Plyometric Training for More Power

The old gym legends say plyometric exercises were originally designed by the Soviets to develop “power,” and speed in their track athletes.  Here’s what we know for sure:  Power is defined as the rate at which work is performed, or Power = Force x Velocity.  Today, plyometrics are used and sometimes misused for many other purposes, but are still best applied correctly to build power in athletic performance.   Pogo jumps, depth jumps, and plyo-push-ups are just a few examples of plyometric movements.  Check out some dos and don’ts of plyometric training:

  • Plyometrics consist of the eccentric phase (stretching the muscle), and the concentric phase (contracting the muscle).  The goal is to keep the relaxation between a fast eccentric contraction, and your concentric contraction as short as possible.  Many experts say less .25 seconds is the goal.  Imagine a sort of rebounding effect, using your muscles as shocks to return to your desired starting position as quickly as possible.
  • Another goal in plyometric training is to keep your contact time with the ground as short as possible.  Traditional “jumping” exercises like squat jumps, where you are on the ground for as long as 1 second or more, are not truly plyometric exercises.  Instead, try to keep your ground contact time under .2 seconds.
  • Remember that plyometric training is not for the de-conditioned.  If you’re just beginning your fitness journey, build a solid foundation with basic weight training, and become structurally balanced before attempting plyometric training.  Otherwise, you can get hurt.
  •  Combine plyometric movements with traditional strength movements.  An example would be heavy back squats (1-3 reps) followed immediately by plyometric jumps.  Studies show that training with heavy weight before a plyometric movement promotes the recruitment of higher threshold motor units.  This results in increased recruitment during the plyo movement itself.  So, each of these training methods has measurable benefit in power development individually, but the greatest results are seen with a program that combines both.
  • Plyometric training should be done in a low rep range.  The motor units that recruit your fast twitch, explosive muscles are exhausted before you reach that 10 or 20 rep goal.  At that point, you are no longer having a significant impact in power development, but are instead training for conditioning.  Use plyometrics as intended; for developing power.  I would recommend conditioning in other ways, because high repetition plyometric training can cause overuse and injury.  This is a very difficult way to train.
  • Don’t ignore upper body power development.  Many plyometric programs focus too heavily on the lower body, using only jump squats and depth jumps.  Neglecting to train your upper body in the same way can lead to power imbalances, and once again; injuries.
  • Build variety into your routine, including bilateral (both arms or both legs) and unilateral (one arm or leg) movements.
  • Search our exercise tutorial library for demonstrations of several plyometric movements.