The final part of The Brakeman's 'Programming For Power' series culminates with a quick dive into the world of plyometrics and how they can work for you in a power training plan.
Olympic Performance Coach Chris Woolley taking Swiss international Nadja Pasternack through some advanced bounding
We've covered the basic principles of plyometrics in an old article of ours, so in the interest of not duplicating work, check that out here if you're not au fait with what it's all about. This article assumes you've done your homework on what plyo is and you've followed our guide on selecting the right exercises and training methodologies for yourself or your athlete.
This article is basically going to (try) to serve to demystify and make sense of how you could include plyometrics into a performance programme.
We've touched on it already this series with some of the plan examples in our weightroom article, but principally see plyometrics as your main key to explosivity. Its rapid movement from eccentric to concentric helps bridge the gap in training between strength and speed. Read: power.
We talked in the preface also of 'power' being less than optimal for athletic performance if the body cannot translate massive potential of the big muscles through an adequately stiff and strong ankle joint. This again is where plyometrics will reign supreme. It is also where they present the most risk. As with anything we talk about in our training articles, seek an experienced coach with a good technical eye to help you manage further learning of these movements.
You can use plyometry in the gym, you can also use it as a standalone session or as a warm-up to a track session. Make it make sense for your programme, don't overdo it as these exercises have a technical element that could cause issues for you if your volume is too high. Think of them as your power linking exercises, start small and build them up.
Note from author (Greg) - I add low level plyometry to every session (normally included in my warm-up drills), and the heavier stuff I will use either supersetted in the gym with my big compound lifts (contrast/complex style stuff), or combined with a track day that is for accelerations (not tempo or longer running days).
So a super simplified but typical weights/accels day might look like this:
Warm up -rest- battery of plyo exercises (e.g. x3 30m stride bounds, x3 5 Hops for distance) -rest- x2 50m accels, x4 30m accels.
Hour or so for lunch
Big compound lift -rest- big compound lift -rest- accessory exercises
Here are 4 simple plyometric additions we recommend to add to your training tool box with tweaks and improvement suggestions for each:
1. Pogos and Ankle Pops
These are predominantly used as warm-up drills but they are excellent plyometric options and help you focus on dorsi-flexing and thinking of your ankle as a spring. They're great to warm up into a full sprint or heavier plyometric session.
Do them over 10-20m and get more out of them by exploding off the floor harder and trying to create longer 'hang-times', or add weight to use in complex or contrast training methods.
2. Stride Bounds
These are your bread and butter plyo exercises. If you can master well-executed bounds with technical proficiency you will unlock a huge amount of potential in your power training. These absolutely bridge the gap between strength and speed and hugely expedite elastic improvements in your ankles.
Video needs an update but pretty much covers what you need to know. Make your contacts strong, start small and build up. These are a great horizontal movement focus exercise to pair with weightroom exploits or as part of a standalone plyo session.
Again, tweak these by adding a weighted element (weighted vest, med ball or even harnessed with a partner as you can see in the title picture at the top of this article). Master it unweighted first because, really, bodyweight is more than sufficient. Do them over a specified distance or count your contacts. Or do both.
3. Hamstring Scissor to Sprint
Any drill blends are pretty good but making them bouncy and plyometric gives you instant transfer to sprint performance. Hamstring scissors are particularly good as they leave the limbs in a frontside-dominant position which makes sustaining neat frontside mechanics in the blend to run portion easier. Great for teaching front-side feels and learning to recover the swing leg well, making your backside mechanics more efficient. Couple terms you don't really need to know. Basically these help make fast and springy.
Play with your distances, make the scissor portion longer, open stride lengths, make sprint portion longer/faster etc. See how easy it is to manipulate your sessions?
4. Box Hops/Jumps with variations
Box hops or box jumps are a useful plyometric option in the weightroom. They're probably a whole article in themselves but here's a quick example of how you can use them.
In the video below you see German Olympic Silver Medallist, Eric Franke, completing an explosive single leg hop with a run up. This is an option you can use, the run-up helps you get more explosivity out of the hop and will help you challenge the higher box heights. Be aware you don't always need to go for heights like this as it starts to become less about how high you can get and more about how flexible your hips are!
Adding in straight-leg options encourage a higher hip displacement and should get you to commit to the jump just as much as trying to hop onto the Empire State Building. Complete them as single or double leg hops, with or without run ups, sometimes from a seated position, sometimes as depth jumps or sometimes as repeated depth jumps. (See videos below).
Standard bilateral and unilateral depth jump. Manipulate it by changing box heights (normally you'd use two boxes of the same height), emphasise a fast ground contact, good hip clearance, straight leg landings, hang time, use your arms/don't use you arms etc etc
Repeated Depth Jump
This version is TBM's favourite. Video shows a fairly conservative demonstration, but depending on your space/equipment availability, manipulate your distances, run up, contact emphasis and have fun with it!