What are Plyometric Exercises?
Plyometric exercises are exercises used to increase your speed, endurance, and strength. Plyometrics can also be called plyos, consist of powerful and fast movements.
Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises are usually geared toward highly trained athletes or people in peak physical condition. Energy is required to improve our bodies and the systems that work within them.
A powerful way to add energy into a rehab program, bridge, or workout program is through plyometric training. Plyos raises force and speeds your muscle contractions’ force and speeds and strength training that leads to higher explosive power needed in sports and even everyday activities.
Plyometric activities can be utilized in both the lower and upper extremities, with running, jumping, or throwing a ball as common examples. Nearly all sports and many activities of daily and work-related activities will include some form of plyometric activity.
- Box jump
- Squat jump
- Reverse lunge knee-ups
- Tuck jump
- lateral bounds
Benefits of Plyometrics
Plyometrics can help improve athletic abilities such as:
● increased vertical jump height
● increased long jump distance
● Increased strength
● improved running speed, agility, and quickness
● injury reduction
● improved throwing, hitting, striking velocity
Plyometric Exercises: Peak Torque vs Power
Our muscles’ health is typically divided into three categories known as strength, endurance, and flexibility. Muscle strength can be divided into two main components. The first is peak torque, which is the amount of force that a muscle can produce. The second component of strength is power, known as the amount of force produced by the muscle over a period of time.
Peak torque is improved using traditional resistance programs, with weights or other resistance forms impeding a certain movement. Power is improved when the muscle exerts maximum force in a short interval of time, such as using explosive, quick movements, and plyometrics. Power is also defined as a muscle’s rate of force development.
The 3 Components of Plyometric Patterns
A plyometric exercise program should be a key part of any strength and conditioning program, performance enhancement program, or performance-based rehabilitation. They assist in developing the power (time component discussed above) needed both in sports and daily living activities.
Plyometrics consist of 3 phases:
- Eccentric pre-stretch (loading) phase.
- Amortization (coupling or time to rebound) phase.
- Concentric shortening (rebound) phase.
Using jumping as an example, the eccentric pre-stretch phase occurs when a person squats down in preparation to jump. This causes a stretch in the muscle-tendon unit’s muscle spindle stimulating the muscle’s components and building potential kinetic energy inside the muscle.
The amortization phase occurs when a person transitions from the preparatory squat to the explosive move upward concerning jumping. This is the maximal storage of the potential kinetic energy discussed previously and is the key to effective and powerful plyometric exercise.
The shorter the amortization phase, the more potential kinetic energy will be available for the next phase. The longer the amortization phase, the more energy will be wasted as heat.
The concentric shortening phase is the last phase of the cycle. This occurs when the person in this example explodes upwards to reach maximum vertical jump height—this phase results from many interactions that utilize the pre-stretched muscle’s elastic properties. The blending of these three phases to perform a plyometric moment enhances the muscle’s power performance.
Implementing plyometric exercises with physical therapy
At Wright Physical Therapy, we use isokinetic testing to obtain specific information on both peak torque and rate of force development (Power) of muscle groups. Isokinetic testing uses specific equipment that allows for isolation of targeted muscles that govern specific joints’ movement. The test is always performed compared to the contralateral extremity; this allows for quantifiable assessment of deficits in the peak torque, power, and how their ratios correlate.
Once the test results are obtained, it allows for appropriate decisions on return to sport, work, and daily living activities. These tests also help determine when to begin a plyometric activity and what stage of rehabilitation the patient is currently in.
Performing an Isokinetic test for muscle assessment alone is not enough. Dynamic Movement Assessments play a key role in the assessment to see how strength is being used in functional and athletic movements.
There is a threshold of muscle strength necessary to be achieved within a specified period of time during athletic activity and normal daily activities. If these strength levels are not obtained promptly, it leads to poor body mechanics and performance, resulting in preventable injury.
Isokinetic muscle testing can be performed to assess both a muscle’s peak torque and power which is the amount of force produced by the muscle over a period of time. Once assessed, a specific treatment plan that includes plyometrics can be formulated individualized to each person’s unique needs and activities performed throughout the day. This will both improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.