What are Plyometrics & What is Their Purpose?
Written by Holden Rethwill
Plyometrics are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (speed-strength). This training focuses on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or “explosive” manner, such as in specialized repeated jumping.
In other words…they give you the ability to explode like you were shot out of a cannon. POWER!!!!
Plyometrics have a phenomenal ability to train your fast twitch muscles. They are extremely beneficial in sports such as football, basketball, sprinting, martial arts, Olympic lifting, volleyball, etc. Due to their ability to uniquely train athletes to become more powerful and explosive, they are prevalent in sports that require this.
Are plymoterics useful for CrossFit?
Yes. Should it make up a bulk of your training? No.
They’re a little too one dimensional in that aspect when it comes to CrossFit…BUT they are 100% necessary for certain ASPECTS of CrossFit – that in the long run – will make you BETTER!
Speed, explosion, dynamic ability…speed translates to power, and power is utilized ESPECIALLY in movements like the Olympic lifts. Therefore, develop a good base of speed and explosive ability and watch your power cleans and snatches go up!
How often should you incorporate plyometrics into training?
Try to do some sort of them every day, and dedicate at least one training session each week solely to sprint training, jump training, or other dynamic training.
Plyometrics in Warm-Ups
Utilize some plyometric or other explosive training in your daily warm-ups, ESPECIALLY before Olympic lifting. It doesn’t need to be anything extensive, just enough to get your central nervous system (CNS) firing, and body ready to move quickly – think triple extension!
Plyometric Training Days
When dedicating a session solely to dynamic training, it needs to be looked at from a purely anaerobic viewpoint. Every movement should be completely intentional and done at full intensity, and then in between movements focus on complete rest and recovery.
Here’s an example: A workout that consists of some 20-80 meter sprints, each one of those efforts done at full intensity, but then rest 8-10 times as much in between efforts i.e. sprint for a few seconds and then rest for at least a couple minutes. The rest interval should be long enough to permit for completing each interval at the same level of intensity. As soon as your intensity drops – even if it’s before the designated amount of sets – end the session. The focus should be on complete and maximum effort, so if you’re not getting that, then that session is over and move to something different.
Plyometric Accessory Work
Try throwing in some plyometric movements into an accessory session after training on some occasions. Not all the time, but every once in a while. What this typically looks like are low impact drills, and drills that focus on moving through different planes, especially the transverse plane (aka rotation). The med-ball is a great go-to here. Toss it in different directions throughout different movement patterns.
Here are some examples of plyometric accessory work:
Jumping (should be done at the start of a workout but after your warm-up. Not at the end where the risk for injury will increase) Choose one from the list then perform a couple sets of no more than 5 reps.
- Depth Drops
- Depth Jumps
- Kneeling Jumps
- Single-Leg Jumps
- Singular Vertical Leaps (maximum height)
- Quick side note here…STOP JUMPING to boxes that require you to land below parallel. All you’re doing there is showing your ability to lift your legs up high and squat, not your ability to jump high. Your goal should be to land TALL and SOFT on every box jump!
- Multi-Response Jumps (back to back jumps focusing on quick explosion off the floor)
- Broad Jumps
- Weighted Jumps
Sprinting (should typically be a 1:8 work:rest ratio) Make sure you properly warm up, more than you think you need to so you DON’T PULL A HAMMY! Perform no more than 8 sets.
- Hills are great for improving explosive ability and leg strength.
- Short, full effort sprints (20/30/40/50m increments)
- Sled Sprints
- both pushing and pulling
- Cone Drills (Don’t forget to incorporate some change of direction!)
Medicine Ball (similar to jumping…a couple sets, no more than 5 reps at a time) The med ball is phenomenal for low impact training, maximum velocity training, as well as rotational power training.
At the end of the day, if you want to get faster, more explosive, be better at lifting, or just be a better athlete in general, you need to start implementing some of this training into your regimen!