If you’re looking to improve your strength, specifically in terms of your muscle explosiveness and power, plyometrics, or “jump training,” is the technique for you. Plyometric training was initially designed for Olympic athletes, but it’s been gaining traction amongst a widely varied demographic, from children to adults of many fitness levels.
What is Plyometric Training?
Plyometrics is often called “jump training” because of its use of exercises that rapidly stretch and shorten your muscles. Hopping and jumping, for example, provide dynamic resistance to the target muscle groups, in this case the quadriceps, which conditions and strengthens the muscles. Additionally, these kinds of exercises increase a person’s vertical jumping abilities, and reduce the force of impact on the person’s joints by strengthening them.
Plyometric training is especially useful to athletes whose sports are similar to the motions made in the exercises, such as skiers, boxers, and tennis, football, and basketball players. Many coaches of professional and amateur athletes alike employ plyometric training regimens for conditioning purposes. Even though plyometric training is often used by athletes, the American College of Sports Medicine says that these routines can be modified to be beneficial to children and adolescents, too.
Plyometric training first made its name through state sports trainers in the former East Germany in the 1970s. They developed the training routines based on scientific evidence that showed how stretch-shortening cycles (such as repeatedly jumping or hopping) improve the power of muscular contraction by forcing the muscle to stretch and relax.
Although you don’t need to be a seasoned athlete to reap the benefits of plyometric training, there are some risks for injury associated with it, most often in people who aren’t strong enough at the beginning of their training. This is why it’s important to consult a physical therapist, like the team at Physical Solutions LI, when you’re looking to get into any new fitness program. Our experienced therapists can set up a plyometric training program that’s right for you, and adjust your program to continue challenging you as your strength and abilities increase.
What Are the Benefits of Plyometric Training?
Research done by the American Council on Exercise has found that plyometric training programs can lead to improved muscle strength and joint protection, and that many people who regularly participate in a plyometric training routine have succeeded in controlling their body weight.
Athletes are able to make tremendous improvements to their explosive power by partnering their usual warm-ups, stretching exercises, and other weight training programs with a plyometric training routine.
Younger female basketball and soccer players have a much higher potential for injury to their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than male players—2-8 times higher, in fact. Plyometric training programs strengthen muscles in the legs, and decrease the impact forces on joints, which is why they are often used to prevent ACL injuries.
These training programs are especially valuable for younger female basketball and soccer players because of their elevated risk of ACL injuries. The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine says that part of why plyometric training programs are beneficial to these athletes is that they’re designed to promote correct nerve/muscle control of the knee, which helps to avoid injury.
What Are the Risks of Plyometric Training?
People with bone or joint problems, or who are in poor physical condition, usually shouldn’t pursue plyometric training programs.
Even those who are very athletic should bear in mind that when training to build strength using explosive movement there is an inherent risk of injury. Although many experts support the use of plyometric training programs, there has been a lot of debate in the sports science community regarding the safety of these techniques. High-impact aerobics was once a widely utilized training method, but it has since been discredited due to the serious risk of knee and ankle injuries. Some experts have compared the risks of plyometric training to those of high-impact aerobics.
Despite some experts’ adversity to plyometric training, it is proven to usually be safe and effective when executed properly. Working with a professional physical therapist at Physical Solutions LI is one of the best ways to ensure that your plyometric training program is being done correctly and is appropriate for your age and fitness level. Having a professional to guide you through your program is also the safest way to advance through your training, because your therapist will be able to tell you how to gradually make your exercises more difficult at a rate that your body can handle.