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Plyometrics, also known as jump training, is a training technique designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness. Originally developed for Olympic athletes, plyometrics training has become popular for all athletes and fitness buffs. Plyometrics have many advantages for people looking to gain power, strength, build muscle and improve performance.
Plyometric training conditions the body with dynamic resistance exercises that rapidly stretch a muscle (eccentric phase) and then rapidly shorten it (concentric phase). Hopping and jumping exercises, for example, subject the quadriceps to a stretch-shortening cycle that can strengthen these muscles, increase vertical jump and reduce the force of impact on the joints.
Because plyometric exercises mimic the motions used in sports such as football and basketball, plyometric training often is used to condition professional and amateur athletes.
Plyometric training is associated with many benefits. First popularized in the 1970s by East Germany, it’s based on scientific evidence showing that the stretch-shortening cycle prompts the stretch or “myoactic” reflex of muscle and improves the power of muscular contraction. Plyometrics also primarily rely on fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the ones most responsible for growth. More muscle means more calories burned at rest, which also means a leaner overall physique. A hard plyo session demands a ton of energy during the workout but the real payoff comes after as muscles work to recover, burning more calories as a result.
But you must approach plyometrics with proper technique and execution. Plyomtrics do, of course, have an associated risk of injury. If you do not execute plyos correctly, you run the risk of overtraining and can cause unwanted injuries and pain. If you utilize them properly, they can help increase your power output in your fast twitch muscle fibers, improve explosive power, activate your nervous system to improve neural output, thus improving your weightlifting techniques, which leads to more muscle and improved strength.
On the next page, we give you an exercise, discuss its execution, its benefits for size and conditioning, proper rest periods, how to integrate them in your routine and how they can help you to improve your physique.
Stand behind a mark on the ground with your feet slightly apart in an athletic stance. Use a two-foot take off, swinging the arms back and bending the knees to provide a forward drive. Make sure to hinge forward with good posture to activate the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) as well as the quadriceps. To get the most out of this exercise, make sure to explode into triple extension at the ankles, knees, and hips, with an aggressive forward arm swing. At the end of the jump quickly flex the hips, knees, and ankle joints while trying to land as softly as possible in a balanced and athletic position.
Benefits For Size and Conditioning
The biggest benefit of the broad jump is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers throughout the body. This exercise requires your leg and core muscles to contract very quickly so you can generate maximal force with leap. Squatting slightly before the broad jump allows you to stretch your muscles and thus generate a more powerful muscle contraction when you jump. This will help improve the neural output when performing other lower-body exercises such as the squat and deadlift. More neural output means a more efficient and effective strength training movement, which will ultimate lead to more muscle growth and strength. It also demands a lot from your metabolic system, making it great for burning and improving your overall conditioning.
Since the broad jump taxes the nervous system at a high level, allow yourself 2-3 minuets between sets for optimal performance. Strive for 2-3 sets of 5 reps for best results.
Like most plyometric activities, the broad jump is best done after a thorough dynamic warm-up at the beginning of your routine. You want to be fresh before you perform a broad jump to optimally perform this movement. Place it at the beginning of your routine so, you fire up your nervous system up and set the tone for the rest of your weightlifting workout.
Plyos before heavy lifts? You betcha. The physiological phenomenon of post-activation potentiation, or PAP, is the ability of one exercise to immediately impact the exercise that follows. By “tricking” your central nervous system into thinking that it’s in for a barrage of maxed-out loads, it activates more muscle fibers to join in the fight. So for those seeking to boost strength, you can take advantage of this phenomenon by performing a few explosive jumps – or your working sets of broad jumps – before you hit the squat rack. Having summoned more fast-twitch muscle fibers onto the playing field, your now-primed central nervous system will be ready for heavy working sets of squats.
Justin Grinnell, CSCS, is owner of State of Fitness (www.mystateoffitness.com) in Michigan. For more training info from Justin Grinnell, CSCS, you can visit his gym’s website, his Facebook page, or check him out on Twitter.