A plyometric movement is a quick and powerful movement of a muscle, which has an eccentric contraction (when the muscle lengthens) followed by a rapid concentric contraction (when the muscle shortens/contracts). Using plyometrics in your training plan can help improve your athletic performance.
If you were to increase the rate your body can produce force in the shortest amount of time possible then you will decrease the time spent in contact with the floor. How does this help increase performance? Think of running, sprinting and changing direction, it is in effect jumping from one leg to another and the quicker you can do that, the quicker you will move.
How Plyometric training works:
The Stretch Shortening Cycle is essential to plyometrics. The cycle has 3 phases:
1. The lengthening (stretch) of the muscle (eccentric), acts just like an elastic band being stretched to create tension
2. The Loading phase happens very quickly, once you have created the tension in the muscles (potential energy), there is around 0.02 of a second between the transfer to the final stage (amortization)
3. The concentric phase, this is the accelerated contraction of the muscle (tensing of the muscle)
Muscles do need to be strong concentrically (shortening) but also eccentrically (lengthening) in order to deal with high loads placed on them during the loading phase. The lengthening of the muscles acts in the same way as an elastic band; the stretch produces tension in the muscle and the release of the stretch creates increased speed of concentric contraction, meaning faster and more explosive movement!
However, lifting heavy loads doesn’t always transfer straight into performance, just because you are strong won’t change how quickly you can react to ground forces. It’s important to use plyometrics to transfer your strength into sport specific power/speed.
The Benefits of Plyometric training
Through the use of Plyometric training, there are a number of benefits that an individual can achieve, these include:
• Increase firing rate of muscles
• Higher force production/power output/speed through improving efficiency of fast twitch muscle fibres
• Improve endurance
• Prevent injury (helping stabilising the knee joint)
• Reduces neuromuscular inhibition
• Promote weight loss as they should be performed at a high intensity