To excel in any sport, athletes need to focus on strength and conditioning off field in order to enhance specific athletic parameters, which will benefit them in their sport/position. Fitness parameters such as strength, endurance, balance and flexibility are common in most training programs. Athletes can also benefit from plyometric exercises, which involve quick actions like jumping, hopping, and bounding. These exercises are essential for developing power, speed, agility and prevention of injuries. WHAT are plyometric exercises? WHY should you do them? And HOW can you integrate them into your training?
WHAT are plyometric exercises?
Think about all the great natural movements you did as a kid, such as jumping onto and off of things, skipping, leaping, and hopping. These are the types of movements involved in plyometrics. More specifically, they are quick, explosive movements using maximum force repeated for short intervals.
WHY should you start doing them?
There are a number of great benefits to integrating plyometrics into your training. Research has shown that athletes who engage in plyometrics will have greater improvements in performance than players who simply focus on practice and games alone. Improvements include:
- Increased ball striking speed;
- Improved change of direction ability;
- Increased acceleration;
- Increased muscular power;
- Increased kicking distance;
- Improved agility;
- Increase in joint awareness;
- Injury prevention (especially ACL in young females)
HOW do you integrate them into your training program?
Plyometric exercises are not for beginners, as you should have a certain level of basic fitness first. Plyometrics combine strength and speed in order to develop max force over a short period of time. Therefore, the athlete needs to have a basic level of general strength and proper technique in movements such as squats prior to initiating these exercises. Below you will find some important practical considerations on where to start:
- Most sports are multidirectional, therefore if you are looking to improve overall performance, you must include different exercises such as vertical (i.e., box jumps) and horizontal jumps (i.e., standing long jumps), as well as unilateral and bilateral drills. If you are interested in improving only certain aspects of your fitness, then the exercises should be specific to your performance goals. For example, if your goal is to increase running speed, choosing exercises such as bounding will have more gains than box jumps.