VIDEO: Plyometrics for Power and Performance

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By Marni Rakes, MS, ISSN 
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Speed/lactate, tempo and endurance are three critical components to training. When including a few weekly sessions of weight lifting, it is important to teach the muscles how to quickly and powerfully respond to the stress of triathlons.


Although rarely associated with triathlon training and commonly associated with football conditioning, plyometric exercises require that a muscle is first lengthened (eccentric action) and then immediately shortened (concentric action) in order to teach the muscle how to reach maximum force in the shortest amount of time.

How do plyometrics work?
In order for plyometric training to improve triathlon performance, the muscles undergo quick changes to improve speed and power. When a muscle is stretched before it is shortened the muscle should contract more rapidly and forcefully.


During plyometric exercises there are three specific phases. The first phase involves pre-stretch (eccentric action). In other words, the muscle is lengthened. The second phase occurs immediately after pre-stretch and precedes the beginning of the concentric action. The shorter the phase (or time during the exercise), the more powerful the contraction of the muscle will be before the phase three. During the final phase, after the muscle has contracted, it immediately returns to it's relaxed, stretched state.

How do they improve performance?
Plyometric drills/exercises excite the elastic component of the muscles so that the muscles are trained to react powerfully and explosively. By performing upper and body plyometrics (emphasizing the body parts which are most used during competition) several times per week, upper and lower body power has been shown to increase, in addition to improving performance. Together with weight/resistance training, plyometrics can dramatically improve power and performance. It is important to alternate upper and lower body plyometric exercises with weight lifting so that both the upper and lower body do not get overworked on a given day.

Safety
Plyometrics can be very effective to your training routine so long as the exercises are done properly, with safety and injury prevention as your primary concerns. Plyometrics are considered to be explosive and very high-intensity. Do not attempt plyometrics if you are injured, healing from an injury or believe to be overtrained.


Safety tips:

  • Warm-up prior to plyometrics

  • Land on a flat surface

  • Wear proper shoes which absorb shock (ex. running shoes)

  • Stop immediately if you experience pain

  • Perform each exercise slowly at first and gradually build in speed and difficulty over several sessions

  • Allow adequate rest between sessions (24 hours)

Perform 2-3 sets of the following exercises for 30 sec. – 1 minute. Allow 15 sec – 30 sec. rest in between each exercise. Start slow and overtime, gradually increase speed. Do these sets 1-2 times per week.

Squat Jumps
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and core tight.
2. Squat by lowering your backside to the ground so that your knees don’t extend over your toes.
3. Immediately when you squat, explode off the ground by jumping off of your mid-foot and toes. Jump so that your feet raise off the ground.
4. Reach with your arms as you jump, keeping your body straight.
5. Land on both feet and quickly lower your body to the squatting position.

Double Leg Box Jumps
1. Stand in front of a stable box (or step bench or step) at least ankle high (more advanced, to the height of the shins).
2. Semi-squat and immediately jump on the box.
3. Use your arms for momentum by swinging your arms forward as you jump.
4. Once you land on the box, quickly jump to the floor.
5. If you are not experienced, you may choose to step down off the box or pause after jumping off the box.

High Knees
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and core tight.
2. Hold your arms close to your body, with your elbows less then a 90-degree angle.
3. Lift one knee with the foot directly under the knee. Quickly switch legs by lowering one leg and raising the other knee.
4. Land on a flat foot and avoid landing on toes.
5. Start slowly and quickly build speed when you feel more comfortable.

Split Squat Jumps
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in a wide lunge position.
2. Keep your back straight and core tight. Arms should stay close to the body.
3. Lower body by bending the knees in a lunge position. Your front knee should not extend over your toes.
4. Explode off the ground by pushing with your midfoot and switch legs in the air so that your starting front foot is now in the back.
5. Quickly switch feet as you lunge and switch legs in the air.
6. Start slowly and quickly build speed when you feel more comfortable.

Side Jumps
1. Stand beside an imaginary line (or you can draw one) with feet slightly closer than shoulder width apart.
2. With the head straight and core tight, quickly jump over your imaginary line.
3. Without stopping, jump right and left over the line until you have finished your set.
4. Be sure to focus on proper feet position during this set. Make sure you feet land simultaneously.

Forward and Backward Jumps
1. Stand behind an imaginary line (or you can draw one) with feet slightly closer than shoulder width apart.
2. With the head straight and core tight, quickly jump forward over your imaginary line.
3. Without stopping, jump forward and back over the line until you have finished your set.
4. Be sure to focus on proper feet position during this set. Make sure you feet land simultaneously.

Box Push-Up
1. Position a small stable box (6 in. – 1 foot tall) on a flat surface. You may also use a step (or small step bench)
2. Kneel on the ground so that your chest is directly in front of the box/step.
3. Place both hands on the ground.
4. In a push-up position, spread your legs so that the box/step still remains in front of the chest.
5. Quickly lift one hand, followed by the other onto the box/step. Optional - Do a push-up on the step.

6. Move hands back to the ground. Optional - Do another push-up.
7. Start slowly and quickly build speed.
8. Do not rock the hips as you move the push-up position. Keep your back straight.

 


 
About Marni
- See all Articles - Custom Nutrition Program
Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. Certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  Spinning class teacher and CPR certified. 2006 Boston Marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman World Championship finisher and qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

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date: June 11, 2008
 

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