By: Chris Parchmann, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Power training is an important component of a well-balanced training plan to improve sport performance and function during daily living activities. Exercises geared toward helping athletes jump higher and run faster are essential to anyone looking to gain an edge to outplay their opponent. Power can be improved with exercises known as plyometrics that are performed using bodyweight and can be implemented into home workout routines.
Plyometrics for Enhanced Sport Performance
Ageility has found plyometric training to consistently improve the production of muscle force and power. Power is defined as the time rate of doing work. Sport specific movements as well as functional movements of daily living depend on all body parts working synchronously at appropriate velocities. As a result, the quicker one can produce force in their given sport or daily task the greater the outcome. For example, a tennis serve with greater power output will generate higher ball velocities. Daily living activities such as climbing stairs are achieved more easily and accomplished faster when the hip and leg musculature has the ability to generate higher power outputs. Athletes must keep in mind that there is also a skill component to sports. The strongest and most powerful do not always translate into the best players. However, strength and power are often significantly correlated to elite level athletes in any given sport. Plyometric training prepares athletes for the deceleration, acceleration, and change of direction demands of most sports. Plyometric exercises should also be included in aerobic training programs. Improved running economy can help endurance athletes such as long distance runners.
How Plyometric Exercises Work
Plyometric exercises are composed of a quick, powerful movement preceded by a prestretch, or countermovement, involving the stretch-shortening cycle. The stretch-shortening cycle is composed of three phases known as the eccentric phase, amortization phase, and concentric phase. The eccentric phase is the first phase of the movement to occur that involves a preload stretch of the working muscle groups. An example of the eccentric phase is with the basketball jump shot. The athlete quickly performs a half-squat and rapidly jumps up to shoot the ball. The time from the beginning of the half-squat to the bottom of the movement (countermovement) is the eccentric phase. The amortization phase or transition is the time from the end of the eccentric phase to the initiation of the concentric muscle action. This phase must be kept short to yield increased muscle activity during the following concentric phase. The concentric phase is the final phase of the stretch shortening cycle that involves a shortening of the working muscle groups. Use of stored energy during the concentric phase increases force production beyond normal levels for movements performed without a prestretch. Using the basketball jump shot as an example again, the concentric phase begins at the onset of the upward direction of the half-squat. The purpose of plyometric exercise is to use the stretch reflex and natural elastic components of both muscle and tendon described by the stretch-shortening cycle to increase the power of following movements.
Ageility has provided example bodyweight exercises listed below that can be done at home, as part of a warm-up or workout depending on fitness level. Plyometric exercises should be performed at the beginning of the workout when combined with other forms of exercise such as strength and endurance training. Consult with an Ageility certified fitness professional on how to implement plyometric exercises into a balanced training program.
*Exercises, sets and yardage are provided as examples and not meant to comprise a workout. Exercises should be tailored to each individual.*
Jumping Jacks: 2×20
Hop In Place: 2×20
Single Leg Hop In Place: 2×10 each
Lateral Hop in Place: 2×10 each
Single Leg Lateral Hop: 2×10 each
Jump Rope: 2×60 seconds
Butt Kicker: 2×10 yards
High Knees: 2×10 yards
Skips: 2×10 yards
Carioca: 2×10 yards
Lateral Shuffle: 2×10 yards
Straight Leg Jogging: 2×10 yards