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Power Up With Plyometric Training
Improve conditioning, increase muscle development and propel your physique to new heights!
While these moves may seem more suited to the playground, they are actually beneficial for those of us a few years out of playtime.
These explosive activities are collectively referred to as “Plyometrics”. Simply put, plyometrics works to train the muscles to produce the greatest force in the shortest possible time. “Plyometrics is used by athletes to develop muscle power, rapid force production, and dynamic agility in rapid movements,” says William Kraemer, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. “Almost every sport these days incorporates some type of plyometric training into their regimen because it improves total body power in movements like jumping and throwing, kicking and kicking.”
The great thing about plyometric training is that an athlete can tailor a program to improve their own particular sport. For example, if you play basketball, you will need to focus on vertical jumps and throws. If you’re a football fanatic, you might want to work more on your lower body. Even recreational bodybuilders can benefit from adding some plyometrics into the mix. “Plyometrics hits certain fast-twitch muscle fibers that you won’t hit with other lifting exercises,” says Kraemer. “It also helps increase your power output by improving the rate of force production, a benefit you’ll only get if you do Olympic-style lifting.”
So why not regress and play with plyometrics? It provides complete conditioning, enhanced power, increased muscle development and is virtually guaranteed to take your physique to new heights.
Start with the lightest medicine ball available – usually 2-4 pounds – and slowly work your way up to a heavier ball. If you don’t have a sparring partner, use a solid wall or floor to throw the ball on.
Stand at your partner’s side with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the medicine ball with both hands at waist level directly in front of your body and twist using your torso, hips and shoulders as far away from your partner as possible. From this coiled position, forcefully roll down, swinging the ball and tossing it to your partner. Perform all reps on one side before switching to the other.
PUSH PASS BENCH
Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent, your feet flat on the floor and your lower back arched naturally. Have a partner stand behind you and hold a medicine ball above your chest. Catch the ball when your partner drops it, absorbing its weight by bending your elbows and wrists and lowering it slightly towards your chest. Immediately push the ball back up, throwing it straight up into the air for your partner to catch.
Stand facing your partner with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the medicine ball with your arms fully extended and your elbows slightly bent, and lift it above and slightly behind your head. Avoid arching your back and hyperextending your shoulders. From this position, contract your abs, lats, triceps and shoulders and throw the ball hard towards your partner.
Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart, your abs tight, and your back flat. Lower your body to a point a few inches above the ground, then explode up and above the ground, slamming your hands into the air under your chest before catching yourself on landing with your hands in their original position. Immediately move on to the next pump and repeat, keeping ground contact time to a minimum for maximum training effects.
2-3 (per side)
Push Pass Bench
Begin your lower body plyometric conditioning with the fewest sets and maximum rest. Minimize the time your feet are in contact with the ground between reps for maximum performance.
From a standing position, jump as high as you can and use your abs and hip flexors to bring your knees up to your chest as high as possible. Land with your knees soft, compress lightly, then immediately move on to the next jump, keeping ground contact to a minimum.
Stand on a 12-inch box, step, or other stable surface, and step—don’t jump—from the box onto the floor, landing with both feet simultaneously. Compress and absorb the impact by bending your knees and hips, then immediately leap into the air, jumping as high as you can and landing with your soft knees.
Think of it as a power jump. With each jump to either side, exaggerate the movement with all parts of your body, raising the knee as high as possible and swinging the arms as aggressively as possible to jump as high and far as possible. Instead of going for reps here, you’re shooting for distance, so with each leap, jump up and forward as far as you can until you’re moving 20 yards.
180 DEGREE JUMPS
Standing with your knees slightly bent, jump up and simultaneously rotate 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Land on both feet and compress as if you were going to jump again, but hold this position for a count of two before exploding and turning to face your starting direction.
180 degree jumps
* Try to do them towards the beginning of the workout as they are particularly taxing.
For the first two weeks, take the time to learn the exercises, simply going through the exercise movements slowly and completely to fully understand. Do a set of each, leaving 2-3 days rest in between for full recovery. After these first two weeks, start putting in maximum effort, keeping your sets to two and your reps to 3-4.
As you improve and increase your production, you can increase your reps to six and your sets to three.
Now aim for the moon. Aim to jump higher, throw farther, and cover more distance with each rep. you can regress towards the 3 rep range for a while as your body has to adapt to a stronger stimulus again. But don’t be discouraged! It only gives you a higher level to aim for in the coming months.
Since plyometrics works very specific explosive muscle groups, it pairs well with endurance activities such as cardiovascular training and/or light weight training on the same day. “Do them first and make sure you’re fully rested before doing them again,” says Kraemer. “If you’re tired, you won’t be able to give it your all and you won’t be training the right muscle groups.”
Allow at least two days of rest between plyometric sessions to ensure full recovery, remembering that the more exercises you perform, the longer your recovery interval will be. If you choose to do plyometrics more than twice a week, limit your exercises per session to 1-2 instead of 3-4 to ensure adequate recovery time.
Also avoid doing more than two plyometric sessions per week for the same body group. If you are doing upper and lower body plyometrics on both days, be sure to choose different exercises for each session. “Also reverse the order,” suggests Kraemer. “If you do lower body first on day one, do upper body first on day two.”
For all your exercises, keep the rep range fairly low. “Generally, it stays between 3 and 6 reps per set, depending on the fatigue of the exercise,” says Kraemer. “If you can get more than that, you’re probably not doing it right, not recruiting the muscles you’re trying to achieve, and generally wasting your time.”
Most important of all, remember to rest completely between each set of plyometrics. “You have to realize that this is not a conditioning program or an endurance test, it’s a neurological recruitment activity,” says Kraemer. “You work to the max every time and you have to fully recover to be able to work at your maximum capacity in the next set. You almost have to learn to be lazy!”
RULES AND RULES OF PLYOMETRY
- ALWAYS Do a 5-10 minute dynamic warm-up, such as biking, walking, jogging, or jumping rope before you begin your plyometrics.
- STRETCH after plyometrics and not before. “You stretch the elastic component of your muscles, reducing your ability to produce maximum power,” Kraemer points out.
- WAER sports shoes with good lateral stability, good arch support and a non-slip sole.
- TRAIN on forgiving surfaces such as a good shock-absorbing track, basketball court, or grassy area.
- CORRECT the form is imperative. For lower body exercises, land gently on the balls of your feet, bending your knees and hips to avoid injury. (If you hear popping, slapping, and a general thud coming from your foot area, you’re landing too hard!) When performing upper body exercises, avoid hyperextending your shoulders and elbows and focus you on recruiting your core muscles (abdominals, lower back and obliques) to add power.
- TO KNOW your limits and listen to your body. If you’re too sore or tired after a previous heavy lifting session or plyometric workout, forgo the extra plyometrics in favor of cardio or light strength training until you feel less fatigued.
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