Build Your Explosive Lower-Body Plyometric Program

March 31, 2013 | Joe Giandonato

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Imagine diving to snare a line drive in the outfield or capping off a fast break steal with a thunderous dunk. Each of these actions requires the rapid firing and seamless interaction of a host of muscles to produce power.

Plyometric exercises boost the body's ability to summon muscular force and increase power output. Prior to an explosive movement, energy is gathered and stored during the stretch phase. When the muscle action occurs, the stored energy is released, increasing force production.

Lower-Body Plyometric Program Considerations

  • Each plyometric training session should be preceded by a thorough dynamic warm-up.
  • With youth athletes and beginners, the number of ground contacts should initially be kept low (less than 40 per session).
  • Exercises involving jumps should be performed in sets of less than 5 reps and should never be performed to failure.
  • Plyometrics should be performed early in the workout when the athlete is freshest.
  • Beginners should not perform plyometrics on consecutive days.

Plyometric training of lower-body movements typically involves the squat pattern. This movement pattern must be mastered before it can be performed explosively.  (See Squat 101: A How-To Guide.) To improve their stability and body awareness, athletes must demonstrate satisfactory isometric and eccentric control of their bodies in the squat position before progressing to a series of jumps. (See also What is the Best Type of Jump Squat?) The Squat Jump should be perfected before moving onto jumps over objects, multiple hops and jumps, bounding, box jumps and depth jumps.

Squat Jump Progression

1. Isometric Squat Hold

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width
  • Sit back, shooting your hips to the rear
  • Keep your torso rigid, with your chest showing
  • Maintain this position for a specified period of time

2. Squat

  • Shoot your hips to the rear
  • Achieve the bottom position of the squat
  • Ascend to upright position, driving through your heels and extending your hips
  • Drive your knees out and don't let them collapse inward

3. Squat with Pause then Hop

  • Assume the bottom position of the squat; pause
  • Hop out of the squat and focus on landing softly (to spare your joints and connective tissue)
  • Drive your hips to the rear, keeping your core tight as you descend into squat position
  • Once you master the movement, progressively increase the height of your hops

4. Vertical Jump

  • Assume a quarter or half squat stance, with your hips flexed and knees slightly bent
  • Explode out of the stance and leap up, extending at the hips, knees, and ankles
  • Land as softly as possible

5. Vertical Jump with Rapid Descent

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  • Quickly drop into a quarter or half squat stance
  • Explode out of the stance and leap up, extending at the hips, knees, and ankles
  • Land as softly as possible

6. Drop Squat into Vertical Jump

  • Quickly descend into a deep squat, maintaining a neutral spine and an engaged core
  • Explode out of the position and leap up, extending at the hips, knees and ankles
  • Land as softly as possible

7. Reactive Drop Squat into Vertical Jump

  • Same as the Drop Squat into Vertical Jump, except preceded by an auditory or visual command
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
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