Plyometric or “jump training” is commonly performed by athletes to improve their strength and power. Plyometrics typically involve explosive jumps (lower body) and/ or medicine ball throws and explosive push-ups (upper body). Should you add plyometrics to your exercise program?
5 Benefits of Plyometrics:
1. Increase Your Vertical:
Maybe not surprisingly plyometric training (or jump training) has been shown to increase verticals. A meta analysis that looked at 26 studies found that plyometric training increases vertical jumps by between 4.7% and 8.7%. Another meta analysis found that a higher intensity plyometric training program (at least 50 jumps per session) worked better than lower intensity programs. Using a combination of jumps like squat jumps, drop jumps and countermovement jumps was most effective. Yet another study found that a 7 week plyometric training program increased verticals by 3.81 centimeters, a squat program increased verticals by 3.30 centimeters, but plyometric and squat training increased verticals by 10.67 centimeters.
2. Improve Your Athletic Performance:
Plyometric training improves a variety of sports specific skills. One study found that collegiate baseball players who did 6 upper body plyometric exercises 2x a week for 8 weeks improved their pitching speed from an average of 83.15 mph to 85.15 mph. Another study found that lower body plyometric training significantly improved kicking speed in female soccer players. Participants performed jumps over hurdles, drop jumps and horizontal jumps 3x a week for 12 weeks in that study.
3. Improve Your Agility:
Another study divided participants into a 6 week plyometrics program and a control group. The researchers found that the plyometrics group decreased their time on all 3 agility tests measured by between 2.93% and 10%. The plyometric exercises used in the study included vertical, lateral and horizontal jumps (see below).
4. Improve Your Sprint Times:
A meta analysis found that plyometrics can also significantly improve sprint times. The researchers found that the most successful programs lasted for more than 10 weeks, for a minimum of 15 sessions, included more than 80 jumps per session and included horizontal jumps. Adding weights added no additional benefit.
5. Improve Your Distance Running:
One study had participants either continue their normal running training or add plyometrics to their running training over a 6 week period. The researchers found that the plyometrics group improved their 3 km run time by 2.7%. Running economy was also improved.
A Scientific Plyometric Program:
Considering that there aren’t many plyometric classes out there, how should you structure a plyometric program? Here’s what the studies say:
- Do plyometrics 2x a week.
- Continue for at least 10 weeks.
- Perform at least 50 jumps to improve your vertical and at least 80 jumps to improve your sprint time.
- Perform vertical jumps to improve your vertical, horizontal jumps to improve your sprint time and vertical, horizontal and lateral jumps to improve your agility.
- Do a combination of movements.
- Do sports specific movements.
- Adding weight doesn’t help.
Plyometrics improves your vertical, athletic performance, agility, sprint times and distance running. An example of a plyometric program to improve your vertical would be 3 sets of 10 drop jumps, 3 sets of 10 squat jumps and 3 sets of 10 countermovement jumps 2x a week. Good luck!
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