Plyometrics, friend or enemy to our workout program?

By: Fabián Calvo Campos

Before designing a workout routine for our clients or athletes we always ask ourselves some questions:
  ·        Why do we need this exercise?
 ·         Does this exercise help meet the goals of my client?
 ·         Is my client ready to execute this exercise properly?
It is common to see trainers use plyometric exercises in the weight room, but is this good or bad?

First, before doing a more in-depth analysis, let's talk a little about plyometrics. In many of his articles and books, Louie Simmons, CEO of West Side Barbell, argues that to really understand endurance training we must learn from the Russians. So, in recent years, I've done just that. Yuri Verkhoshansky, the well known founding father of plyometrics and excellent Russian fitness trainer, said that what he was looking for in using plyometrics was the development of strength under tension. This allowed him to take the traditional strength training of the weight room into the field.

Verkhoshansky explained that plyometric training should be introduced gradually (like any workout in a good training program), and should only be incorporated into workouts only once our client or athlete has a solid foundation in strength training and conditioning.

In the training world, it is common to see new and trendy training programs incorporating plyometrics in their workout regimens without any planning.

These are some of the most common mistakes made when incorporating plyometrics into training programs:

1. Know "why" we are using plyometric training with our clients.

2. Plyometric workouts are not well suited for metabolic workout routines; they are exercises designed to increase strength and NOT for fat-burning. They are exercises of very high neurological demand in which level of complexity of implementation is very high, therefore causing fatigue to set in quickly. This is not something we want when designing a plyometrics based workout.

3. Plyometrics should always be the first exercise of any training session, never the last, because, as mentioned before, they are exercises high in neurological demand and our Central Nervous System (CNS) system should be fresh in order to achieve the best performances.

4. Plyometrics is more than just different kinds of jumps.

5. As mentioned before, plyometrics workouts are designed to increase strength and power. Its implementation must only be used when appropriate. One example of appropriately used plyometric workouts was in a study done by Yuri Verkhoshansky where his athletes were limited to 40 jumps twice a week. Yuri’s clients had excellent results in gaining strength and power (these were advanced athletes).

In our field, it is common to find workout routines like this:

AMRAP (as many reps in 10 min)
10 kettlebell swings
10 box jumps
10 ring dips

       *Gradual damage to joints may lead to serious injury.

6. Excessively high box jumps doesn’t mean that our athlete or client has great power. Coach Mike Yung explains in one of his articles for “Fit For Futbol” that this ability only demonstrates the flexibility in that athlete’s hips.

 As many you know, Dan John is one of the trainers whom I admire most. He measures power using the long jump; this is a very good way to measure our client’s progress in our programs.

In the video below, you can see both poor and proper execution of plyometric jumps.

 Sources: NSCA Training Basics