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One of the key areas that team sport players such as basketball, soccer and football players need to improve upon is speed and strength as most team games will use these elements a lot throughout different stages of the game. Speed is how quickly you can move a limb and strength is how much force you produce, for example, a football player throwing a touchdown pass needs to apply speed to the ball but also strength to make sure it travels fast enough. The combination of speed and strength is more commonly referred to as power - therefore plyometric training works to improve a players power both on and off the ball.
The basis of how this type of training works is that the muscle is stronger and can be pushed harder when it contracts concentrically straight after an eccentric contraction.
Concentric - means to shorten the muscle (active contraction)
Eccentric - means to lengthen the muscle (relaxation)
For example, when jumping as you bend your knees to propel yourself in the air your quadriceps (thigh muscles) lengthen (eccentric), as you push off they quickly shorten (concentric) which produces a high amount of power to jump further. This is why people usually say the lower you bend your knees the higher you will jump. It is a bit like a flicking an elastic band, the further you pull it back and stretch it the more power it produces when it shortens.
Types of Plyometric Activities
There is so much variety in the world of plyometric's that any personal trainer or sports coach can develop activities that fit under the heading of plyometric training. But below are some common examples you might want to include in your training.
Bounding - This is the simplest of methods which involves a set number of two footed jumps forward in a straight line. You may set a 10 - 20m distance and ask the perform to bound from one end to the other. You can set the task to complete the distance in as little amount of bounds as possible.
Box Jumps -This is a very common method and involves setting up a number of boxes in a linear fashion. For example, 5 boxes in a row with only 1-2m between each. The idea is the player must two footed jump onto the box and back down and then onto the next.
If working with beginners keep the boxes quite low and the same height, but as the player advances you can vary the box heights throughout the line to increase the training effect.
Side Bench Thrusts - This is an age old favourite of mine which my players always hated! Using a standard bench the players line up at one end. They must place both hands on the bench in front of them and jump over the bench side to side. After each jump they shift their hands slightly further up and repeat until they have gone the distance - you can also get them to come back again. This helps with strength in the upper body as well.