AN OVERVIEW OF PLYOMETRICS AND THEIR USE IN SPEED AND STRENGTH TRAINING – QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Responses by James Radcliffe (Strength and Conditioning Coach, University of
What does the term plyometrics mean to you?
Plyometrics means a style of training utilizing exercises that are explosive and take advantage of the elastic-reactive components of the neuromuscular system. This includes any form of jumping, bounding, hopping, throwing, and tossing movements that combine the effects of eccentric loading and the rate of concentric execution.
At what point do you feel an athlete is ready for plyometric work? Is there safe plyometric work for a novice or Junior Olympian?
Researchers corroborate utilizing plyometrics in 12-14 year olds as preparation for future strength training, suggesting moderate training progressions. The “1.5 times body weight” criterion was initially suggested for depth jumps and shock training, yet doesn’t need to be applied to the successful performance and training of other plyometric progressions. In our research (Radcliffe, 1995), such low correlations were shown to exist between squat performance and depth jump capabilities, that any predictions are extremely negligible. Use posture, balance, stability, and flexibility assessments as a guide for progression to the next level of training. If any of the criteria are doubtful, maintain until the criteria are met, then progress.
Where do you use plyometrics in your weekly plan? Do the plyometrics come after weight work or before? On the day of weight work or the day after?
Depending upon the emphasis for the day/session, the plyometric work can be 1) placed immediately after the warm-up and before the sprint or strength work; 2) “complexed” with the lifts and or sprint work within the body of the total training session; or 3) placed at the end of the training session, before the cool-down. Work the day of explosive, dynamic, intense work, not the day after or the recovery day.
Core strength, from a dynamic stabilization standpoint, is critical to power generation in the extremities. From either a general or specific standpoint what are some of the moves or muscles you concentrate on in your core strength program?
Our core conditioning focuses on the torso of the body, the torso being the trunk, including the initial portion of the limbs (shoulders, hips, thighs). The concentration is on the proper execution of flexion, extension, and rotation of the torso, especially about the hips, utilizing proper posture, balance, stability, and mobility.
As a general statement–aside from the obvious rotary motions of the shot, disc and hammer, all track and field events have a heavy linear emphasis in their execution. I fully realize there are joints or body torque in any movement,t but I think the average coach ignores the training for dynamic stability in the medial and lateral plane (coronal plane). How do you address this?
Within the general portions of the workout sessions care is given to emphasize work in all planes and styles of movement. The warm-up includes dynamic form movements, forward, laterally and backward. The core routines will always include flexion, extension, and rotation in all directions. Within the strength training, different lunge progression will employ steps out at 45- and 90-degree angles. Medicine ball multi-throw and toss progressions at similar angles are included.
It has been found that dynamic stability is more a product of endurance (red fibers) than of strength. How do you train these two important qualities that are physiologically at odds with each other?
Using assisted exercises that have higher volumes (reps or distances) and lighter loads or body weight exercises that involve balancing on one limb or walking/bouncing/skipping certain distances twisting or with an implement locked out over the head. Dumbbell complexes have been used by numerous coaches as another way of attending to this. The alternation of pulls, squats, and pushes in a complex of certain repetition schemes is also used.
Progressive overload is one of the cornerstones of training. How do you quantify plyometric work? Is it by number of repetitions, time of repetitions or some other method? How do you know when the workout is over?
The “quality” of the execution should always be favored over quantity. Utilizing repetitions, or contacts as some coaches like to refer to, is preferred over amount of time and/or distances. We like to give a range of repetitions for each set. The athlete learns that, with 8-12 repetitions, eight quality repetitions are more useful in elastic-reactivity than 12 sloppy ones. Observing contact time for “dead” landings or releases will be a good indicator for stopping.
The “more is better” mantra when applied to plyometrics work will rapidly negate any training effect only to produce acute bone, joint, or soft tissues injuries. How do you know when enough is enough?
In keeping with the quality over quantity concept, per session is again a look at the quality of the take-offs and the response time. Some jump coaches will take weekly jump measurements (standing vertical or horizontal) and if an athlete or group falls 5-8 cm below the baseline or norm, they know progress and recovery needs to be altered. Over the course of a macrocycle, volume increases slightly then must decrease as impacts (landing intensities) increase.
Most females have a larger quadriceps angle (Q angle) than men that posturally presents with an increased valgus (shin out) stress at the knee. How do you deal with this fact with your female athletes?
There has been considerable research out of
Plyometric drills can be used for various forms of fitness testing. What are some common plyometric tests you like and what information or correlations do you feel the test gives you?
Most coaches use standing counter-movement jumps (Vertical Jump, Standing Long Jump, Standing Triple Jump) and they are good evaluations of power if athletes are lacking in strength work versus speed. The original “Jumps Decathlon” created by Wilf Paish of Great Britain can still be utilized for many quality evaluations and the norms still fit well. Jumping sheds light on lifting, bounding on acceleration, and hopping evaluations (done correctly) can tell us a lot about sprint needs.
When using medicine balls, how do you determine the appropriate weighted ball for the athlete doing the drill?
It is the drill and the objective that dictates the size of the ball; other times it is a small percentage of the athlete’s body weight (5-15%).
Leg drills can be done with double or single support. I once watched Tom Tellez’s
Our teaching and training progressions always begin with both feet landing and taking off, then progress to alternate (true bounding) and single (true hopping) leg drills. As shown by the following continuum:
Low ————– Moderate ————– High —————- Shock —————-
JUMPS: 1- Pogo, 2- Squat jump, 3- Box jump, 4- Rocket jump, 5- Star jump, 6- Butt kick, 7- Knee tuck, 8- Split Jump, 9- Scissor jump, 10- Scissor double, 11- Stride jump, 12- Stride crossover, 13- Quick leap, 14-Depth jump, 15- Box jumps (MR), 16- Depth leap, 17- Depth jump leap
BOUNDS/SKIPS: 1- Prance, 2- Gallop, 3- Skip progression, 4- Ankle flip, 5- Lateral (SR), 6- Single leg stair, 7- Double leg incline, 8- Lateral stair, 9- Alternate leg stair, 10- Alternate leg bound, 11- Lateral bound (MR), 12- Alternate diagonal bound, 13-Box skip, 14- Box bound
HOPS: 1- Double leg press, 2- Double leg speed (MR), 3- Incremental vertical, 4- Side hops, 5- Hops-sprint, 6- Angle hop, 7- Single-leg butt kick, 8- Single-leg progression, 9- Single-leg speed hop (MR), 10- Diagonal hop, 11- Lateral hop, 12- Decline hop.
Do you do much box work? At what point in the season? How high are the boxes? What would be a sample workout? Do they land double or single support? Do they rebound or “stick the landing?”
Box jumps are different than depth jumps off of a box or platform. Along our stress continuum, box jumps can be done early. Ground takeoffs onto a box at mid-thigh level can enhance landing mechanics and decrease impacts. Depth jumps were designed as “shock” training and landings are stressful. As with the continuum, we won’t progress to this area until late in a macro- or mesocycle. The teaching progression begins with landing only, then moves to elastic-reactive takeoffs. Our research (Radcliffe, 1995) suggests that, to work the reactivity needed for short response landings (Schmidtbleicher), all you need is a drop from approximately knee level.
You cannot run fast, jump or throw far unless you have a strong foot. How do you prepare the foot for the stresses of plyometrics? Do you do anything special for other “at risk” joint complexes (e.g., wrist, shoulder, knee, low back)?
We really like to use barefoot training. It may be in the form of recovery strides, backward running, light changes of direction, and/or the simplified bounce, jump, bound, and hop progressions. These are also useful maneuvers for shoulder, elbow, and wrist–rudimentary work using either a wall, stairs, or ground as in pushup positioning.
One of the limiting factors in improved performance is eccentric strength. Certainly one of the benefits of plyometrics is the development of eccentric strength. Are there any special exercisers or drills you use (medicine balls, boxes, weights, etc.) that focuses on this critical factor?
As on the continuum, by progressing from jumps to bounds, bounding to hopping, tossing to throwing, then to catching and throwing we drill on the concept of eccentric loading. In addition, teaching single response movements first, then multiple response (like a “superball”) we focus on the handling of eccentric loading and the utilization of the reflexes, responses, muscle mechanics, and the proprioception that go into this training.