Thursday, July 10, 2008

Enhancing Athleticism with Plyometrics

Speed and strength are essential fitness factors found in different degrees of virtually every athletic movement. For many athletes, the ideal level of speed is equivalent to power. For years, athletes have sought to enhance their power and speed to improve their athleticism. Fitness experts have discovered that jumping, bounding, and hopping exercises are effective means of achieving this feat. In recent years, this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics.

This kind of training seeks to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions because of rapid eccentric contractions. Plyometric training moves the muscles to attain optimum strength in the shortest time possible. It develops muscle strength, which then leads to muscle power. In general, this kind of training works out the neuromuscular system, enabling them to respond more rapidly to increased loads. This is achieved by making use of the inherent natural elasticity of the muscles and other neuromuscular reflexes.

Examples of plyometric exercises with intensity level:

  • Standing based jumps performed on the spot (low intensity) - Tuck Jumps, Split Jumps
  • Jumps from standing (low-medium intensity) - Standing long jump, Standing hop, Standing jump for height
  • Multiple jumps from standing (medium intensity) - bounds, bunny hops, double footed jumps over low hurdle, double footed jumps up stepsMultiple jumps with run in (High intensity) - 11 stride run + 2 hops and a jump into sandpit, 2 stride run in + bounds
  • Depth jumping (high-very high intensity) - jumps down and up off box (40 to 100cm), bounding up hill
  • Eccentric drop and hold drills (high-very high intensity) - hop and hold, bound/hop/bound/hop over 30 meters (athletes stop and hold on each landing before springing into the next move), drop and hold from a height greater than one meter
  • Jumping onto and down from objects
  • Bounding up and down stairs on one or both feet
  • Running, jumping, catching, or throwing
Individuals who want to engage in plyometric training should bear in mind that this kind of training may heighten the risks of injuries because it puts a great deal of unnecessary stress on the body. For this reason, this training technique should only be done under the guidance of those with knowledge and experience of this particular training. Several precautionary measures should be taken to achieve the benefits of plyometric training. These measures may include training on an appropriate surface, using proper footwear and equipment, and proper technique.

Plyometrics should not be performed on hard surfaces, like concrete, or even soft surfaces, like sand. Grass fields and wrestling mats are recommended surfaces for plyometrics. However, wrestling mats should not be thicker than 15 cm because it may increase the amortization phase and lead to loss of stored energy, therefore defeating the purpose of engaging in plyometric training. Recommended shoes are those that provide proper arch and ankle support, and lateral stability. Medicine balls are equipment that are commonly used for many plyometric exercises. This ball weighs no more than 10 percent of the body weight of the individual performing the exercise. Like other exercises, proper execution of technique should always be maintained. Fatigue from this kind of training may compromise technique and cause injuries.

39 comments:

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