Starting A Plyometric Program by Mike Boyle

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Plyometrics have become a buzz word that has players and coaches jumping, both literally and figuratively. Box Jumps, Russian Boxes, Hurdles Hops etc. etc. are recommended to develop speed and power. However, plyometrics can present as many problems as solutions. Numerous questions arise when athletes or coaches ask about plyometrics.

1)      At what age can or should an athlete begin a plyometric program? This is a relatively simple answer. Young athletes ( 12-14 yrs) can perform plyometric exercises provided they are simple and low intensity. The problem lies in defining simple and low intensity. For young athletes we recommend that athletes jump up to a box until they have mastered the art of jumping and landing. The only exercise we will do with beginners is a Box Jump. We will never perform multiple jumps on one leg, jump up or down stairs, or jump down from any type of raised platform. Beginners are any athletes that have not been exposed to a properly designed plyometric program. Age or sport experience is irrelevant in my mind. Always start at the beginning. Low intensity should be defined in terms of gravity, not starting position. Don Chu, in his early work, classified plyometric drill intensity based on whether the athlete was moving forward or jumping in-place. At the time of Chu’s early writings this attempt at classification was necessary and progressive. However, time marches on. I prefer to categorize plyometric drills by the exposure of the athlete to the forces of gravity. If an athlete jumps up to a box, the acceleration due to gravity is minimal due to the fact that the athlete literally goes up, but does not come down. If an athlete jumps up, as in a squat jump or a tuck jump, they are in-place as described by Chu but are also exposed to greater gravitational forces than if they jumped up to a box.

2)      If I am doing plyometrics, how many jumps should I do, and how often should I do them? In our programs we try to keep it simple. Generally with beginners we will do Box Jumps for 3 –4 sets of 5 jumps four times per week. Day 1 is double leg jumps up to a box. Day 2 and 4 are lateral jumps up to a small step like the Perform Better Stackable Steps ( www.performbetter.com). These jumps are done single leg and must be done both medially and laterally. Day 4 is single leg jumps again using a 4-6 in Stackable Step. This is only 30-40 jumps per week. It is important to note that we jump up and step down in Phase 1 and that Phase 1 lasts 3 weeks. Never less. With beginners of any age we are trying to reduce the effect of gravity by emphasizing jumping up. We may perform plyometric drills up to four days a week with two days being linear and two days being lateral. It should be noted that the NSCA has published a position paper stating that plyometric drills should only be performed twice per week. I don’t believe that this position statement takes into account volume or direction and as a result is well intentioned but inaccurate and in need of revision.

3)      What is the biggest mistake I can make? Not following a progression. The key to the first phase is to develop the ability to jump and land with limited eccentric stress. For this reason you must jump up only. The second biggest mistake is to skip steps in the progression. Phase 2 is to jump over an object like a hurdle or a mini-hurdle. The emphasis in phase 2 is to continue to develop eccentric strength but to expose the athlete to more gravitational forces.

4)      This doesn’t sound like a plyometric program at all. If you feel this way you are correct and astute. True plyometrics are about things like reaction to the ground and stretch-shortening cycles. This progression is really about learning to jump and land and to develop the eccentric strength necessary to actually perform plyometrics.

The reality is our plyometric progression does not take on the appearance of “real plyos” for the first three phases or, the first nine weeks. However what does happen is that our athletes develop great explosive power and, do so without injury. Isn’t this what we want?

www.sbcoachescollege.com


Submitted by DMorgan on Sun, 05/14/2006 - 9:57am.

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