Plyometric Training (Plyometrics)
Muscles in the human body have the remarkable ability to stretch and contract. These properties form the foundation of a training technique called plyometrics.
Plyometrics, or plyometric training (PT), combines exercises with the following features:
- Forces muscles to stretch as much as possible and contract quickly.
- Provides comprehensive development of various properties, including muscle strength, speed, and endurance.
- Increases explosive and absolute muscle strength.
PT is effective for achieving the following goals:
- Weight Loss: The high-intensity nature of PT allows for the burning of a significant number of calories, making it effective for shedding excess weight.
- Explosive Power and Improved Speed: Practicing plyometrics leads to noticeable improvements in the ability to perform powerful and sharp movements, such as running short distances, playing sports, or engaging in martial arts.
Plyometric training is also highly efficient when it’s necessary to build muscle in a short time, helping to overcome muscle stagnation resulting from the body’s adaptation to specific loads.
The key advantages of PT include:
- Rapid Weight Loss: These exercises are performed with high intensity and require considerable energy output, resulting in noticeable weight loss in a short time. Not only do areas like the stomach and arms lose weight, but also the lower part of the body, including the buttocks, thighs, and legs.
- Enhanced Speed and Performance: Regular plyometric exercises enable individuals to run faster, strike with more force, jump higher, and throw further.
- Improved Elasticity and Tendon Strength: Plyometrics contributes to the improvement of tendon strength and elasticity, reducing the risk of tissue rupture during power and cardio workouts.
- Minimal Negative Impact on Muscle Tissue: Unlike standard cardio exercises performed at a consistent pace, interval explosive exercises minimize the risk of muscle tearing.
- Enhanced Anabolic Effect: Periodic PT helps maintain muscle growth and ensures that the effectiveness of strength training remains at a high level.
Another advantage of plyometrics is its ability to mitigate the negative consequences associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity and inadequate physical loads can lead to various changes in the body, including slowing down metabolic processes, muscle deflation, and gradual muscle atrophy, along with a noticeable drop in energy levels. By carefully selecting plyometric exercises and performing them regularly, individuals can effectively combat these consequences and activate their metabolism.
Disadvantages and Contraindications
However, it’s important to recognize the potential disadvantages and contraindications of plyometrics:
- Inadequate Physical Preparedness: Individuals who have never trained before or lack a basic level of physical fitness may find plyometrics challenging and potentially injurious.
- Heavy Load on Organs and Body Systems: Plyometric training places significant stress on various organs and body systems, making it unsuitable for individuals with certain medical conditions.
- High Risk of Injury: Due to its high-intensity nature, plyometric training carries a considerable risk of injury, necessitating caution and proper technique.
Contraindications include cardiovascular issues, musculoskeletal problems (especially joint issues), and obesity. An increased tendency to arm and leg injuries is also a contraindication to plyometric training.
Phases of Plyometrics
Jumping exercises dominate plyometric training, involving the following processes:
- Muscle Contraction during Takeoff: At the moment of taking off from the surface, muscles contract.
- Relaxation and Stretching in the Air: In the air, muscles relax and stretch.
- Muscle Contraction upon Landing: At the moment of the next contact with the ground, muscles are forced to contract and prepare for the next jump.
These processes are typically divided into three phases: pre-activation (eccentric), amortization (isometric), and contraction (concentric). The transition between these phases, known as the stretching-contracting cycle, occurs rapidly. The eccentric phase is characterized by a strong stretching of the Golgi tendon organ, enhancing concentric force while suppressing its protective function.
Recommendations for Safe and Effective Training
Plyometrics is considered a potentially traumatic form of physical activity. To ensure a safe and effective experience, it is crucial to adhere to the following recommendations:
- Proper Footwear: Practice plyometrics in sports shoes with good cushioning properties that securely support the feet, reducing the risk of ankle injuries.
- Appropriate Surface: Exercise on a solid ground, rubber-coated surface, or moderately firm platform to minimize joint stress during jumps.
- Warm-Up and Stretching: Include warm-up and stretching routines at the beginning of each plyometric session, dedicating at least 10 minutes. Pay special attention to warming up ligaments and joints subjected to maximum load.
- Exercise Form: Maintain precise form and technique during plyometric exercises. Correct execution is vital for achieving desired results while reducing the risk of injury.
Throughout the entire class, it’s crucial to avoid holding your breath. Monitoring your pulse rate is also necessary. If you experience any signs of discomfort, pain, or shortness of breath, you should promptly cease the training.
Examples of Exercises
In plyometric training, the fundamental exercises are categorized as jumping exercises:
These exercises can be complemented with additional activities such as sprinting, push-ups with clapping, and pull-ups on a horizontal bar with clapping.
The basic version of plyometric training comprises five exercises.
Standing Broad Jump
- Begin in a half-crouch position with your legs shoulder-width apart.
- Swing your arms backward and squat.
- Propel yourself forward, attempting to jump as far as possible.
- Land in a deep squat position on both feet.
After each jump, measure the distance between your starting and ending points to track your progress.
For this exercise, you’ll need two boxes or benches, one with a height of 30 cm and the other with a height of 55 cm. Follow these steps:
- Place the boxes in a row, with a distance of 1-1.5 meters between them.
- Stand on the lower box.
- Keep your hands alongside your body.
- Position your feet together so that your toes are at the edge of the box.
- Jump off the box onto the floor with both legs.
- Upon landing, immediately jump onto the higher box, striving to lift your knees as high as possible. Maintain slightly bent knees upon landing.
Lunges with Jumping
Perform the following actions:
- Stand in a lunge position with one knee as close to the floor as possible, ensuring the knee of the other leg does not extend beyond the toe.
- Straighten both legs and jump as high as possible, utilizing your arms for assistance.
- While in mid-air, bring your legs together and then spread them apart.
- Land on both legs without altering their initial positions.
- Alternate legs and repeat the movements.
Side-to-Side Jumps Over a Box
Execute the exercise as follows:
- Position yourself so that the box is on your left side.
- Place your left foot on the box.
- Jump upward and switch your legs, landing on the right foot on the opposite side of the box.
Continue jumping from one side to the other using this pattern.
Conclude your standard plyometric workout with push-ups:
- Assume the front leaning rest position, with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest until it touches the floor.
- Push through the palms of your hands, extending your elbows in a sharp motion.
- Strive to lift your palms off the floor.
In a more advanced variation, lift your palms off the floor and perform a quick clap before returning to the starting position.
Plyometric training should be organized into blocks, each consisting of 3-5 exercises. You can adjust the number of repetitions based on your physical fitness level. It’s essential to rest for 10-20 seconds between sets and take breaks of 1-2 minutes between blocks.
Following this scheme, it is recommended to engage in plyometric training no more than 1-2 times per week. These sessions should complement your primary physical activity, as more frequent training can lead to physical and nervous exhaustion.