What Are Plyometrics?

Unlike typical strength training exercises that involve long, slow movements designed to increase muscular strength and mass, plyometric exercises involve quick, explosive movements designed to increase speed and power.

A plyometric exercise consists of three phases. The first is a rapid muscle lengthening movement called the eccentric phase. Second comes a short resting period called the amortization phase. Finally, the athlete engages in an explosive muscle shortening movement called the concentric phase. The athlete repeats this three part cycle as quickly as he can.

The goal of plyometric exercises is to decrease the amount of time in-between the eccentric and concentric movements. By reducing the time in-between these two movements, a man can become faster and more powerful.

A Brief History of Plyometrics

Plyometrics were developed by Soviet Bloc scientists during the Cold War. The leading researcher of plyometric training was a Russian scientist named Yuri Verkhoshansky. Dr. Verkhoshansky developed a system of exercises called “Jump Training” that used repetitive jumping in order to increase the speed and explosiveness of Russian track and field athletes. He published the results of his studies on this new form of training in 1964.

During the 1960s and 70s, Soviet Bloc countries dominated the Olympics thanks in part to Dr. Verkhoshansky’s exercises. Seeing that the Americans were getting their asses handed to them by the Commies, American track and field coach Fred Wilt started to investigate how they were training. He saw that the Soviets were doing a bunch of crazy jumps from boxes and skipping around like school children. Wilt took some notes, went back to America, slapped the moniker “plyometrics” on these new exercises, and started implementing them with his athletes.

Since then, sports teams across the U.S. and the world have incorporated plyometrics into their training regimens to help their athletes become faster and more explosive.

The Benefits of Plyometrics

Plyometrics improve the functions of muscles, tendons, and nerves so that you can run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. In short, plyometric exercises can help you improve your pick-up basketball game or prepare your body for when you have to save your own life.

Benefits to muscles. Physical power is the ability to convert strength into speed as quickly as possible. In order to increase your power, you need to increase and strengthen the muscle fibers that are responsible for converting strength into speed. These fibers are often referred to as fast-twitch fibers. Plyometric movements can strengthen and even increase the number of fast-twitch fibers in your muscles. The stronger the fast-twitch fiber, the faster the muscle contraction.

Benefits to tendons. In order to increase the power and speed of muscular movements, you need to increase the strength of your tendons. Moreover, stronger tendons mean fewer injuries. Many men I know have had to undergo surgery because they tore a tendon while playing soccer or basketball. They might have been able to avoid these injuries had they only worked on increasing strength and elasticity in their tendons. Plyometrics strengthen your tendons and boost their elasticity by placing stress on them in a controlled setting.

Benefits to nervous system. A final component in increasing power and speed is your nervous system. Every time you contract your muscles, a signal is sent from your brain to your muscles via your neuromuscular system. The more efficiently your neuromuscular system can transmit this signal, the faster you can contract and relax your muscles, which in turn increases your athletic speed and power. Plyometrics boosts this efficiency.

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