The origin of the word plyometric comes from the Greek language. Literally, it means “more measure” or “measureable increases.”
That's...not a helpful description.
Plyometrics are practically defined as explosive exercises that utilize the body’s stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). In application, this includes jumps, skips, hops, chest passes, overhead tosses, and the like.
Sounds good, but what’s the SSC? The SSC is an integral part of the body’s reflexive ability. It works to prevent muscle tissue from being stretched too far, too quickly and thus causing injury. This is possible because muscles and tendons have “sensors” to monitor for change in muscle length. When the muscle is quickly stretched, such as when landing from a jump, the sensors send a signal to the nervous system and the nervous system signals back causing the muscle to contract quickly, thereby preventing the muscle from overstretching. This is the process that we refer to as the SSC.
In other words, the SSC is a protective mechanism to prevent muscle tears.
Have you ever heard of the Patellar Reflex Test? Also called the Knee-Tap Test, it’s an age-old test conducted by a physician by tapping beneath the knee. A healthy response includes the knee to jerk up briefly before relaxing again. This is a simple example of how the SSC works. The tap quickly "stretches" the tendon causing a brief contraction of the quadriceps group.
The SSC has tremendous value in sports. Just imagine if someone wanted to jump as high as they can. They innately know to begin with a dip towards the ground before propelling themselves upward. This dip, or counter-movement, activates the SSC causing a reflexive muscle contraction, which in turn allows the athlete to jump higher. This counter-movement must be fast and brief in order to activate the SSC.
So, the SSC is what plyometric exercises train. Exercises include hops, skips, jumps, throws….any action that is preceded by a counter-movement and activates the SSC.
Now how do we perform plyometrics? Plyometrics should be performed in a manner specific to each sport, and programmed with an understanding of volume and intensity.
Plyometric intensity = Force placed into the ground. Higher force equals higher intensity. An example would include altering height of depth jumps. A 20" depth jump is more intense than a 10" depth jump. The greater height creates more time for the body to accelerate to the ground, creating more force upon impact and a higher intensity exercise.
Plyometric volume = Foot/hand contacts with ground. Every time an athlete lands his or her feet on the ground or object, it's consider a foot/hand contact. 100 foot contacts have more volume than 50 foot contacts.
We believe in progressing athletes from a high-volume, low-intensity to a low-volume, high-intensity program over several weeks in preparing for competition.
To conclude, plyometric exercises train the body’s SSC and help build athletic explosiveness and power. SPS Sports Performance believes in incorporating plyometrics into our athlete’s workouts using a logical, systematic method that provides the best benefit for the individual.