If you are into fitness or athletics for the performance, even if only partly then you will want to add plyometrics into your workout. Want to be quicker, more agile then keep reading to find out why and how.
Plyometrics is training the body for explosiveness by focusing on the eccentric contraction of the muscle. You many not be aware but there are 3 types of muscle contractions: concentric where the muscle is contracting during the shortening of the muscle, isometric where the muscle contracts without moving and eccentric where the muscle contracts as it’s lengthening. And something else to keep in mind is that we are stronger during the eccentric contraction. If you have ever incorporated negatives into your training regiment (a great way to increase strength and muscle size) you know that you can use a greater amount of weight during the negative, or eccentric contraction motion.
Let’s look at a clear example of a plyometric, the frog jump or let’s call it a squat jump. Here’s another reason to use full range of the body when working out. It’s better to use full range even though you may be tired than doing more reps. You can think of the starting position coming off of the ending of the move. When you complete a squat jump you are landing on your feet. Now, instead of landing and standing, let that momentum lower you into a deep squat. This is where the muscles are now elongating and you are in the eccentric contraction position ready to start. Now without missing a beat, or pausing, jump with all that explosiveness you have inside.
That’s the motion. From the deep squat explode upwards and outwards and when you land, land right down into that low squat. Want to know how to do these properly? Watch some 8 – 9 year old kids who find this fun (fun names like leapfrog help with this) and you’ll see them spring along like no one’s business. Another benefit is by dropping into the squat when you land you’ll be doing your joints a favour by not having them absorb all that energy.
Try to execute each jump squat one after another in a rhythmic motion. Along with building and developing explosiveness, you will also give your cardio a great workout. If you are doing these more for a resistance training benefit than a cardio workout, then take a break as you lower into the squat to catch your breath and get a few more reps in. But, again, start the explosion from the squat, resist the urge to raise yourself up and then explode.
Besides squat jumps where else can plyometrics be incorporated? If you understand the eccentric contraction, the contraction where the muscle lengthens than you can add plyometrics anywhere. Let’s look at some examples:
- Pushups: Keeping the hips aligned with your ankle bone and your shoulders, lower slowly and controlled, pause for a second and then explode upwards. Add a clap at the top of the motion if you so choose.
- Calf raises: Use a staircase, a large block of wood or anything solid that is stable and will support your weight as you are on the balls of your feet. Now, while on the balls of your feet, heels up as high as they go lower your heels, all the way down, feeling the calf muscles stretch. Hold it for a second and explode upwards.
- The speed skater: This exercise I refer to as the speed skater as it reminds me of watching distance speed skating. The force is from a push off to the side from the lead foot. Let’s start with the left leg. Bending the left knee almost like a squat, bring your right foot behind and past the left side of your body. Stay loose and let your arms and hands swing to the left side also. As you bring that right foot behind and over to the left side, let your body lower, elongating the muscles, loading up that spring. Then explode and jump laterally to your right side landing on your right foot, bending the landing leg, and having the left foot come bend and over to the right side. Don’t forget to let the hands and arms naturally swing to the right side. Repeat back and forth, side to side. The motion from side to side should be smooth, allowing the body to lower itself to absorb the energy of landing. This exercise is great to help build speed and quickness moving side to side.
- Box jumps: As the name implies you’ll need a box to do this. Start with a box approx. the height of your knees from the ground. Standing away from the box lower your body into a deep squat. Explode upwards landing on the box and again, let the body lower to absorb the energy in your muscles. Jump back down behind you and remember to not land hard, let the muscles and the movement of the body absorb the energy. If you are an advanced athlete you might want to use a box that is high as your hips to do this. Regardless of the size the key is to get that eccentric contraction and then explode. To change this up, using a smaller box you can jump side to side over the box landing, absorbing, elongating and jumping back over the box.
The more you understand how the body works the more you can do with it and the more you can mix up your workouts. Working out should be fun, something you look forward to. Try some of these workouts to see if they interest you and maybe you end up just that much faster.
Yours in health,