Plyometrics for sports performance
Power is a desirable component to many sports and activities. When we combine strengthening with speed training, power is the result which can improve our jump height, running speed & throwing distance.
This type of training is termed plyometrics. Plyometric exercise involves an eccentric (lengthening) contraction followed immediately by a concentric (shortening) contraction.
During the lengthening phase of the action, a stretch-reflex is produced in the muscle to recruit a greater number of muscle fibers for a powerful muscle contraction. As the muscle lengthens it gains elastic energy to produce greater force for the shortening phase.
Plyometrics is an explosive exercise used to improve performance in activities and sports that require power such as sprinting, jumping and throwing. This type of training can also reduce injuries by providing muscles and joints with greater anticipatory and reactive muscle control with sharper nerve firing. It has been suggested that it is the nerve firing changes that prevent injuries and improve performance rather then a change in muscle structure, such as an increase in muscle size.
The gains from plyometric training are from nerve firing patterns, therefore specificity to your sport or task is important. It would be a waste of time for a sprinter to train for a quick change of direction, but important for a netballer or footballer to train their jump for height.
Check out this video for some examples of plyometric training.
The total number of plyometrics per training session should not exceed 80 repetitions (e.g. 8 x 10 sets). They should be performed early in the session, prior to any endurance. If you are new to plyometrics then start with just 1 set of 8 repetitions or less, before building your numbers gradually. For optimal results they should be performed 2 times a week and can be easily incorporated into your normal training session.
As long as you remember to be specific and focus on technique, plyometric exercise to improve performance and prevent injuries is a valuable addition to your training.
Plyometric training is an effective way to gain an advantage over your opponents, wether it be jumping higher to get the rebound, changing direction to allude your opponent or sprinting faster. If your goal is to be the best you can be, then adding plyometrics to your training program is the way to go.
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