When you hear the term "plyometric," you might think of jumping or jump training. However, plyometric is defined as an action that causes a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest time possible. We can directly apply the term "plyometric" to speed training. Let's review how the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) contributes to increasing your speed with plyometric training by breaking down the three types of muscle contractions.
- Eccentric Phase – This is the lowering phase when the muscle lengthens.
- Isometric Phase – The static muscle contraction that acts as the bridge between the eccentric and concentric phase.
- Concentric Phase– This is the phase when the muscle contracts and shortens to move the external load.
Any time you perform a dynamic movement you are utilizing the SSC. For example, let's take a typical Squat. When descending downward, your hips move back. Your knees bend. The quads, hamstrings and glutes lengthen. This is the eccentric phase of the Squat.
At the end of the eccentric phase, right before you transition upward, there is a slight pause at the bottom of the Squat. This is the isometric phase. As you transition upward, your quads, hamstrings and glute muscles shorten. This causes your knees and hips to extend, completing the concentric phase.
Now that we have gone over the SSC, let's dive into the relationship between plyometrics and the SSC. We know that plyometric is a rapid, maximal force movement. The stretch-shortening cycle is a 3-phase muscle contraction involved in dynamic movements. Now how do they relate to one another? Plyometric training helps enhance the SSC by rapidly going through the eccentric, isometric, and concentric phases. This trains dynamic movements like sprinting and jumping to be more efficient and explosive.
So, how can you increase your speed with plyometric training? If we separate the three phases of the SSC and train them individually, you will see an overall increase in speed. We train the eccentric part of a movement to be able to absorb more energy and power. We then train the isometric phase, so the force we generated and absorbed in our eccentric phase is not lost in transition from eccentric to concentric and actually adds to the force production. Finally, we focus on the concentric phase, ensuring that we get the highest rate of force development out of the movement.
- Eccentric – Train slow and focus on your landing! Allow your muscles to recruit the necessary energy in the weight room and spend 3-8 seconds on the way down in each exercise. When jumping, focus on the initial contact to the ground–don't waste the energy produced. Avoid knees going in or out, hips swaying or chest falling forward.
- Isometric – Train at a stop, hold the landing! Allow your muscles to maintain the energy that has been produced. Get to the bottom of your exercise and hold it for 3-8 seconds. When jumping, land properly, then hold that landing position for two full seconds before standing up.
- Concentric – Train fast and focus on exploding! Allow your muscles to use the energy produced, come out of the bottom of the exercise quickly, but don't sacrifice form!
(Pro tip: Decrease the amount of weight when doing concentric training until you can adequately control that weight.)
When jumping, focus on the up portion being as explosive as you can make it. Throw your chest to the sky, keep your knees in line with your toes, and launch your hips through.
In a relatively short time you will see an increase in speed by integrating plyometric training and emphasizing the SSC. A comprehensive program to increase speed should include an effective warm-up, speed training, plyometrics, and strength and power movements. Be sure to rest 48 to 72 hours between plyometric workouts to maximize results!
Plyometric Drill Series For Speed
Depth Drop 3x5
Box Jump 3x5
Box Blast 3x4 each
- The 10 Best Plyometric Exercises for Athletes
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- 3 Unbreakable Plyometric Training Rules