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The plyometric exercise began to be practiced in the field of high sports performance in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. It was used to improve power and performance in athletics. From there it spread and programs were implemented in athletes with high levels of strength, capable of lifting 1.5 or 2 times their body weight, in order to progress as athletes.

However, in recent years, this has changed and now they also benefit people with a less strong musculoskeletal system through plyometric exercises not so intense and that, in principle, anyone can do, such as jumping rope or jumping between fences. In addition, This type of exercise is also used by physical therapists in injury recovery. For example in ankle pathologiesduring the final phases of recovery, to achieve 100% functionality.

Plyometric is a type of exercise that, through the use of highly explosive movements and gestures, seeks to increase acceleration and muscle power.“, Explain Javier Lopez Marcos, member of the Governing Board of the Professional College of Physiotherapists of the Community of Madrid (CPFCM). To achieve this end, it is based on the stretch-shortening cycles (CEA), that is, the contraction of the muscles eccentric (lengthens) and concentric (contracts), a mechanism by which “elastic energy is generated that is transferred in very fast jumps, such as those of the jump rope, and facilitates the increase in the power of that movement. That elastic energy is produced when contact with the ground is brief. If it is not that brief, it dissipates in the form of heat and it is no longer a plyometric exercise”, he details. Javier Estellesphysical trainer and teacher at the Apta Vital Sport School, member of the Spanish Federation of Personal Trainers and Fitness (FEEPYF).

“A well-prescribed plyometric exercise shouldn’t be too difficult and could be done by almost anyone. The supervision of a professional will be essential to be able to adapt and progress the exercise to the level or physical condition of the subject, to the presence of some type of injury, to their anthropometric characteristics, to the level of strength and motor control”, affirms the physiotherapist.

Benefits of Plyometric Exercise

Plyometric exercise helps a lot in sports situations such as sprinting and for this reason It is widely used in the physical preparation of athletes who want to reach maximum linear speed, emphasizes Estellés, who lists its main benefits: within the sports field, highlights the increase in maximum or peak speed and development or increase in vertical jump (something fundamental in players of basketball, for example). And at the level of the musculoskeletal system, the development of stiffness (the rigidity).

“The greater the stiffness of our tendons and musculature, the greater the ability to perform that stretch-shorten cycle. For example, this makes it easier to run faster using less energy in medium and long distance races, so plyometric exercise is included in the physical preparation of a marathon runner”, Estellés clarifies.

What concerns to health benefits, this practice improves strength, cardiovascular fitness, calorie burning, body composition and helps weight loss and maintenance.

Plyometrics Tips and Exercises for Beginners

Although those that exercise the lower limbs are more common, the physiotherapist points out that These types of movements can work both the upper and lower body. To practice this training, “good control of the abdominal muscles is essential to improve the results of these exercises, because core stability will improve the different components of any plyometric activity. It is, therefore, a type of activity that involves the whole body”, says López Marcos.

Plyometric exercise includes, above all, jumping exercises, which is why it is popularly known as “jump training”, but not all jumps are plyometric exercises and it also includes throwing exercises that strengthen the upper body, although they are less common, clarifies Lopez Marcos.

These are some examples of plyometric exercises accessible to anyone (without medical problems or injuries that prevent it), according to Estellés:

  • drop jump (It consists of jumping to the ground from a high surface, cushioning the fall. It improves the capacity to produce force).
  • Jump rope
  • Hurdle jumping (with very low hurdles).

For overweight or sedentary people who want to start plyometric exercises and increase their level of strength, Estellés proposes performing assisted jumps with an elastic band. (with a high voltage). The band is attached to a bar and the person takes the elastic band with both hands and makes continuous jumps as if they were jumping rope. In this way, a large part of the body weight and the training is carried out with less mechanical stress, since the rubber helps in the concentric phase of the movement, indicates the physical trainer, who recommends sessions three days a week (with 48/72 hour breaks). In each one, beginners can make between 80 and 100 contacts with the ground, intermediate level, between 100 and 120 and advanced, between 120 and 140.

In addition, For sedentary people or people with low levels of strength and little rigidity, Estellés proposes that box jumps be carried out from a not very high height (for example, 20 cm instead of the usual 40 or 50 cm) to avoid stress on the joints.

Plyometric exercise for injury recovery

Regarding the recovery of injuriesLópez Marcos comments that the main objectives of plyometrics in this case are to achieve muscle strengthening and increase the speed of contraction (temporal summation and spatial summation of motor unit activation). This will lead to “faster and more powerful movements and improvements in motor coordination levels. This aspect of coordination and speed of contraction, in turn, will be a benefit not only for the musculoskeletal system, but also for the central nervous system.”

Thus, López Marcos sees It is convenient for a health professional to assess certain aspects that may condition the pattern of plyometric exercise in injury recovery. And he warns that “people who present hypermobility should do it with more caution, because joint instability will be more challenged”, since it is a demanding training, which “is carried out at high speed and with very high levels of force.” elevated”.

Likewise, if the person feels pain, it will be necessary to assess whether this exercise is appropriate or not, and in subjects where the physical condition is poor, the intensity of the plyometric exercises will have to be decreased, warns López Marcos. In any case, If there is an injury, a physiotherapist should be seen to prescribe and plan the training without risk to the patient.

The health professional in charge of prescribing the therapeutic exercise It has many parameters to modify to achieve the most suitable exercise for each person. When thinking about plyometrics and jumping or throwing, it is usual to think mainly about the number of repetitions that are performed, but the qualified professional will be able to modify the speed of execution, the distance or amplitude of the movement, the external loads that increase the difficulty of the gesture and the body segments involved -jumping one or two feet or throwing with one or two hands- and many other parameters that can make this exercise, with all its associated benefits, perfectly adaptable to many phases of the recovery process of patients who come to to inquiries from physiotherapy and benefit from it”, clarifies the physiotherapist.


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