Training Plyometrics and Your Vertical

Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Plyometrics and Your Vertical: How to Do Them and What They Are (and NOT)

Anyone who is serious about vertical jumping has heard about plyometrics and most athletes may think they know what plyos actually are. Yes, it is widely known that plyometrics are the best kind of exercise to train one’s muscles for quickness, speed and power. Theoretically, you can just train with plyos and attain the best possible vertical jump improvements.

However, there reality is that you cannot workout solely with plyometrics, least you damage your muscles and severely restrict your potential! Sadly, most plyo guides, books, handbooks, ebooks, videos et cetera seem somehow misleading as they often fail to take into account the practical side of plyos (and how taxing they are on the body).

The amount of misinformation surrounding plyos is staggering!

And for that reason, I am taking up the task of finally explaining once and for all what’s the real deal behind plyometrics!

So, what exactly are plyometrics?

Plyometrics (or plyos for short) refers to a specific family of exercises that are focused on maximum speed and power. Plyos are used in the training regimes of pros to improve athletic performance, especially in feats such as vertical jumping and other activities that require quickness, speed and power.

Plyos are as intense as an exercise can be, and their goal is to work the muscles as intensely as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible. For that reason, Plyometrics use fast-acting, unrelenting and explosive body movements to boost muscle power and speed.

Plyos can be dangerous if not done correctly and they actually have a dark past.

Who invented plyos?

Unbeknownst to most, and hidden in shame, is the origin of plyometrics.

Plyos actually started out as a Soviet training method that aimed to produce super-athletes to trump on all western sportsmen.

And it failed.

Original plyos used the “muscle shock” method to force muscles to develop. Soviet trainers used to throw athletes from heights up to 10 (and more) feet and force them to jump up the moment their feet made contact with the ground. It is true that this kind of brutal training does yield tremendous results BUT it also brings about irreparable damage to bones and ligaments, eventually resulting in permanent, grave injuries.

The result? The Soviets burned out their own athletes with wrong plyo!

Even though Soviets dominated multiple sports during the 60ies and 70ies due to their Soviet plyo workouts, the sad truth is that about 89% of these Soviet athletes suffered serious injuries that forced them to end their careers prematurely! (and they didn’t even receive proper compensation from the Soviet state!)

Plyometrics Today

With the fail of Soviet plyometrics, Americans studied plyos in a quest to find a safe but equally powerful training method based on Soviet plyos.

The result? American-Style plyometrics,which are the plyos most of us know and widely use today in training the world’s top athletes for MAX speed and power.

Today’s plyos do not involve being thrown from heights. Instead they focus on all kind of controlled jumps and explosive movements to promote muscle speed and power. There are lots of awesome plyometrics exercises you can do to improve your vertical with MAX efficiency and without any nasty side-effects.

However, no matter how awesome plyos are, athletes should not only focus on plyos for a host of reasons. Plyos are too taxing on the body if done exclusively, so you should also devote equal times to weight lifting and regular jumping training.

The Best American-Style Plyometric Exercises

Below are some of the best American Plyometrics jumping exercises you can do to improve your vertical jumping performance:

Lateral Jumps: Stand in front of an object you can jump over and jump sideways to the other of the object. Upon landing, immediately jump to the other side and repeat as quickly as possible.

Squat Jumps: Simple and powerful; Squat down with your feet apart. Jump as high as possible and land back to a squat to repeat as fast as possible.

Tuck Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and jump as high as possible, pulling your knees up. At maximum height, straighten your legs to land and immediately repeat.

Box/Bench/Platform Jumps: Stand in front of a platform (a box or some other item) you can jump on. Jump on the platform and immediately back down, repeat as quickly as possible. Try to find platforms that will challenge your jumping skills but remember never to overdo it! You can gradually increase the height as your vertical improves.

Reverse Platform Jumps: The polar opposite of the above exercise, stand on top of your platform and hop down landing on your feet, upon landing, explode and jump as high as you can (optionally back up to the platform). Repeat as quickly as possible.

Knee Skipping Rope: Perform regular rope skips but also pull your knees as high as you can every time you jump and land after the rope has passed beneath you.

Bounce-Running: Run with as long and as high strides as you can, trying to stay in the air for as long as possible. Shoot up with your right foot and pull your left knee up. Land on your left foot, shoot up with it and repeat with the right foot.

The above exercises require no special equipment and between them hold the keys to the perfect plyo workout. Remember never to focus on one specific type of plyo exercise more than the rest and to alternate between weight training, jumping training and plyometrics to maximize your muscle growth.

So, should you do plyos for your vertical?

ABSOLUTELY! (but be smart about it)

Plyometrics may be the holy grail of vertical jumping but you need balance, intelligence and moderation when performing them, otherwise you run the risk of ending up just like the Soviets.

So think smart; think American plyos when training your vertical.

Photo Credit: IgorDmitry

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