Plyometric Training, movement defined by maximal effort, was first coined by Yuri Verkhoshanksy, a Russian scientist, in the early 1980s. Also known as “jump training”, this form of training should be included in the ideal training program of capable clients for a number of reasons. This type of training is defined by the short, quick, and explosive bursts of maximum intensity that allow an individual to produce the most amount of power possible. Now, upon reading that last sentence, you may feel as though plyometric training holds no purpose in your life unless you are Lebron James or Adrian Peterson. If you are one of many who believe that jump training is only beneficial to the athletes of the world, you would be right. On the other hand, there is also reasoning to why you would be wrong.
Plyometrics do serve a great purpose in an athlete’s performance (let’s face it, all athletes have to be quick and explosive). However, they also serve just as big a role in the general population simply hoping to move better and feel better. Below is a list of the positive effects of plyometric training:
1. MUSCLE RECRUITMENT – When most people consider jumping, they think of how much energy their legs must put forth in order to jump high. While they certainly are not incorrect (the legs obviously do have to work hard), the other muscles of the body have to work just as hard to ensure that we get as high as possible. If you know your muscular anatomy, you know that there are at least six major muscles that need to fire effectively to generate a higher jump. This does not include the other fifteen or so smaller stabilizers that keep your joints protected. As a general rule of thumb, just know that the more muscles that are being worked, the more calories that are being burned!
2. CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM FUNCTION – Any time your body is challenged with an exercise, the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, has to communicate with the muscular system to ensure proper muscle fiber recruitment. If these fibers are not recruited correctly, or if there is an unsuccessful signal sent from the brain to the muscle, the force of our muscle contractions will be significantly weaker. To provide a better understanding of this, imagine the process of a deadlift. The morning after a perfectly peaceful night’s sleep, you are able to deadlift 300 pounds. Then, one week later, you stay up late and head to the gym the next morning on only five hours of sleep. Of course your muscles will be drained that morning, but your brain is fatigued as well due to the lack of sleep. This will result in weak signals being sent to the muscles necessary to lift the weight, which will cause last week’s 300 pounds to feel suddenly impossible.
3. TRANSITION TO EVERYDAY LIFE – Plyometric training is a highly functional method of training. By my classification of functional, I am referring to the usefulness of this type of training based on our every day movements. Now, I am not saying that we are always jumping as high as possible on a day-to-day basis by any means, but I can guarantee that most of us do make some kind of quick movement at least once a day.
For example, I have two active, yet lazy dogs that do not exactly move around me while at home. I actually have to make my movements based on where they are laying (I have trained them well, I know). Now imagine – I am walking upstairs and my dog that is walking directly in front of me, decides to stop halfway up (which she does consistently). Clearly, to avoid tripping over her and falling down the stairs, I must make a quick movement to either step over her, or around her. We have already discussed that plyometrics consist of fast, explosive movements. If I lacked this ability, I surely would have tripped over her on the stairs. This example may also be taken into account when you are in a grocery store. You might get cut off while strolling down the aisle, and in that moment, you have to either come to an “explosive” stop or quickly move around to avoid a cart collision.
4. JOINT STRENGTH – This goes back into the first positive effect of plyometric training – increased muscle recruitment. In point number one, we covered how plyometrics take into account the activity and recruitment of numerous muscles, not just the quadriceps muscles of the anterior leg. In the fitness world, there is a principle we refer to as the S.A.I.D Principle, which stands for Specific Adaptation to an Imposed Demand. Although this sounds easy enough to understand, we demand work from our muscles, and as a result, we lose weight, build muscle, or become stronger. What most people do not understand is that while the muscles get bigger, faster, and stronger, they are not the only things changing. Joints are the meeting point of two or more bones, and our muscles are directly attached to these bones via tendons. Going back to our knowledge of anatomy, we can make the following connection: If our muscles are changing, the tendons that they are attached to are changing, and the bones the tendons are attached to are changing as well. Consequently, we take two or more strong bones and we have created a stronger, more stable joint that will help protect us and reduce our risk of injury.
5. POWER – Anyone hoping to gain explosiveness should surely include plyometric training in their program design. There is a reason I mentioned LeBron James and Adrian Peterson in the beginning of this article – because they are the most explosive athletes in their respective sport. Sports focus on quickness, agility, and explosiveness. Without a balanced combination of these three attributes, an athlete would never hit his or her true potential. Sure Lebron James has a ton of genetic potential, but he did not become as explosive as he is from his genetics alone. By pushing through a number of effective programs throughout his years, he has combined his God-given ability with his muscular ability to become the most explosive player in the NBA. The basic understanding should be this – if you want to jump higher, you have to work on power movements.