Top Plyometric Progressions For Athletes
Our top plyometric progressions revealed
Plyometrics can be used for a variety of purposes, stability training, jump training, rebounding and the list goes on. There is a misconception that plyometrics are a one size fits all and that any jumping activity or bounding activity can be applicable to specific sports performance outcomes. When performing plyometric exercises for performance, the emphasis should be on quality not quantity of exercises performed. We want to perform these activities when fresh to maximise performance benefits. In this article we will talk about our top plyometric progressions for athletes.
What is a plyometric exercise?
A plyometric exercise is an exercise that involves a rapid stretch followed by quick muscle contraction. Within this type of activity we can break down an exercise into eccentric, amortisation and concentric components. The eccentric components of plyometrics have a role in stabilising the body upon landing and deceleration, working to resist gravity. Concentric contractions work against gravity to perform activities. The amortisation phase is the time between eccentric and concentric actions. The benefits of performing plyometric activities include a reduced “collapsing” during deceleration and landing movements under larger ground impacts and improved elastic loading and efficiency of the stretch shortening cycle, which can improve force production.
When talking about plyometrics, it is important to look at exercises through a continuum as we programme effectively for intensity and load of activities. This continuum runs from basic stability and landing mechanics drills to high intensity rebound jumps.
Impacts of landings can range between 4x to 7x body weight. This is a very large impact and if correct movements are not learned, the body could be at a greater risk of injury during landing movements but also during deceleration and force acceptance.
The stability aspect of plyometrics is targeting force acceptance of musculature but also the mechanical capabilities of tendons and ligaments. These can be adapted into plyometrics by cuing different outcomes, either a soft landing with minimal noise or a solid landing with minimal movement upon landing respectively.
How to increase intensity and loading
This leads nicely onto how we can make these exercises more intense and increase loading. For beginners, you can start with box jumps. Landing on a high box will reduce the load on impact and can be utilised to teach a good landing position with minimal loading on the knees. We can make exercises more intense by dropping from a box. It is easy to see how using different sized boxes, we can manipulate intensity. A higher box will elicit a greater impact force and require a greater degree of force acceptance and mechanical stability, as a result of gravity acting on the body for a longer time, while a lower box will elicit a lower impact. Increasing the eccentric capacity of the quads and glutes through stabilising activities can improve deceleration performance as well as any landing movement. Single leg exercises can further increase intensity on comparable exercises due to accepting the same load on half the musculature. Similarly, single leg activities increase activation of stabilising muscles as well as the adductors and abductors, assisting with your single leg sporting and daily activities. We can increase the specificity of exercises by adding lateral elements in hop and stick activities.
THE VIDEO: Top Plyometric Progressions For Athletes
Jumping is a common tool used in strength and conditioning. It works the body at the highest velocity while using body weight as load. Performing jump exercises also develops the kinetic chain and coordination which can improve the biomechanical aspects of performance, eliciting a triple extension from the hips knees and ankles. By working at the highest velocities, we are training our bodies to move quickly and with an emphasis on power.
Rebounding exercises rely on reactive strength and the ability to utilise the stretch shortening cycle. When performing rebound exercises, we need to think about the relevance of the bounds we are performing to our sporting performance. If ground contact time is greater than 0.5s, then there are no effects of the stretch shortening cycle. The shorter the contact time, the greater the influence of the stretch shorting cycle and contribution of elastic energy compared with longer ground contact times which require greater concentric force to generate power.
Pogos are a basic rebound exercise where we attempt to rebound off the floor as quickly as possible. We don’t want our ankles to touch the floor. One way of cueing this is to imagine a credit card is placed under your heels. By focusing on contact time, we can stress the mechanical capabilities of the lower extremities. By cueing the exercise slightly differently, for height, we increase ground contact time and notice increased knee flexion, highlighting the increased force acceptance and concentric force with each bound.
Depth jumps involve stepping off a raised height and rebounding explosively to maximise jump height while minimising ground contact time. It is important to adjust the height of the box, not only to alter intensity of rebounds, but also relate to the different contact times for specific sporting situations. For example, a 180o turn will have a ground contact time just below the magic 0.5s, whereas, a 45o turn requires a much shorter contact time (~0.24s). When programming, a taller box will increase ground contact time targeting sporting activities such as jumping for a line out in rugby. A smaller box reduces ground contact times, which may be more specific for actions such as the triple jump. The eccentric and amortisation phases (transfer time between eccentric force absorption and concentric force application) are longer when rebounding from a greater height due to overloading the mechanical and acceptance capacities of fibrous and soft tissues respectively.
If you perform the same exercises on a single leg, the loading is going to be far greater and so you need to ensure you have a good level of force acceptance and mechanical stability before attempting single leg rebound exercises.
These exercises can be performed laterally, vertically or in a linear fashion. You should perform these progressions in a variety of planes to allow your body to adapt more effectively to different sporting situations. As mentioned before, stability and plyometrics are trainable qualities and so the importance of progressive overload and specificity.
Download our continuum of plyometric progressions from beginners to advanced athletes.