Plyometrics are an essential part of a training plan that develops an athlete's strength, speed and power. But like any training technique, there's a right way and a wrong way to apply it.
That's why before starting a plyometric program, you should understand what you're actually training.
The answer is the stretch-shortening cycle, or the SSC.
The SSC is what happens in your muscles when you change directions in a hurry. It's a three-step process in which your muscles slow down your body's momentum, hold on to the energy that results from landing for a tiny fraction of a second, and convert that energy into forceful movement.
Exercise physiologists call these three phases "eccentric," "amortization" and "concentric," but we'll call them lengthen, load and fire.
Phase 1: Lengthen
During the lengthening phase, your muscles do exactly that—they get longer to slow your body down. Just like a stretched rubber band, your muscles now contain elastic energy.
Phase 2: Load
Load is the transition between Phase 1 and 3 and is the shortest—but most important—of the three phases. How short? Ideally, you execute the load in 15 to 20 milliseconds. To the untrained eye, it happens so fast it looks like nothing happened. The faster you move through the load phase, the more elastic energy transitions to Phase 3.
Phase 3: Fire
In this final phase, your muscles contract quickly and forcefully to produce a powerful movement, like a jump. Can your muscles do this without going through the stretch-shortening cycle? Yes. But the SSC provides them with an extra boost—the elastic energy you create in Phase 1 and store in Phase 2.
How do you teach your body to take that elastic energy and put it to use? How do your muscles learn to move through the SSC efficiently enough that you can use the energy it creates to your advantage?
Too many athletes add a few jumps to their workouts and think they are getting the benefits of plyos. But that simply doesn't cut it. You need a complete program that challenges each part of the SSC and gradually gets more difficult without causing an injury from doing too much too soon.
That's why STACK developed EXPLOSIVE PLYOMETRICS, a three-day-per-week plyo training system consisting of 15- to 20-minute workouts that challenge and improve the stretch-shortening cycle. The workouts complement each other, developing your power, vertical jump, broad jump, sprinting speed and multi-directional agility. After six weeks, you'll be able to move faster and more explosively in every direction.
The workouts include three types of exercises: body control moves, reactive moves and power moves.
Body Control Moves
Body control exercises focus on the first phase of the SSC, lengthening. Using moves like Depth Drops, you will focus on decelerating while maintaining technique and balance. The exercises will teach your muscles to absorb more elastic energy and help you enhance your body control—a skill that's critical for preventing injuries, which often occur during the eccentric (landing) phase of a movement.
Reactive exercises include traditional plyometric moves such as Bounding. They focus on quick and explosive movements. The goal is to spend as little time on the ground as possible by landing and immediately exploding off the ground. Reducing the amount of time in the loading phase teaches your muscles to transition faster between the Lengthen and Fire phases.
Power exercises improve the final phase of the SSC, Firing. Max-effort moves like Box Jumps increase the power you need for explosive moves in your sport.
Regardless of its focus, each workout in EXPLOSIVE PLYOMETICS consists of at least one exercise from each category to develop the complete SSC. Also, each workout has one upper-body exercise to improve pressing and rotational power and two multidirectional exercises, because sports are played in multiple directions, not just straight ahead.
In the PDF below, we provide the exact template we used to develop EXPLOSIVE PLYOMETRICS. All you need to do is choose the exercises, sets and reps, and rest, and you will have an elite plyo training program that will make you a better athlete.
Want us to do the work for you? Check out our complete EXPLOSIVE PLYOMETRICS plyo training program.
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