Is Plyometric Training Right For You?
It is well established in the scientific community that aging involves decrease muscle strength, muscle power, bone density and a decline in coordination and balance. These structural changes are implicated in increase fall risk, fall related fractures, generalized deconditioning, loss of mobility, and loss of independence.
The good news is that there are ways to mitigate and even reverse these age-related changes. Once such activity that has recently proved beneficial is plyometric exercise training. Examples of a plyometric exercise are jumping, hopping, and/or skipping.
But before we dive into the nitty gritty of a plyometric exercise, let’s gain a better understanding of a few terms related to muscle performance.
Eccentric Versus Concentric Muscle Contraction
An eccentric muscle contraction is active lengthening of a muscle. An example of this would be the portion of a squat when the body is moving toward the ground. In this example the glutes, quads and gastric/soleus are lengthening but they are also active (if they were not active, the force of gravity would force your body to crumple to the ground).
A concentric muscle contraction is when the muscle is shortening. (Returning to standing from a squat position)
Before we move on, there is one other quality of muscle performance that is important. That is power. Muscle power involves a time factor. Power is measured by how quickly a muscle can shorten under a given force. To understand this power, we can look at jumping (body leaving the ground). In order for the body to leave the ground, the glutes and the quads need to generate greater force production to fight the force of gravity pulling you back to earth. This is why jumping (body leaving the ground) requires muscular power.
What is a plyometric exercise?
A plyometric exercise technique includes a fast eccentric contraction followed immediately by a concentric contraction. This type of exercise involved 3 phases.
Phase One (visualize jumping off of a box)
The leg muscles (primarily the glutes, quads, and gastric/soleus) initially accept the ground force reaction (when the body comes down and makes contact with the ground). This is accomplished via an eccentric contraction.
Phase Two (time when the body is in contact with the ground)
Next, the leg muscles transfer kinetic energy (energy generated as the body moves toward the earth) to elastic potential energy (visualize a bow and arrow). Stored elastic potential energy is what will dictate the final stage. This phase is also referred to as the stretch-shortening cycle.
Phase Three (leaving the earth)
Stored elastic energy is released and converts back to kinetic energy (leaving the ground). The end result is designed to propel the body in a desired direction.
Why are plyometrics important?
In daily life, rapid force production is critical in situations when balance needs to be corrected quickly after a disruption in balance occurs. Beyond that, there is some evidence that suggests improving muscle power prevents age related muscle degradation, improves energy utilization (delays onset of muscle fatigue), and might facilitate muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size and strength).
How do you re-gain the ability to start skipping, hopping, and jumping again?
For many of you, you might not have “left the ground” in quite some time. And that is ok. In this video, you will learn how to safely learn all of the steps of a plyometric