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Smart Tips for Plyometric Training

by Peter Twist, MSc on Apr 23, 2009

Plyometrics—a type of movement involving the legs, core or upper extremities—uses a quick, eccentric-concentric phase to harness elastic muscle properties while using neural drive to increase the number of active motor units, thus netting explosive power and acceleration (Twist 2008).

The plyometric effect of conditioning is intended to help bridge the gap between strength and speed. Plyometric exercises increase the amplitude and velocity of movements by accentuating the eccentric phase of muscle contraction. They also stimulate more intense demands on the neuromuscular system and the stretch-shortening cycle, thereby stimulating the development of faster, more efficient coupling mechanisms in the body to net powerful concentric contractions (Baechle & Earle 2000).

The body needs movement, balance and strength to work in concert to produce skillful performance. Only an integrated training approach that encompasses all of these characteristics will truly maximize the potential of the human machine. The Twist Sport Conditioning Paradigm is based on a neuromuscular and proprioceptive training style that fosters a fast and accurate mind-to-muscle connection, resulting in smart muscles that intuitively comply with the mind’s commands. The outcome is a bigger, faster, stronger and smarter athlete.

Purposeful Athlete Progression

Plyometric moves are “sexy”—cool drills!—and they are well received by training clients, so there is a tendency to adopt them without qualified coaching. But the risk is higher with this type of workout; safely upgrading to explosive power requires a knowledge foundation, a functional body and precise performance coaching. These are not drills to insert randomly into boot camps and other workouts without a teaching system.

Do not build power on dysfunction, and do not ramp up aggressive power drills without the critical eye to make mechanical adjustments. Progressing athletes and other clients safely and effectively using training that increases in complexity and intensity requires a clear understanding of appropriate progressions and regressions in order to minimize risk and maximize results.

1. Focus on the Foundation
When an athlete begins to train, focus initially on developing an athletic foundation (movement, strength and balance). To accomplish this, enhance the mobility and stability link so the athlete achieves full ranges of motion and establishes maximal joint stability and leverage; this will allow him to control the forces and movement on the joints as the intensity and complexity of the training increase.

2. Foundation to Function (F2F)
Next, work on executing the neuromuscular and functional skills necessary for power development. Do this by increasing the complexity and neural demand of exercises, while maintaining a focus on the body control needed for the unpredictable demands that today’s athlete must regularly confront: for example, deceleration, directional changes and body contact.

3. Function to Performance (F2P)
With the power foundation established, the evolution of power production can begin. Before teaching an athlete how to accelerate and generate explosive force, teach her how to absorb force by harnessing power using deceleration training. To have the best application to sport, power production must be tested using multidirectional movements (i.e., hard cuts, evasive tactics) so the athlete learns how to maintain power through direction change. To reach her full athletic potential, an athlete must be able first to harness power; then to produce it; and finally to maintain power production.

4. Performance to Podium (P2P)
When an athlete has developed his abilities to produce power, to demonstrate whole-body balance and to move efficiently, focus more on the high-level conditioning and training challenges that will progress him from an execution and performance focus to a true elite-level training focus.

For more information on plyometrics, illustrated examples of plyometric exercise progressions and complete references, please see the full article in the March issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or read it online in the IDEA Library.

To purchase the DVD Linked System™ Strength: Chest & Back and other products by Peter Twist, MSc, visit the online IDEA Store.

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About the Author

Peter Twist, MSc

Peter Twist, MSc IDEA Author/Presenter

Peter Twist, MSc, is the president and CEO of Twist Conditioning, Inc. He is an exercise physiologist with a specialization in coaching science. Having coached in the NHL for 11 years, Peter has worked with over 700 professional athletes. Peter received the National Strength and Conditioning Association's 1998 President's Award and the Can-Fit-Pro 2003 Specialty Presenter of the Year award. Certifications: NSCA