A plyometrics workout can be an excellent addition to your training. It can improve your strength and athleticism and can help keep you injury-free. However, jumping and other explosive movements are not safe, or even necessary, for everyone.
Adequate strength and proper form are extremely important to perform these exercises safely. Since they involve generating large amounts of force, athletes should carefully consider the cost-to-benefit ratio and be certain that plyometrics are necessary to meet their goals. A trainer or coach can be a tremendous help in teaching the proper progressions and safe implementation of plyometrics.
Benefits of Plyometrics
If you’re an athlete, whether a weekend warrior, a professional, or a high school student looking for a college scholarship, plyometric drills can help improve your speed, power, and quickness and give you an edge over your opponents. Amanda Kimball, strength and conditioning coach for the Villanova women’s basketball team, says, “If you can produce and reduce high force at high speed, you will have an advantage.” If you can use the movement pathways you learn through plyometric drills, you will perform better in game situations.
Plyometric training can also save you from injury. When performed properly, jumping exercises promote proper landing mechanics, teaching your body to safely absorb the impact when you jump during a game. Better mechanics mean less soreness following games and fewer missed opportunities on the playing field or court due to injury.
Questioning the Safety of Plyometrics
Safety is important to consider prior to incorporating plyometrics into any routine. Proper form is crucial for reducing the risk of injury. With jumping exercises, athletes should emphasize proper form on landings—i.e., landing softly in a ball-heel fashion with ankles, knees, and hips all flexed to absorb the impact. Performing the exercises improperly can lead to injury instead of boosting performance.
Properly Progressing Plyometrics
Proper plyo progression is another important element to consider. Athletes should progress through exercises at an appropriate speed. Everyone learns and improves at a different rate. Don’t try to keep up with your training partners or others in the gym. Focus on your own individual progression and make small improvements each session. Adjust frequency, volume, and complexity of exercises in small increments.
Proper form should be emphasized from the onset. Once athletes are comfortable with basic drills on two feet, they can amp up the difficulty and complexity. For instance, the height of box jumps can slowly be increased to add challenge. Athletes can move from doing jumps off two feet to exploding off only one to mimic their sport more closely. Similarly, athletes starting with partial Olympic lifting variations like the Clean Pull can add additional steps, progressing toward the full Clean and Jerk movement. In all cases, progressions should be made on an individual basis with proper attention to rate of progression and training age of each athlete.
Plyometrics are an excellent training tool to improve athleticism and avoid injuries. When used properly, they can give athletes a competitive edge against their opponents. But when used poorly, they can increase the risk of injury and lead to less playing time. It’s important to consider all of these aspects prior to implementing plyos in your routine. Take a close look at whether plyometrics will help you achieve your goals, determine whether they are safe for you in particular, and plan how you will progress safely and effectively.
Perhaps the most important thing is to perform and progress the movements according to your own needs, and avoid competing with teammates. Plyometrics can be the difference maker in crucial situations on the field or court, giving you an explosive edge. Find out if they’re right for you and implement them slowly for an effective approach that gives you a leg up on your competition.