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Plyometrics for All?

by Trainers Weigh In on May 22, 2013

Do plyometric exercises work for every client? Different trainers share their opinions.

Enhancing Sports and Everyday Life

“Jumping, bounding, hopping—plyometric movements like these are great to have in the toolbox, but like any powerful tool they must be used appropriately and with discretion,” says Janice Enloe, ACE-certified advanced health & fitness specialist, personal trainer, and lifestyle & weight management coach of Janice Enloe Personal Training/RUN Oak Park in Oak Park, Illinois. “Using a progression of exercises, having a strength base and training proper landing technique (soft and quiet!) are all essential elements when building a safe and effective program that includes plyometrics.”

Enloe believes that for athletes, plyometric exercises help build power and speed, develop coordination and agility, improve sports performance and aid in injury prevention. “We use jumps, hops, skips and bounds to help runners utilize and control the explosive power they need to become faster, stronger and more efficient. We want our runners to avoid injury and enjoy a lifetime in the sport, so we include a variety of drills in all planes of motion as part of a dynamic warm-up and/or during a sport-specific conditioning session.”

When her “everyday athletes” are ready, willing and able, Enloe adds a boost of plyometric intensity to their workouts as well. “This boost helps them develop the coordination and balance that can prevent a fall, power a dash up the stairs to catch the El train or run down the street after a wily toddler. Skipping and hopscotch never fail to make clients laugh and enjoy feeling like kids on the playground. And adding an element of fun to a workout keeps clients coming back!”

Progressing and Regressing

Tim Borys, president and CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group in Calgary, Alberta, says, “While plyometric training can come in handy in many areas of life, we make sure we properly progress people through the various regressions and progressions of the plyometric spectrum.”

A typical progression for a Borys client might look like this:

  • slow-speed movement sequencing drills (triple flexion/triple extension)
  • low-level plyos focused on technique, movement patterning and speed (agility ladders/hurdles)
  • ground-to-ground–based jumps (stick landing progressing to repeats)
  • easy box jumps (stick landing on box, step down)
  • low box jumps (multiple linked jumps)
  • gradual progression to higher box jumps, more explosiveness and challenge, depending on the client’s goals and ability to withstand more load and stress on the system

Borys believes in helping people “get fit for the sport of life.” “We approach each client from an athletic-performance perspective—regardless of age, gender, experience or goals. However, that doesn't mean we have clients doing box jumps and plyos from day one. In fact, even with the most elite athletes, we start with a functional movement analysis to determine starting points for posture, balance, stability, movement-based function and mobility. The analysis gives us a great picture of a client’s current capabilities, and when combined with his or her goals, desires, hot-button issues, injury status and personality, we can develop a customized program for that person.”

Choosing Intensity Wisely

With so many plyometric exercises and programs to choose from, most healthy clients—and probably all athletes—can be safely introduced to lower-intensity plyometrics early in the training plan, says Phillip Bazzini, MS, CSCS, of Bazzini Conditioning LLC in Tenafly, New Jersey. (He names pogos, jump rope, prancing and medicine ball throws as lower-intensity plyometrics.)

“Low-amplitude squat jumps may be an appropriate exercise for older adults and beginners,” he notes. “These jumps can introduce them to the stretch-shortening cycle, improve type II muscle fiber recruitment and provide beneficial bone-strengthening, weight-bearing forces. However, to provide a safe training experience, [trainers] should ensure that each participant demonstrates minimal knee valgus and consistent spinal bracing during the landing phase from a minimal height. Box jumps are at the highest end of the plyometric intensity spectrum; therefore, years of training experience are likely required before a client may 'earn the right' to attempt such a difficult exercise.”

For more information, please see April 2013 Tricks of the Trade in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

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