Build Explosive Strength With Plyometrics

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Does the average person really need to be training explosive strength? Yes! Why? Because plyometrics are the most effective way to improve the rate of force development and utilize high-threshold motor units to a high degree. But the benefits don’t end there.

Before we get into the specifics of plyometric programming lets first refer to a classic textbook definition of plyometric training from “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning:”

Mechanical Model:
 Involves the series elastic component (SEC); the musculotendinous unit that is stretched during eccentric range of motion. When this occurs the SEC acts as a spring and is lengthened. When it’s lengthened elastic energy is stored and is then able to contribute total force production by allowing muscles to return to their unstretched configuration.

Neurophysiological Model: Involves potentiation by way of the stretch reflex which is the body’s involuntary response to muscles being stretched. The reflexive aspect of plyometrics takes place in muscle spindles.

Stretch Shortening Cycle: employs the energy storage of the SEC and stimulation of the stretch reflex to facilitate a maximal increase in muscle recruitment.

Benefits of Plyometrics

Now that we understand the basic physiology of plyometric training let’s think about how they could be useful for people that are no longer athletes.

As people age, Type 2 (fast-twitch) muscle fiber deteriorates. This is the muscle fiber that is responsible for gaining lean muscle mass which is connected with ones basal metabolic rate (the rate at which they burn calories at rest.)

This work is relatively easy to teach and depending on the variation you choose, easy to recover from – we don’t need a huge investment of time from both a learning curve and an application perspective, win/win.

Typically we see more coaches opt for using the Olympic Lifts to develop explosive strength, but the Olympic Lifts are a mismatch for explosive strength and are a better choice for speed-strength work, for the right client of course.

Additionally, if you’re taking into consideration the time it takes to teach the Olympic lifts and the actual number of your clients that can perform them efficiently enough to derive speed-strength adaptations, there would be even less case for their inclusion in your programming.

When used correctly, plyometric training has been shown to improve the production of muscle force and power so not only will regular plyometric work help with the overall goal of body-composition but they have the power (pun intended) to improve performance.

And after working with nearly thousands of clients, the feedback has always been overwhelmingly positive which helps keep our clients engaged in the process. There is something to be said about how empowering it is to move explosively!

All of the variations listed in this article can be progressed and regressed to the individual, but in most cases for the general population added resistance usually isn’t necessary – we save added resistance with plyometrics for higher level athletes training for sport.

Some of these variations can also be included in the later stages of your dynamic warm-up to prime the central nervous for the training ahead so don’t forget there are more than a few applications.

Programming

Programming plyometrics, like most training, works best with a ‘less is more’ approach, meaning small doses go a long way.

Here are few programming rules of thumb:

  • CNS Prep prior to training: 15-20 total reps done at the end of your warm-up prior to starting your actual training to drive the sympathetic nervous system and utilize post activation potentiation (PAP)
  • Main Movement training: 25-30 jumps 1-2x a week.

As you can imagine the latter recommendations would include harder & more technical variations and the former includes variations with less overall step-up time that can done quickly before starting your training session.

I’ve included below where each variation works optimally.

Plyometric Variations

#10 Jumps with Trap Bar

Performed as a main movement performed on a Dynamic Effort Lower training day.

Programming:
5 x 4 @30% of 1RM, every 60s.

#9 Band Assisted Plyo Push-ups

Performed as a CNS prep tool on a Dynamic Effort or ME Upper training day.

Programming:
5 x 4, every 60s.

#8 Kneeling Jumps

Performed as a CNS prep tool on a conditioning day.

Programming:
15 total reps. Rest 45s.

#7 Medball Chest Press

Performed as a CNS prep tool on an upper training day.

Programming:
4 x 3, every 45s.

#6 Band Assisted Squat Jumps

Performed as a CNS prep tool before a DE or ME lower session.

Programming:
5 x 4, every 60s.

#5 Seated Dynamic Box Jumps

Performed as a main movement on a DE or ME Lower training day.

Programming:
8 x 3, every 60s.

#4 Half-Kneeling Single Leg Box Jumps

Performed as a main movement on a DE Lower training day.

Programming:
6 x 2 each. Rest 60s.

#3 Kneeling Jump + Box Jump

Performed as a main movement on a ME or DE lower training day.

Programming:
8 x 2, every 60s. (1 kneeling jump + 1 box jump = 1 rep)

#2 Seated Dynamic Box Jumps with a vest

Performed as a main movement on a Dynamic Effort or ME lower training day.

Programming:
8 x 3, every 60s.

#1 DB Squat Jump + Box Jump

Performed as a main movement performed on a Dynamic Effort or ME Lower training day.

Programming:
6 x 2, every 60s. (1 squat jump + 1 box jump = 1 rep)

Putting it all together

While many coaches would assume plyometrics are not needed for the general fitness, I’d urge them to consider the actual physiology of regular plyometric training, how they fit into a weekly training plan and the benefits for the non-athletic population.

I too once thought that since I’m not technically an “athlete” anymore they are not worth spending time on. It wasn’t until I was back in graduate school revisiting the tenets of plyometric exercise that I was reminded why this work can be beneficial for clients of all walks of life.

The good news is that plyometrics do not require huge investment of time to perform. For 5-10 minutes of total work, you can provide your clients with a huge bang for the buck.

Additionally, many of your clients would benefit from some “explosiveness” in their lives seeing most activities they perform are more “aerobic” and slow in nature.

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