Plyometrics are key to your Vertical Jump Program and will Help you Increase Your Vertical Jump

09/10/2012 10:15

Plyometrics are among the most typically misconstrued and misused training techniques for enhancing an athlete's vertical jump. The act of leaping, especially with plyometrics, is very taxing on your joints, muscles and central peripheral nervous system and as such, you have to thoroughly organize and oversee this type of exercise accordingly.

Unfortunately many trainers and coaches haven't totally comprehended the impact plyometrics can have on a competitor and as an outcome this kind of training has actually gathered a bad reputation. To help you avoid the adverse outcomes of improperly applying plyometrics to your training, and to get the beneficial outcomes out of your effort and time, we have prepared a number of comprehensive write-ups that review the vital points that you need to know.

What Are Plyometrics?

There are a number of meanings for plyometrics floating around however my favourite is provided by Joel Middleton in Plyotraining:

"it consists of stimulating the muscles by methods of a sudden stretch anticipating any type of voluntary effort"

Siff also likes to describe Plyometrics as the 'Shock Method'. One of the vital features of plyometric exercises is that the time of the coupling phase of the jump should be very quick (<0.15 seconds)

Plyometrics is a reflexive form of training. It involves powerful muscular contractions in response to a rapid stretching of the muscles. The power of these contractions is generated by a combination of the strength of the muscles, and the efficiency of the central nervous system (CNS).

What Do Plyometrics Do?

Plyometrics provides the training stimulus for a number of vertical jump related benefits including:

The training of the CNS to send the required signals to the muscles to ensure they contract more explosively

The development of the muscles directly involved with vertical jumping

Development of the type II fast twitch muscle fibers associated with vertical jumping

The improved ability to transfer eccentric, or downward force, back into an upward or concentric movement

Any exercise that involves some sort of prior loading can technically be called a plyometric activity. Things like sprinting where each stride is taken one step after another have a plyometric element to it. Movements such as jumping up and down on the spot, or skipping, also have plyometric elements to them.

The depth jump which involves stepping off a raised box or platform and then as quickly as possible, jumping back up, highlights one of the most important elements to optimizing your plyometrics training. Whenever you do a plyometric type jump, it is most important that you explode off the ground as quickly as you can. If you can reduce the time it takes you to land, stabilize, and then reverse back into the jump, i.e - get off the ground quicker, you will start to jump higher.

Another thing you can do to improve the effectiveness of plyometric jumping is to minimize knee bend when you land. By concentrating on doing this you are training your body to more efficiently absorb and transfer force and helping develop an athletic quality known as stiffness. The better you are at doing this the more reactive and explosive you become, and ultimately, the higher you will jump.

The Bad Reputation of Plyometrics

Plyometrics has on occasion been perceived negatively by many sports coaches. The reasons for this are a combination of a lack of understanding by coaches about the impacts it has on an athlete, and the prescription of too much training volume.

When doing plyometrics, and in particular high impact plyometrics such as depth jumps it is important to not do anything stupid like 100's of reps, or adding heavy resistance through a vest, weight belt, or medicine ball. Doing so seriously increases the chances of injury.

Another danger to look out for is that plyometrics are extremely taxing on the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls how your body performs. If it is overly taxed it starts preventing your muscles from contracting forcefully as is required to jump high. You end up doing a lot of low power jumps and training for endurance, not maximum height. The CNS actually takes much longer to recover than your muscles and ligaments. So although you might think you are fully recovered because your muscles feel okay, it is highly possible that if you have done a big plyometric session your CNS may need more time to return to 100% functionality.

When it comes to training volume with plyometrics, because of the very high impact nature and the taxing of the CNS, not only is much better to err on the side of doing less, it is also a wise idea to occasionally take a complete break from plyometric work every now and then. Always remember with vertical jump training, it is quality, not quantity.

Further Theories About Plyometrics

There is a commonly espoused notion that athletes not engage in plyometrics unless they can squat at least 1.5 times their own body weight. This is a good rule of thumb assessment of an athlete's strength. There is a strong correlation between an athletes base strength levels and the amount of success they have with plyometric training. More strength generally results in more success