Plyometric Training is not a Jump Training.

I practiced plyometric training for myself and prescribed this training for many amateur and professional athletes. I was practicing and prescribing this effective technique in a wrong or ineffective way for a while until I decided to dig into it more and justify my work with scientific rationale. I believe many are still practicing it in an ineffective way than it supposed to be. It is not a surprise to get it wrong because there is very few information available which defines or give proper guidelines on how to implement true explosive plyometric training, what is the science or rationale behind its effectiveness and a definite protocol for plyometric exercise prescription. Whereas there is a number of articles and youtube videos which have presented the concept and training technique as a form of rapid repetitive exercise or jump training. Some articles also claim to improve running and other skills by just performing plyometric exercises. They are true in the sense that repetitive plyometric exercise drills may have improved the performance but true explosive plyometric exercise has nothing to do with the skills. It enhances only a part of the sporting skill. For example, in running only the landing and takeoff action is the part of the plyometric action but not other movements.

The article published by Natalia Verkhoshansky on “Shock Method and Plyometrics: Updates and In-Depth Examination” is the must-read if you include plyometric exercise in your practice for best and effective outcome. My concept and way of plyometric training changed after I went into detail through this read. And no doubt the effect of training significantly improved than what I was doing before as per many other articles on the internet defining plyometrics as jump training or repetitive fast exercise drills.

Key points:

  • The key component of plyometric exercise is how quickly the action is executed from the eccentric contraction of the muscle (Shock, impact, collision phase) to the isometric (when the collision movement stops) to the execution of an action (concentric contraction of muscle).
  • The main objective of plyometric training is to develop the greater speed and explosive power. It is true that plyometric training may play a part in improving the strength, skills or the performance.
  • Jumps are most frequently used exercise in plyometric training. On a jump down, the extensor muscles are forced stretched and eccentrically contracted to produce greater tension in the muscle especially tendon. The greater and quicker the load applied, the greater is the energy accumulated. This energy is reversed back for the execution of an action with shortening of the muscle especially the tendon.

How does plyometrics work?

  • The essential element of shock regime is sharp, compulsory muscular tension, initiated by the body’s impact (collision) with an external object. (copied from “Natalia Verkhoshansky – Shock Method and Plyometrics, 2012)
  • All collisions conserve momentum. But during the elastic collision as in the collision between the foot and ground during jump down, kinetic energy is also conserved (E = mv2) along with the momentum. This conservation of kinetic energy is the key component of the effect of plyometric training. Plyometrics is mainly based on the effect of the stretch-shortening concept of muscle/tendon which means when a muscle/tendon is placed on the greater involuntary forced stretch, it will contract with greater accumulated force.
  • The power output of the loaded movement depends on the initial condition (functional state) of the working muscles: a greater muscle activation by an external load equates to greater power output. (copied from “Natalia Verkhoshansky – Shock Method and Plyometrics, 2012)
  • According to Yury Verkhoshansky (1979), the developer of shock method, the effectiveness of the technique is due to the following three reasons;

CNS stimulation by the sharp external force’s impact

By increasing the velocity of the magnitude of muscle strain, by an influence of provoked external force (mechanical stress), the level of muscular excitation increases; the level of excitation depends on the rate of raising the magnitude of the mechanical stimulus.

  1. (copied from “Natalia Verkhoshansky – Shock Method and Plyometrics, 2012)
Myotatic reflex

Contracting muscles under stretch could produce greater force than a shortening muscle contraction (Adol Fick, 1882)

When a muscle lengthens beyond a certain point the myotatic reflex causes it to tighten and attempt to shorten (the Liddell-Sherrington reflex – the tonic contraction of a muscle in response to its being stretched).

(copied from “Natalia Verkhoshansky – Shock Method and Plyometrics, 2012)

Elastic return action from the elastic component series

“The force developed by contractile component, when the muscle shortens after being stretched, is greater than that developed at the same speed and length, when is shortens starting from a state of isometric contraction” (G. Cavana, B. Dusman, R. Margarita. Positive work done by a previously stretched muscle. J Appl Physical January 1, 1968)

(copied from “Natalia Verkhoshansky – Shock Method and Plyometrics, 2012)

“The essence of the shock method consists of a stimulatory muscle strain created by the impact with kinetic energy accumulated from the sportsman’s falling body from a specific, strictly proscribed, height. The resistance of the falling body (the shell) is stopped over a short movement path. This produces a sharp muscle – tension which creates, instantaneously, a resilient potential of muscle -tension and stimulates a high – intensity central neuro – impulse on motor neurons. This, in turn, promotes a faster switching of the muscles from eccentric to concentric work and a more powerful contraction” (Y. Verkhoshansky, 2005).

Next: Plyometric Exercise recommendations

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