Jumping to New Performance Levels: Plyometric Training for Youth
Plyometrics is not just for skilled athletes at the elite level. Studies show that plyometric training has positive effects on a number of performance attributes in 10- to 13-year-old children. It helps develop overall power and high levels of speed-strength by improving running speed and economy; quickness and agility; lower-body power; and the rate of force development—how fast an athlete uses the strength he or she generates.
A proper plyo program involves exercises such as jumping, skipping, hopping, bounding and running. If young athletes follow some basic principles, incorporating plyos into their training programs can reap huge rewards and take their performance to new levels.
Researchers are finding that when implemented at certain stages of development—particularly ages 10 to 11 and 12 to 13—plyo training can propel future development. Youth in these age ranges can perform slow to intermediate work that trains their muscles' stretch-shortening cycle. A muscle is like a rubber band: the more you stretch it, the more power/force it has. If you stretch a large rubber band, it can generate immense power and force. All athletes need to improve their muscles' ability to stretch farther—to create larger rubber bands!
The effectiveness of any training program rests on the suitability of its design, including volume, intensity, frequency, speed of movement and recovery. Although plyo training can start at an early age, a 12-year-old should not do the same drills as an 18-year-old. For example, a 12-year-old could do 10 yards of Speed Hops with both feet, while an 18-year-old might do 25-Yard Single-Leg Jumps. Or the 12-year-old could do a Standing Long Jump, while the 18-year-old might use a box and do repeated jumps for distance.
By following a safe, sound plyometric program, youth ages 10 to 13 can start to develop the performance attributes that will help them excel in later years of their athletic careers.
Below is a sample program for beginners:
- To start, bend the knees slightly—power and movement will come through the ankle joints
- Drive off the ground as explosively as possible
- On landing, keep legs straight but not locked and spring back into the air using extension through the ankles to gain height
- 2x8 jumps
- Lower into a squat position, bending the knees
- Jump up, getting triple extension through the hips, knees and ankles
- Go as high as possible
- Try to spend as little time on the ground as possible
- 2x6 jumps
- Like the Squat Jump, from a squat position, jump as high as possible
- At the highest point, bring legs out to the side and arms overhead at a 45-degree angle, forming a star
- Bring feet back in and under the body before landing
- Land and repeat
- 2x6 jumps
Double Leg Speed Hop
- With both feet together, extend the ankles and hips
- Staying on your toes, hop on both feet for 10 yards
- Spend a little time as possible on the ground—pretend you're hopping through hot coals
- 2x10 yards
By performing these simple exercises—progressing from low to moderate to high intensity—you can begin a plyometric program at an early age safely and effectively.