foot on the ground to the other side of the step, immediately bending at the knees to absorb the impact. Repeat from this side.

Progression: Increase the distance travelled laterally by turning the step so your leap must traverse the length of the step rather than across the width.

Power Push Up

Start in a regular press-up position with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees resting on the floor. Descend towards the floor, and then press forcefully upward with your arms just before your body touches the ground. Continue driving up from the floor until your hands leave the ground and your upper body is airborne. Cushion the landing by bending your elbows and descend again, then quickly press up again to begin the next repetition.

Progression: Only when you are confident you have correct form, move on to a full press-up position, with just the feet resting on the floor.

Lateral Pass

Stand approximately one metre from a wall with feet apart, place left foot a short distance in front of the right foot.  Hold a weighted ball down in front of you, with both hands, arms slightly bent.  Swing the ball over to the right hip and forcefully underhand toss it across your body to the wall. Keep your stomach drawn in to maximise proper usage of the core muscles, so protecting the lower spine. Catch the ball on the bounce from the wall and repeat. Don’t forget to change sides.

Progression: Start by standing a little further away from the wall.

For further information about plyometric training – or to book a fitness break at Ragdale Hall – get in touch with a member of the team today, we’d be delighted to help.

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