by Erik Castiglione
Plyometrics – what are they? In a word, JUMP!
(Of course we’re going with Van Halen and not Kris Kross, get out of here with that)
Plyometrics, or jump training, are the BEST way to develop explosive power. The Olympic lifts are great expressions of power, but they require tremendous skill and take time to learn. If you are technically proficient in these lifts and are looking to improve your lift speed, plyometrics can help.
Additionally, plyometrics are an excellent way to build our type II, or fast twitch muscle fibers. As we age, these are the fibers that deteriorate the fastest. If you’ve ever used our InBody machine for a body scan and noticed your Basal Metabolic Rate, the amount of type II fibers you have directly impacts this. The more type II fibers you have, the higher your BMR will be.
Furthermore, performing this type of training is great for just developing general health and athleticism. Just think about jumping for a second – I’m sure we can all agree that it’s a fairly high impact activity. Essentially, every landing is a collision with the ground. Learning to manage these collisions, and to absorb and redistribute the energy involved has tremendous carryover to other activities. When we run, we CONSTANTLY impact the ground. When we catch a snatch or clean, that’s another collision. And, as we approach the bottom of a squat and seek to turn it around and stand back up, it requires a transfer of energy to stop the bar and start it moving in the opposite direction.
Finally, plyometrics are great for “waking up” our nervous system. To activate a lot of muscle in a short amount of time requires a lot of neural activity. The coordination involved in plyometric movements also requires a lot of neural activity, making these movements an excellent addition to the end of a warm-up before performing heavy lifts.
So, how do we use plyometrics? It depends on the goal. To prime your central nervous system at the end of a warm-up, 15-20 total jumps will do the trick. For building your explosive power your plyometric movement will be a standalone exercise, and 25-30 total jumps are all you need.
What does this mean when we do high rep box jumps or box jump overs, like we did in 21.2 yesterday? In instances like this, the jumping activity is much less explosive, and becomes more of an aerobic exercise. It’s going to tax you for sure because it requires you to use your type II fibers (until you can’t), but you’re not going to actually build explosive strength with them. I would equate it to high rep Olympic lifting – when we cycle a bar repeatedly, our positions tend to deviate from the ideal we would use to build to a 1 rep max, because we simply can’t be explosive after a certain number of reps. Same deal with high rep box jumps.
Instead, movements like seated dynamic jumps, seated box jumps, DB jump to box jumps, and knee jumps are more effective in the correct doses. For upper body work, clapping/plyo push-ups, and medicine ball chest pass variations do the trick. To progress these movements, you can increase the height of your landing surface, add weight, or both. And, when you want to have some fun, you can combine different variations into a sequence, like the one below. As long as you perform these jumps with max effort and don’t exceed the recommended dosages, you’ll get the benefits of plyometric exercise. Otherwise, it just becomes aerobic work, which offers different benefits. See you in the gym.