“A stretching and shortening exercise that combines strength and speed to achieve maximum power in functional movements”
When the term Plyometrics is mentioned jumping comes to mind. Although this is a staple in any plyometric program; jumping is just one of the countless ways to train in this fashion. Plyometric movements are any movement that generates power and maintains momentum by shortening and lengthening the muscles and tendons in an elastic manner. Jumping, throwing, skipping, and even dancing are considered plyometric movements.
In the world of commercial fitness using momentum is often frowned upon and looked at as “cheating”. This misconception is due to the popularity of conventional weight training (barbells, dumbbells, etc). Conventional weight training predominantly is geared toward strengthening the muscle belly through the concept of overload. You place a muscle group under load (ex: bicep curl) and have this muscle group work in an isolated fashion with a linear and segmented movement. These conventional movements allow you to mobilize the load without the help of momentum or any elastic power. Though this does increase the strength and size of the muscle belly it doesn’t strengthen the connective tissue (tendons).
Tendons, the connective tissue that connects muscle to bone, strengthen with flowing and fast movement. Movements with adequate speed and length stimulate the nervous system which sends a signal to tendons and muscles to shorten back to their original length. This rapid lengthening and shortening happens so quickly it often looks effortless and graceful. Elite sprinters and classically trained ballet dancers are excellent examples of this. These type of movements are not only beneficial for tendon strength and health but they also are essential in any athletic training program. A competent plyometric program develops a flexible, fast, strong and efficient moving human being.
With that being said, training with plyometrics is something to approached with caution and ideally under the watchful eye of a qualified fitness professional (preferably short and bald). The length and speed needed for these movements require an adequate amount of strength, flexibility, and coordination; and training beyond your limits (too fast or too far) can cause extreme soreness and in some cases injury. When starting on a plyometric training program always follow these 3 simple rules:
1) Establish Kinetic Order
Move in correct kinetic order. Feet, Legs, Hips, Trunk, Torso, then Arms.
Think of the body like a whip. Most movements generate their power from the feet. From there the power flows through the body and out the arms. This not only maximizes your potential power but it also ensures the no one body part takes the brunt of the movement.
2) Establish Flow
No matter if you are jumping rope, throwing a ball, or running; strive for flowing continuous movement. With unloaded human movement (no weights or external objects) there is a constant ebb and flow between all the muscles of the body. As power travels through the body, effort is handed off from one muscle to the next (again like a whip) in a flowing continuous manner. Start things off slow until you feel like there is no end and no beginning to your movements. Then and only then is it time to pick up the tempo.
3) Pick Up the Speed
Once you have established Kintetic Order and Flow, pick up the speed. Though your movements will become more explosive at this point make sure to always make rule 1) Kinetic Order and 2) Establish Flow are your priority. Without those two rules in place your quality of movement will suffer. Speed, load or volume without the presence of quality movement = damage to the muscle and tendon. Once you have mastered all three steps expect your flexibility, strength and speed to increase dramatically.
Here are some great examples of beginner plyometric exercises:
- Jump Rope
- Arm Swinging
- Stair Hops
If you have any questions about plyometric training please feel free to contact:
206-443-1111 ext 284