Both strength work and plyometrics are typical training modalities that coaches use to enhance performance in field and court sports like soccer, basketball and football. Traditionally, plyometric training is performed early in the workout, following the warmup, but before resistance training. However, some have sequenced training in the reverse order and perform strength work before plyometrics. Finally, alternating strength movements (e.g., back squats) with plyometrics, known as complex training, has also been implemented. However, there is limited research comparing these various sequences of strength and plyometric training. Therefore, it is unclear which is optimal for inducing improvements in speed, jumping and changes of direction ability among athletes.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of three different strength and plyometric sequences on athletic performance variables. A group of 27 elite young soccer players (~18 years of age) were divided into a complex training group (strength before plyometrics), a traditional group (plyometrics before strength) and a contrast training group (alternating strength movements with plyometrics). The training period lasted 8-weeks during the competitive season. Strength training emphasized the half-squat exercise between 60-80% of 1RM while the plyometrics emphasized drop-jumps from 30-45 cm boxes. Before and after the training period, all subjects were tested in the 1RM half-squat, vertical jump, 10 and 20 m sprinting speed and agility.
The results showed that maximal half-squat strength (+48.6, +46.3 and +53%) and vertical jump height (+13, +14.2 and +14.7%) improved similarly across the board for the complex, traditional and contrast training groups, respectively, with no significant difference between groups. Interestingly, the traditional training group saw a deterioration of sprinting speed, while the contrast and complex groups maintained their sprinting speed. Agility did not significantly change for any of the experimental conditions. Therefore, the researchers recommend that contrast or complex training be used during the in-season to improve strength and power and to preserve maximal sprinting speed in athletes.
Kobal, R. et al. Effects Of Different Combinations Of Strength, Power, And Plyometric Training On The Physical Performance Of Elite Young Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, In press.