Navigating the fitness playing field can be a daunting business. There is so much information out there that it is difficult to know exactly what the right type of exercise is for you. You have to decide if you should run, play sports, spin, lift weights, do yoga or pilates and on top of this you have nutritional considerations to think about too. It’s no wonder that some people never start exercising, simply because they are so overwhelmed with both choice and information. A great example is the common use plyometrics.
Fortunately, I was recently at an amazing conference with some of the top strength coaches in the performance based training. The first thing I learned was largely “it depends!” Because in reality, telling people that only one thing will work for them is doing that person an injustice and also not looking at the big picture. This is especially true of plyometric training that has become such a big thing.
It was a lot of fun to help Josh show strength coaches how learning to use their bodies better allows to them to perform better!
I am a big picture sort of person.
There are many components that make up fitness and exercising as a whole, find the parts of the puzzle that most benefit you are important and very unique to each person, in addition have a base understanding and keeping this simple are really important. You do have to understand what plyometrics are and if they are right for you!
This article today is looking at just one piece of the puzzle and that is plyometrics. In the past known as “shock” training, also referred to as ballistic or jump training, plyometric means to jump, to explode out of a movement. It is commonly used in sports specific athletic training to improve performance, but it has long been recognised as having merits in general fitness.
If you are a mature athlete, then they idea of jumping might not seem appealing to you. Maybe you have a few extra creaks and aches that you do not want to aggravate, which is completely understandable, but what if you knew the benefits? What if I were to give you a break-down of how to safely incorporate plyometrics into your workouts, would you try then?
What are the benefits of plyometric training?
The dynamic nature of explosive exercises help to improve connective tissue.
The movements are fast and require you to land with balance and elasticity, think of a cat here.
It build resiliency if done correctly and you have a good foundation.
The problem with plyometrics is that they have been thrown into general workouts with no real planning or thought. Over on the “gram” I see box jumps performed by people, just to get those extra likes, when really the chances are the random application of extreme plyometric movements are likely to leave them injured.
Therefore the place to start with any plyometric training is with a good solid strong foundation. Muscle adapts quicker than connective tissue
Let’s look at a very simplified view of what needs to be in place prior to plyometric exercise.
Is your body ready for plyometrics?
One of the ways you can check this is to grab a resistance band, pull it apart overhead to encourage scapular retraction, then perform an overhead squat. If you have any limitations within this move, work on fixing or improving those first.
Do you have sufficient joint movement to allow plyometric movements? Good mobility will translate into more efficient power, so this component is important.
Work on mobility of your ankles, hips and shoulders:
Your posterior chain is the back-line of your body from the ground up and is the most influential muscle group in the body. The glutes, hamstrings and lower back have a huge influence on your athleticism and they help propel you through powerful movements. Working on these areas should be priority if you want to introduce plyometric movement into your workouts. Focus on hip extension, hip hinges and squat patterns, both bi-lateral and uni-laterally focused. Finally a strong, active and stable anterior core will allow you to have the strength to control plyometrics
Recovery: Plyometrics place a huge amount of stress on your central nervous system (CNS) so make sure that you are fresh and your legs are ready for the work ahead. I would suggest not doing these after a heavy leg workout.
It is important to gradually build in plyometric work, starting small is going to give you greater results. If you do smaller jumps with higher volume, for example skipping, then you will build up ankle stiffness that will allow you to improve your contact with the ground. Pay a lot of attention on how your strike the ground, make sure you active land by using your feet to absorb and react into the landing, rather than falling heavily into your joints. A great way to think of a landing is how a cat would land, with extreme lightness and agility, channel your inner cat. This way you will not create any compensations throughout your knees.
Schedule some plyometric exercises into your workout 1-2 days per week.
Examples of exercises you can include are:
Remember to have fun with your workouts. If you feel that you aren’t ready for plyometric exercises yet, then slowly build up to them using the strategy outlined above. And lastly, small steps will always give you big results so take your time jumping to the top.
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