I have talked about how increasing rate of force production is a critical tool for improving athletic performance. I mentioned in that article how important proper jumping is to increasing RFP, but I did not get into much specific detail. With this post, I intend to give you some easy guidelines to follow when you are planning your plyometric routine. At the end I will give you a small template based on how I do my own plyometric programing.
First thing is first, jumping can be incredibly dangerous. It is a violent movement of your body, and far too often it is uncontrolled. You need to build up the ability to jump before you can start doing box jump or broad jumps, let alone seated jumps over 50”
Your muscles are not typically where you risk injury when you jump or do plyometric movements, it's your tendons. That is because during a jump we go through all phases of the stretch shortening cycle, causing increased tension in the tendon (which we want) so we can use the stretch reflex to produce more force than we would normally do. If you're like me and you want to be as good as you could possibly be, you're probably going to think you need to do jumps all day everyday. However, you must first build up the tendon strength to handle these jumps.
Let’s be real, even if you are a high level athlete in football, weightlifting, or basketball, you still cannot handle the crazy plyometric training you see the Russians doing. Even they couldn't do it when they were starting plyometric movements. They couldn't do most of it for years, not because they weren't athletic enough, but because doing all the things we see them doing on insta or youtube would have put them at risk for injury because their tissues weren’t strong enough, and yours aren’t either.
To start a plyo program you should start slowly adding in repetitions over months, not weeks. Only increase the height of the boxes once you are 100% in control of the height you are currently training at. With plyo’s, more specifically jumps, the reps are counted in foot contacts, not in the number of times through a drill. So if you do a set of 3 broad jumps you did 3 reps.
If you are new to an organized plyometric program, you likely aren’t ready for something as incredible as weighted broad jumps. If you are new to training plyometric movements, you need to start at the beginning. Jumping ahead to any degree will likely get you hurt.
If you are completely new to plyo or jumping, the very first part of your progression needs to be landing, and then jumping. I say landing first because if you cannot land you should not jump. As you master these two elements you can begin to add in repetitive jumps and bounds. After you have taken the time to focus on your transition and limited time on the ground between jumps, you can start to do weighted jumps or a combination of bounds and jumps together. Depth jumps are often seen as the most advanced form of jumping. That is due to the large amount of force the body takes on landing, which then has to be converted to vertical energy. This is also where many people get injured.
Types of jumps
Vertical Jump - Jumping vertically either max effort (measuring height of jump), or for repetitions.
Broad Jump - Jumping horizontally either max effort (measuring distance of jump), or for repetitions
Bounding - Continuous smooth jumps, often done by alternating the legs.
Lateral Jumps - Done while focusing on single leg landing, and often alternated.
Box Jumps - Jumping vertically onto the top of a box of a certain height.
Weighted Jumps - Jumping while wearing a weighted vest, holding a weight, or placing a barbell on the back of the athlete.
Depth Jumps - Stepping off or jumping off a box of a certain height, landing on the floor, and immediately jumping again, often onto another box.
Single Leg Jumps - Any of the previous types of jumps can be done single legged. It teaches the athlete how to use the legs individually to create power.
Example Advanced Program: This program was written for an athlete with advanced skill in olympic weightlifting, and has been doing plyometric training for 8 months. Each day these exercises are done after the warm up prior to performing the olympic lifts.
Monday: 1 Step Approach Box Jump 5x6e
Tuesday: Med Ball Throw With Step 5x6e
Wednesday: Hurdle Jump + Broad 5x4
Thursday: Deep Squat Box Jump (concentric focus) 5x4
Friday: Barbell Jumps 5x5 (weight on bar is 20% of body weight)
Saturday: Seated Broad Jump 5x3 (continuous)
Example Program Beginner: This program is designed for an individual who has not done specific plyometric training who is looking improve coordination and explosiveness.
Monday: Depth Squats 5x4e
Tuesday: Bounds 5x5e
Wednesday: Vertical Jumps 4x4 (sticking each landing)
Thursday: Depth Squats 5x4e
Friday: Power Skips 4x4e