Your Quick Guide to Plyometric Power Exercises for Athletes
This day in age, you can find a ton of information on plyometrics and power exercises for athletes in seconds.
Books, articles, and blog posts abound, with most discussing the various types of drills that can fall into the category of plyometrics. Considering that plyometrics as a category encompasses nearly any “explosive” exercise, this leads to a LOT of possibilities.
Unfortunately, there is an information shortage when it comes to discussing how to apply and program plyometric power exercises for athletes progressively, which is really what matters in coaching. Here are just a few questions to consider:
- Do you prescribe 50 contacts in a day of training? 100 contacts?
- Is it OK to program plyometrics on consecutive days?
- What kind of jumps do they do? Are some more appropriate for my goals than others?
- What about medicine ball drills?
This list can go on and on.
Obviously, there are a lot of questions that arise when discussing using plyometrics in your program—and there should be! After all, choosing the right exercises for reaching your athletes’ goals takes careful consideration.
Today, I hope to share with you some fundamental information about plyometrics so you have a better grip on how to use them. But before we start thinking about the number of contacts to use with a particular athlete, there are a couple of things that we need to consider .
Age of the Athlete
Younger athletes are going to be on a steep learning curve, so it is important that the desired outcome of the drill is known and in place. The technical skill that the drill requires should not be more than the athlete has. As a result, younger athletes do not need high-impact plyometrics but instead should be focused on grooving the motor patterns that are a part of jumping and throwing.
Type of Plyometric Drill
We program all plyometrics for the beginning of sessions during a period that we call “Dynamic/Explosive.” This can encompass a lot of different drills and power exercises for athletes.
At Force Fitness/AR Bloomington, we have 3 broad categories of plyometric drills:
Repetitive Effort Jumps
These drills are of moderate or low intensity, and the focus is on minimal ground contact time. Once the pattern is learned, athletes of all ages can benefit from repetitive effort jumps. Progressions of these jumps include adding external resistance in the form of bands, kettlebells, or weight vests.
Lateral Hurdle Jumps:
Maximum effort Jumps
These drills are high intensity: box jumps, distance jumps (broad jumps), and depth jumps all fall into this category. These drills are more advanced and are not usually prescribed for younger athletes. The focus is on the generating the maximum amount of power in the movement.
Medicine Ball Throws
This category can get very broad and includes rotary throws, chest passes, and overhead throws. Divided further, these can be maximal effort, repetitive effort, or combined effort throws (including another skill). Medicine balls are a versatile way to program power exercises for athletes in a number of planes and recruiting many different muscles.
Number of Contacts
When it comes to the number of contacts for these drills, the type of movement must be considered. In general, the quality of repetitions of each of these explosive movement types will diminish over time, so large volumes are generally not prescribed.
As a rule of thumb, keep the number of contacts at or below the following for a given session:
- Maximum Effort Plyos:
- Repetitive Effort Plyos:
- Medicine Ball Throws:
These numbers reflect programming of the drills as part of a larger program; some more aggressive numbers might be used if programming plyometrics as their own day of programming.
Frequency of Training with Power Exercises for Athletes
The recovery time between sessions for plyometrics varies greatly based on the exercise. Maximum effort plyos require a longer recovery time. To account for that, an easy way to program plyos is to alternate days on which you do max effort and repetitive effort plyos.
So on a 2-day training schedule, one might program max effort plyos and repetitive effort medicine ball throws on day 1, then schedule repetitive effort plyos and maximum effort medicine ball throws on day 2.
Plyos and medicine ball throws are a great way to increase your athletes’ explosive power. I would even go so far as to say they are essential to successful programs.
Use this guide to plyometric training as a starting point off which to build your programming. Also, learn more about power exercises for athletes by viewing our top 4 plyo exercises free video series. You’ll have no trouble progressing your athletes to new levels of performance.