What are plyometric exercises and how to use them to develop maximum power in combat sport?
Plyometrics is originally a sports technique using the impact method; in the modern sense, jump training. Plyometrics is used by athletes to improve athletic performance, which requires speed, quickness and power. In contrast to isometric exercises, plyometric exercises use explosive, fast movements to develop muscular strength and quickness. These exercises help the muscles to develop the greatest amount of force in the smallest possible amount of time.
The Benefits of Plyometric Training
Plyometric training improves the athlete’s ability to apply more force, more rapidly. This ability to generate maximal force can be transformed into sport-specific power in sports like martial arts, soccer, tennis, basketball and athletics. This is achieved through plyometric exercises that repeatedly stimulate the elasticity of muscles with movements that mimic the chosen sport.
- Plyometrics train an athlete to apply a set amount of force in the shortest period of time.
- It converts maximal strength into fast, powerful and explosive movements.
- Plyometric movements, or drills, are applied as sport-specific power by mimicking the movement patterns of the sport, which enables the athlete to run faster, hit harder, throw farther, react quicker, etc.
Soviet Shock Method 1950
The name "plyometrics" dates back to the 1950s and was initially developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Russian coach turned researcher when he began to use ‘depth jumps’
These intense jumps training became a key element in the Soviet athletes' success.
The Soviet approach to training, namely the "shock method" developed by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky, and their joint efforts brought the term "plyometrics" into widespread use in the States and then beyond.
The Shock Method was so named due to the sharp, compulsory muscular tension, initiated by the body’s impact (collision) with an external object (i.e. The ground).
Many coaches have incorporated this type of training into their athlete’s programs with great success improving both power and strength.
How does it work?
The basis of the plyometric action is the stretch reflex, which originates from the spinal cord. The main purpose of this reflex is to limit muscle stretch in order to prevent overstretching. The plyometric action is performed based on the reflex contraction of muscle fibres as a result of rapid stretching. In fact, when there is a chance of overstretching or straining, receptors send proprioceptive nerve impulses to the spinal cord. These impulses then return to the receptors, resulting in an inhibitory effect that prevents further stretching of the muscle fibres and initiates powerful muscle contraction.
Plyometric exercises are based on complex neural mechanisms
Thus, plyometric exercises are based on complex neural mechanisms. An adaptation of the athlete's nervous system takes place, which leads to an increase in strength and power during athletic training. In fact, as stated earlier, muscle strength can be increased through nervous adaptations without increasing muscle size.
When using the plyometric technique, muscle and nerve changes occur, which contribute to the performance of faster and more powerful movements. The central nervous system controls the level of force generated by the muscles by changing the activity of the muscle motor units; when a higher level of force needs to be reproduced, more motor units are involved and they work faster. In this situation, the improvement of electromyography results obtained after a training programme indicates three things: more motor units were engaged, motor units worked at a higher speed, or a certain combination of these reactions occurred. The benefits of plyometric training include increased activation of fast motor units and, more importantly, an increase in their speed.
A plyometric contraction involves three consecutive phases.
- Eccentric Phase – a rapid muscle lengthening movement
- Amortization Phase – a short resting phase
- Concentric Phase – an explosive muscle shortening movement
A vertical jump with two 15kg dumbbells held just above the shoulders.
Plyometric exercises are sometimes performed with an additional load, or weight added. In such cases, they are referred to as loaded plyometrics or weighted jumps. The weight is held or worn. It may be in the form of a barbell, trap bar, dumbbells, or weighted vest.
The advantage of loaded plyometric exercises is that they increase the overall force with which the exercise is performed. This can enhance the positive effect of the exercise and further increase
Plyometric training for the beginner
This programme will also work well for those who have tried plyometrics, but have never trained for maximum results.
Choose 1-3 plyometric exercises for one training cycle, which will last 4-6 weeks.
At this stage, high jump and long jump are excellent choices for the beginner.
Give your best effort in each exercise.
Jumping series should be broken up into sets of no more than 3 jumps per set. 3-7 reps
For exercises that require additional equipment (such as jumping on a box), start from a low height and gradually increase.
Here are other plyo moves that you can try and include in your training programme
- Pop Squat
Start with your feet wider than hip-width and do a squat by sending your hips back, bending both knees, and bringing your palms together in front of your chest.
- Split Squat Jump
Step your left foot forward as if you were doing a forward lunge and slightly jump
- Reverse Lunge to Knee-Up Jump
Step backward with your right foot, push through your foot to jump up as high as possible, driving your right knee toward your chest
- Tuck Jump
As you jump, engage your abs and drive the top of your knees toward your forearms.
- Skater Hop
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right leg and jump to the right. Let your left leg straighten and follow.
- Box Jump
- Single-Leg Deadlift to Jump
Stand with your feet together. Shift your weight to your left leg and while keeping a slight bend in your left knee, hinge at your hips and tip your torso forward. Extend your right leg behind you, knee bent and toes pointing down toward the floor.
- Hands-Release Push-Up
Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms and lift both palms off the ground several inches.
- Burpee Into Tuck Jump
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- Bosco, C., and Komi, P.V. 1980. Influence of countermovement amplitude in potentiation of muscular performance. In Biomechanics VIIproceedings, 129-35. Baltimore: University Park Press.
- Schmidtbleicher, D. 1984. Sportliches krafttraining. Berlin: Jung, Haltong, und Bewegung bei Menchen.