Plyometrics are explosive exercises that are designed to increase power and speed. Think of exercises like squat jumps, box jumps, burpees, etc. Increasing speed and power can be achieved through performing various exercises that trains our body and brain to recruit more muscle fibers, more quickly, in order to increase the efficiency and speed of the body’s muscle contractions. As a result, our power should increase as well. In order for plyometric training to increase the body’s speed and power we have to perform exercises that make the body’s stretch-shortening cycle occur more quickly.
What is the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC)?
Elite Athletic Performance explains the SSC as follows:
“In most dynamic movements the muscle is first stretched (eccentrically) before it contracts (concentrically). For example, if you do a dip before a vertical jump, your center of mass will be lowered quickly and in doing so your muscles will be stretched. Any muscle that is stretched prior to a concentric contraction will always contract with more speed and force. This eccentric-concentric coupling is referred to as the SSC, and together it produces a more powerful contraction than that which would result from a purely concentric action alone.”
Benefits of plyometric training
- Strengthens abilities in other sports and activities
Plyometric training can help improve strength, power and endurance for activities such as weight lifting, powerlifting, baseball, soccer, rugby, and even golf.
- Improves the efficiency of the neuromuscular system
For the SSC to occur, your brain sends a signal to your muscles via the neuromuscular system. The more efficient this signal is, the faster you can contract and relax your muscles resulting in increased speed and power.
- Strengthens tendons and lessens risk of injury
Plyometrics strengthen tendons by putting stress on them in a controlled manner. There are numerous studies that support the use of plyometric and dynamic stabilization/balance exercises to alter movement biomechanics.
- Strengthens fast twitch muscle fibers
In order to have better power you need to strengthen fast twitch muscle fibers which are responsible for turning strength into speed. Stronger fast twitch fibers result in stronger muscle contractions which then results in increased power.