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Power is the ultimate combination of the two most fundamental human factors of survival: speed and strength. We can hear your brain now: So what? What will being more powerful do for me? Will it help me look better in the mirror?
Here’s your answer: The advantage of power training is that if you improve your rate of force development, you inevitably improve neural recruitment, which means you’ll activate muscle fibers more efficiently and effectively. In the long run, this means that when you do pure strength or hypertrophy-type training, you’ll activate more fibers and increase muscular size. Increasing power is also great for busting through training plateaus, a problem that every trainee is bound to face eventually.
Bringing speed and strength together is the name of the game. The term plyometrics stems from the Greek words “more” and “measure,” which we’ve appropriately translated to more power. In other words, we’re taking speed and power training to the next level.
Plyometric activity elicits a physiological response involving the excitation of the neurological system on the elastic capability of the muscle. Muscle has the ability to stretch and rapidly contract. When a proper force is applied to the stretch, the muscle responds by contracting more forcefully. The key is to apply the proper force. Generally speaking, when we do any movement we pre-stretch a muscle before contracting. Take jumping, for example.
Before you jump, you drop down, then rapidly fire upward. The pre–stretch is the eccentric portion of the movement, while the concentric portion takes that built up energy created by the stretch and converts it into a more forceful contraction. With training and proper progression, plyometrics have shown to markedly increase overall strength and power.
Plyometrics are best performed with 5–6 short sets of 5–8 reps, taking at least 90 seconds rest between sets. The best plyometric exercises are done with body weight (no additional resistance). Example movements include box jumps, squat jumps, depth jumps, lunge thrusts and plyometric push–ups.