Tag Archives: plyometrics

Combined Plyometric Training Improves Performance

7 Oct
Single-Leg Box Jump

Single-Leg Box Jump

Single-Leg Hurdle Hop

Single-Leg Hurdle Hop

Most plyometric training focuses on bilateral, vertical exercises (nothing necessarily wrong with that).  We hop and jump with two feet, in a mostly vertical plane (straight up).

Adding unilateralhorizontal, and lateral plyometric exercises is a great way to accelerate the development of explosive power, balance, and muscular endurance, according to multiple studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

It’s pretty simple to incorporate unilateral (single-leg), horizontal (forward), and lateral (side-to-side) plyometric exercises into your training, once you’ve become comfortable and proficient with more traditional plyometric exercises.

When performing unilateral plyometric exercises, it’s important to start with a low intensity level and degree of difficulty.

If you’re already doing bilateral, vertical hops and jumps as part of your training, try adding single-leg vertical, lateral, and forward hops and jumps to your routine, on flat ground.  As your strength and balance improves, add low hurdles and plyo boxes to the mix.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Increase Leg Strength with Plyometric Training

1 May

box-jump[1]

Box Jump

Want to improve your leg strength?  Add some hopping, skipping, jumping, and bounding to your workouts.

Just six weeks of plyometric (jump) training resulted in a 10% increase in leg strength, according to research from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Squat jumps, broad jumps, box jumps, depth jumps, and hurdle hops can be easily incorporated into a workout.

Plyometric training is typically high-intensity, especially as compared to traditional, ground-based strength training.  Factors that influence the intensity of lower-body plyometric drills include points of contact (and commensurate stress on muscles, connective tissues, and joints); speed; height of the drill; and the participant’s weight.

Plyometric training sessions should generally be limited to two (2) per week, even if you are strength training with greater frequency.  A day (or more) of rest between jump training sessions is recommended.

Here are the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) guidelines for appropriate plyometric volume based on experience:

  • Beginner (no experience) = 80-100 “touches” (every time your feet land on the ground or other surface, it’s counted as one touch)
  • Intermediate (some experience) = 100-120 touches
  • Advanced (considerable experience) = 120-140 touches

Always make sure you warm up properly, wear appropriate footwear, and choose a safe, shock-absorbing landing surface (grass field, suspended floor, rubber mat, etc.) to prevent injuries.

Then get up off your feet and get some air.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Power and Speed with Horizontal Jumps

6 Apr

StandingLongJump[1]There is a positive correlation between vertical and horizontal jumps (standing long jumps) and muscular performance in athletes, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR).

At our facility, we favor contrast training — a strength exercise immediately followed by a power (explosive) exercise; for example, the squat followed by the squat jump.  Our athletes perform vertical and horizontal jumps, and plyometrics as the preferred modes of lower-body power training.

In the JSCR study, both vertical and horizontal jumps showed a significant correlation to sprint speed.  Bilateral and unilateral (single-leg) countermovement jumps, drop jumps, and squat jumps improved muscle architecture and sprint performance.

Unilateral jumps appear to have an even larger correlation to sprint speed than their bilateral counterparts.

Based on this information, strength and conditioning professionals can further improve their athletes’ performance by incorporating horizontal jumps — including unilateral jumps — into their training regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strength Training Safety and Specificity

6 Feb

adv_benchpress_03[1]One of the goals of strength training is to reduce the likelihood of injury during training.  Compared with other sports and fitness activities, strength training is actually quite safe — if and when athletes adhere to basic safety principles.

Specificity should also be an important consideration when designing an exercise program to improve performance in a particular sport activity.  Exercise selection should be determined in accordance with the demands and movement patterns of the sport.  A strength training program designed around sport-specific exercise movements can improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

SAFETY

  • Always perform a dynamic (movement-based) warm-up activity — or warm-up sets — with relatively light weight in order to stimulate blood flow to the muscles and improve connective tissue (ligaments, tendons) function.  Avoid static stretching as a warm-up.
  • Perform exercises through a full range-of-motion.
  • When performing a new exercise, or when training after an extended layoff (multiple weeks), use relatively light weight and gradually increase as proficiency allows.
  • Don’t “work through” pain, especially joint pain.  Working through some muscle fatigue or post-exercise muscle soreness is usually okay, but severe and persistent pain may be a warning sign to have the injury examined and treated medically.
  • Never attempt maximal lifts without appropriate preparation, (technique) instruction, and supervision.
  • Avoid “bouncing” at the bottom of the squat exercise, as this type of movement can cause muscle injury.  Observe proper squat mechanics — keep the knee in a vertical plane through the foot and hip.
  • Athletes should build adequate lower-body strength before beginning a lower-body plyometric program.
  • Perform several varieties of an exercise to improve muscle development and joint stability.

SPECIFICITY

  • Exercise selection should reflect the qualitative and quantitative demands and movement patterns of the sport.
  • Joint ranges-of-motion should be at least as great as those in the target activity.
  • Utilize visual observation and video as tools to facilitate exercise selection and determine movements important to that sport.
  • Exercise selection should include the three major planes — frontal, sagittal, and transverse, in order to strengthen movements between the planes.
  • Training should be movement-based, and not muscle-based.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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How to Improve Force Production

4 Feb

revwads18cut-1[1]There are many factors that affect force production (the amount of force produced in a muscle, or muscles).  Improvements in force production can optimize sport-specific skill performance, including running, jumping, throwing, and hitting/striking.

Lift Heavy

Lifting heavy weight (e.g, 65-80% 1RM) produces greater tension in the muscle which, in turn, leads to greater motor unit (neuromuscular) recruitment, which affects force production.  The number of active motor units is directly proportional to the amount of force production.  (It should also be noted that heavy lifting and explosive concentric training [see below] have the potential to activate more fast-twitch muscle fibers)

Preloading

Preloading is the tension developed in the muscle before you move the weight.  When you bench press, deadlift, or squat, you can’t move the bar off the rack or floor until sufficient force is developed in the muscle to overcome the inertia of the barbell.

Overload Eccentric Training

Use very heavy resistance (≥ 100% 1RM) to perform “negatives,” which emphasize the lowering phase/movement of a lift.  For safety reasons, it may be advisable to use a spotter (or spotters) for certain exercises, such as the bench press, to assist in returning the weight to the original (up) position.

Explosive Concentric Training

When training for explosive concentric movements — where the goal is generating velocity — use relatively light resistance.

Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises exploit the stretch-shortening cycle to generate maximum force in minimum time.  This involves “prestretching” a muscle immediately before a concentric action to enhance force production during the subsequent muscle action.

Rest

It’s important to incorporate rest days into your training regimen in order to allow muscles time to recover and repair.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Performance With Contrast Sets

21 Jan

hex-bar-girl[1]One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time. Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed (acceleration) and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

Here’s an example of a simple contrast model for athletes to build explosive power:

  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

Incorporate this superset into your workout for speed development:

  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

And finally, a superset using two explosive/plyometric exercises:

  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 1-3 sets

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Get Stronger, Faster with Triple Extension Training

15 Dec

squat-jump2[1]“Triple extension” refers to a type of exercise training movement used to develop lower-extremity explosive power and force production. Triple extension training involves the hips, the knees, and the ankles. When executing a triple extension movement, all three sets of joints move from a flexed (bent) position to an extended (straight) position.  Thus, triple extension movements involve the flexion and subsequent forceful extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

I am an advocate of triple extension training for the development of lower-body strength, speed, and explosive power, for virtually all athletes. Triple extension training is important for all athletes, as this movement is executed when running, jumping, kicking, swimming, throwing, hitting, blocking, and tackling.  Specifically, jumping in basketball and volleyball: pushing off the back leg to throw in baseball and football; driving through a block or tackle in football; even pushing off during swimming and diving are examples of how this movement applies to sports. Because of its broad application, triple extension training is a great way to prepare and develop the body for such explosive movements by conditioning the muscles and ligaments for these types of movements.

Ultimately, triple extension exercises build lower-extremity strength and power, increasing the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, providing the means to run faster, jump higher, etc.

The following exercises are a few examples of movements that employ triple extension:

  • Olympic lifts, such as cleans and snatches
  • Plyometrics, such as squat jumps and box jumps
  • Traditional strength training exercises such as squats and deadlifts
  • Non-traditional strength training exercises, such as  kettlebell swings and tire flips

Because these exercises are higher intensity and require greater energy expenditure, they should be performed at the beginning of your workout, after an appropriate warm-up.  Don’t go overboard with the amount of weight you use to perform these exercises. The benefits of triple extension exercises can be realized with relatively light weight. The key is to employ a full range of motion and try to execute each rep under control. Any of the exercises (above) performed with light-to-moderate weight can improve your strength and power.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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It’s (almost) All About Speed

6 Oct

STFSpeed is a (insert cliché) difference maker/game changer/game breaker in virtually every sport.  It can be the difference between starting and sitting; winning and losing.

And agility, or “quickness” (which is basically the speed at which an athlete is able to accelerate, decelerate, change direction, and react), may be even more important than “straight-line” speed (and certainly more relevant in most sports).

I hear a lot of people talk about sport aptitude/IQ and sport-specific skills (e.g., ball-handling and shooting, in basketball), and both are important.

But, as you ascend through higher levels of sport participation — middle school, high school JV, varsity, college, one thing is certain: If your opponent can outrun you, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.  Conversely, if you can outrun your opponent, the advantage becomes yours.

Not everyone has the potential to be fast, but everyone has the potential to be faster.

If you’re serious about improving and developing your speed, you’ll need to incorporate these three components into your training plan:

  1. Strength training
  2. Plyometrics
  3. Technical training (running form, mechanics)

It’s also a smart idea to consult with an experienced, qualified strength and conditioning professional, to ensure that your plan is well-designed and -supervised.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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6 Ways to Jump Higher

19 Feb

highjump[1]The ability to get up off your feet is obviously important in sports like basketball and volleyball.  But what about other sports?  Well, since your vertical jump is an indicator of your lower-body explosive power (and since lower-extremity strength and power is important for virtually all sports), it’s in every athlete’s best interest to develop his/her vertical jump performance.

Here are 6 ways to improve your vertical jump:

  1. Get stronger.  Jumping is about pushing your body away from the ground.  The stronger you are through the hips and legs, the greater the force you can generate against the ground.  Exercises like squats, deadlifts (we like using the trap bar), glute-ham raises (on the bench or manual resistance), and Romanian deadlifts should be incorporated into your training plan.
  2. Develop your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers.  Your fast-twitch muscles are your body’s largest and have the most growth potential.  They are responsible for maximum effort jumps, sprints, and lifts.  However, to produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest.  That means, in order to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must work at about 70% or more of your capacity (we benchmark at about 80% of an athlete’s 1RM) – heavy weight, low repetitions for most exercises.
  3. Contrast training.  This strategy will help you accelerate the development of lower-extremity strength and power (and it will also wear you out!).  Contrast training involves performing a strength exercise, immediately followed by an explosive movement.  An example would be to do a set of squats and proceed, without rest, to a set of squat jumps.
  4. Push the Prowler.  We love the weighted sled for the development of hip/leg drive, strength, and power.  You can push it and/or pull it, and adjust the weight to the needs and abilities of each individual athlete.  We use the Prowler as a workout “finisher” for many of our athletes, especially during their off-season training phase.
  5. Plyometrics.  Once you’ve built a strong foundation through strength training, it’s time to add plyometric exercises to your workout.  Plyometric training involves exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, using something called the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).  SSC is basically an eccentric (lengthening) muscle movement rapidly followed by a concentric (shortening) contraction.  Examples of plyometric exercises are box jumps, depth/drop jumps, hurdle jumps, and even jumping rope.
  6. Steer clear of injury.  Vertical jump training should include landing mechanics, since research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  Balance and stability exercises are important additions to any vertical jump training program.  Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion, knee alignment, and hip motion should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Plyometrics

21 Oct

Power-Plyo%20Box%20Starter%20Set%20-%20Plyometric%20Training%20Equipment%20for%20Football[1]Want to run faster and jump higher? Virtually all athletes can benefit from improvements in — and development of — explosive muscular force.

Plyometric training has a positive effect on neuromuscular performance, increasing explosive performance and, subsequently, athletic performance.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that two factors are especially impactful and should be considered when designing or participating in a plyometric training program:

  • Training volume
  • Training surface

Plyometric training volume is usually measured in touches (for example, when you jump up on a box and then back down, that counts as two touches).  In this study, it was determined that “a high plyometric training volume (i.e., 120 jumps per session or 240 jumps per week) would be necessary to induce an increase in acceleration sprint.” (Ramirez-Campillo, et.al.)

Plyometric training surface (hard or soft landing surface) was also relevant in the study, with a harder surface — such as a wood gymnasium floor — doubling the efficiency of adaptations in reactive strength.  As a result, “a high volume of training would not be necessary to induce reactive strength adaptations when a hard landing surface is used.”

Study data indicate that “when moderate volume is used during plyometric training, a hard training surface would be needed if fast SSC (stretch-shortening cycle) muscle actions, or reactive strength, are an important objective of training.”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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