By Brandon Richey
Do you know what a plyometric exercise is?
Do you currently incorporate plyometric training into your strength and conditioning program?
Do you know how to safely progress plyometric training for optimal benefit?
Do you know how to initiate the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) to perform plyometrics?
Are you interested in giving your current fitness and strength program a serious upgrade?
Today, I want to touch on some plyometric drills that you can employ in order to help you achieve a high level of conditioning and physical function. I’m a huge proponent of plyometric training because plyometrics enable you to express strength by challenging your muscles and nervous system to produce force and movement in a very different way to enhance physical function and athleticism.
Jump Rope Skips
This is a low-grade plyometric drill that can challenge your body conditioning you for the ability to perform low grade skips, or hops until your body becomes more adapted to producing more forceful and challenging plyometric drills. These other more intense plyometric exercises can come in the form of jumps, sprints, and variations of those drills.
The key to training and executing plyometric exercise is making sure to initiate a muscular contraction known as the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). This means that when you perform the exercise that the muscle moves through a rapid contraction involving three different phases.
The first phase is the stretching, or lengthening portion of the muscular contraction known as the eccentric contraction. Next comes the brief transitional pause between the eccentric contraction and the shortening contraction of the muscle and this is known as the amortization phase. Thirdly the muscle must shorten and this is known as the concentric contraction of the muscle.
Obviously there are varying degrees of intensity in terms of varying plyometric drills. Jump rope skipping is a great lower grade plyometric that can be used to begin conditioning your body for the SSC while also being a tremendous cardio conditioning drill that can be applied almost anywhere and at anytime.
Recommendation: Perform 5 to 10 rounds of jump rope skips ranging from 1 to 3 minutes with a minute rest interval for conditioning and improving physical function.
Jump Rope High Knee Runs
This movement you can employ with the jump rope to progress your plyometric training intensity. By performing high knee runs in place you can apply a sprint like movement to elevate the intensity of the drill while also being able to do so in a relatively small space.
In addition to this jump rope high knees will challenge your coordination and reaction time which are crucial for obtaining a high level of physical function.
This particular drill carries a lot of benefit because it’s not just some bout of mindless cardio. In order to perform this drill It actually requires a respectable level of mastery from you in order to lock down your timing and to adjust the tempo of the drill to perform it while maintaining control of your body.
To perform drill you want to swing the rope with enough speed while timing the swing of the rope and your sprint stride to clear the rope with each revolution. This involves some serious timing.
When in training I’m a big proponent of including drills and movements that require coordination and rhythm. Bruce Lee has even talked about this in his training philosophy. He stated that the human body is “motorset” for being able to move and work through movement patterns and to maintain rhythm.
Obviously, he was comparing this to fighting, but the fact remains that such pattern and rhythm can also be acquired in movements that require coordination and reaction time.
Recommendation: Perform 5 to 10 rounds of 10 to 20 jump rope high knee runs. Count the reps by counting off the second knee raised in each running stride.
Agility Ladder Speed Squats
If you want an extraordinary plyometric for improving function with power and speed, these will absolutely do it.
In addition to this, the agility speed squats are a mid to intense grade plyometric that will allow you to adapt your hip power and leg speed without being too taxing on your joints.
This drill is performed by you executing a jumping jack type movement by you descending your hips into a squat hinge when progressing along the agility ladder.
Each square of the ladder provides a marker to help you progress the drill.
The idea is to jump with both feet into the first square only to immediately jump out of that square with your feet just outside the agility ladder at the next square.
Once your feet touch the ground outside the next square with your feet being about hip distance apart in length you want to rapidly hinge your hips into the squat. From here power up out of the squat to jump with both feet landing into the next square. Just continue this pattern until you reach the end of the agility ladder.
Recommendation: When performing this drill on the agility ladder count a single rep as a full round trip from one end of the agility ladder and back. Perform 3 to 6 reps on the ladder to improve speed, conditioning, and physical function.
Plyometrics are great for helping you to develop physical function so that you can express your strength in more movements that you can apply to both sport and to day to day life. You should regularly include plyometrics into your day to day training, but also understand how to do so safely and effectively in order to optimize function.
What plyometrics do you currently use in your strength and conditioning program?
How many days a week do you train plyometrics?
Please post up in the comment section below with your feedback!
If you need help with learning about how to program and progress your plyometric training then make sure to visit me at Brandon Richey Fitness.
Written by Brandon Richey, SGPT coach and owner of Brandon Richey Fitness, the 120-Day Training Plan to Build Powerful Functional Fitness is designed to transform your body and mind for the rest of your life.
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QUESTION: Coach, I’m doing alright with my arm strength for my pullups but my hands get really tired. Do you have any ways I could make them stronger?
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We’ve put together an article full of great tips about how you can improve your grip strength. Try this article, too—Grip Strength Training for American Ninja Warrior.
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