Plyometric Exercise

Hi everyone!  A few days ago, I posted the following on my Female Fitness, Weight Loss, Strength and Conditioning Facebook page:

Female Athletes: Did You Know? That POWER is more often used in most of your sports performance than raw STRENGTH! Power is a combination of strength and speed. Think of kicking a soccer ball, or striking a volleyball – that’s power! One of the best ways to develop “power” is through plyometric exercise. More on that in a later post.

So, here are some of my comments on this subject:

(Excerpt from my published article entitled):

Shoulders, Core and Legs: The Three Keys to Great Throwing, Striking and Racquet Sports Performance for Female Athletes©

“Plyometric exercise is important to every athlete, but particularly so for throwers since the throwing or overhead striking movement is a very dynamic one.  Plyometric exercise requires the athlete to utilize the “elastic power” of their muscles.  It involves three phases:  the eccentric phase which involves a rapid pre-stretch of the target muscle; followed by what is called the “amortization” phase which represents the time between the phase one eccentric phase, and phase three; and the third phase which is the concentric contraction (or shortening) of the target muscle.  The idea behind plyometric exercise is to shorten the amortization phase (or the time between the pre-stretch and the final concentric contraction of the target muscle) of the exercise so that the stored elastic effects of the phase one eccentric stretch are optimized – think of the release of a pre-stretched rubber band.  For a throwing athlete, this elastic power is very important in producing speed in the throw or strike, and it can be developed in a number of ways – for example, plyometric wall push-ups, or a medicine ball chest pass and catch.”

Ok, so I know that some of what I said above may be pretty technical.   That’s because I wrote that particular article for an organization of trainers, fitness professionals and exercise scientists.  Also, although my article was dealing with female “throwing and striking” athletes, plyometric exercise is equally valuable for developing lower body power for runners, jumpers and other athletes — including throwing and striking athletes — having to use their lower bodies to produce power.  Here are more of my thoughts on the subject:

Plyometric exercise is used to develop power.  Power is simply defined as combining strength and speed.  Think of a rubber band – sitting on the table undisturbed, it represents strength (i.e. the strength to bind things together).  But stretch it and let it go and it shoots off with velocity – that’s power!  Ok, so our muscles act in much the same way.  This is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle.” Always, always, always work on building your basic strength  BEFORE beginning plyometric training, and check with your physician before attempting this form of exercise to make sure that it’s appropriate for you.  I recommend that you also work with an experienced and certified sports conditioning trainer, at least initially, to learn the basics and to make sure that you start and progress at the levels of intensity appropriate for you.

There are many types of plyometric exercises — from basic to highly advanced.  Plyometric exercise at its most basic level would be something like low skips, hops and weighted throws, while an example of more advanced exercise would be depth jumps with change of direction.

Here’s what the American College of Sports Medicine has to say:  “Further, plyometric training performed during the preseason may decrease the risk of sports-related injuries. This may be of particular benefit to young female athletes who appear to be at increased risk for knee injuries as compared to young male athletes.” (Source: ACSM Current Comment – Plyometric Training for Children and Adolescents).

As you advance in your strength and conditioning training, adding plyometrics to your workout routine will go a long way to improve your dynamic strength or power. So ladies — Get STRONGER and add more POWER to improve your sports performance and reduce your risk of injury!


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