The Power of Plyometrics

Plyometric training, also known as plyometrics, refers to a type of training designed to enhance the explosiveness in movements. It is a form of power training that, coupled with a sound strength training program, will elevate the athlete’s performance level to new highs. Athletes from a wide range of sports benefit from training plyometrics, as its applications can be found in almost every facet of sports. Martial artists especially can elevate their game too, through skillful application of the power generated during critical moments.

The idea behind plyometric training is to produce the strongest muscular contraction(s) in the shortest amount of time. The strength and speed of muscular contractions must be increased to result in a net increase in power produced. Besides increasing the force of muscular contractions, plyometrics aims to train the tendons, joints and ligaments to be able to bear the enormous loads that these muscular contractions generate.

The natural muscular reflexes of our body must also be trained to facilitate the efficient chain of events leading to optimal power generation in movements. Among the many reflexes that are activated, there are a couple that are of particular interest when it comes to plyometrics: The myotatic reflex and the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) reflex. The myotatic reflex is the automatic contraction of muscles when their stretch sensory receptors are stimulated. The stretch refers to the lengthening of muscles detected by the body; through plyometrics, we aim to enhance the body’s natural response so that the rapid muscular contraction that occurs is amplified. The GTO reflex, on the other hand, limits force production when the body deems that the muscular load is too much to bear. As a safety mechanism, the body cuts off muscular force production in the hope of preventing injury and preserving the muscles. Plyometrics has been shown to increase this threshold of the body, so that muscles can produce greater amounts of force before this reflex is activated.

The confusion often lies between power and strength training. Strength is a factor in power generation, but does not make up the only determining factor of power. Power is the product of mass and acceleration. In essence, this means that a body of mass (i.e. your body) possesses more power the faster it can be made to execute athletic movements. The ability to increase power by converting strength into speed in a very short time allows for such movements beyond what raw strength would allow. Thus, an athlete who is strong and can perform bench presses, deadlifts and squats with extremely heavy weights over a long duration may not jump as high or strike as hard as a weaker athlete who is able to generate a smaller amount of force but in a shorter amount of time. The plyometrically trained athlete may have a lower maximal force output (and thus may not lift as much) but the training allows him to shorten the amount of time required to reach his maximum force output.

Training plyometrics is ideally done on a surface that has a degree of softness like gymnastic mats or on the field. This is because the large amounts of forces generated places an undue amount of pressure on the bones and joints of the body. As such, it is best to let the body adapt to the new stimulus that plyometric training brings to the body. The exercises should also be done in moderate number of repetitions, to reduce the risk of excessive wear and tear to the body. Ample rest and a good diet are essential to allow the body to recuperate from the rigorous demands placed on it during plyometric training.

Rest assured that once you do incorporate plyometric training into your routine, you will reap the benefits of it through enhanced performance capabilities. For more ideas on plyometric exercises, you can just consult any one of the Fightshape instructors at Evolve MMA, or better still, drop in for a Fightshape class at Evolve MMA and have a feel of it for yourself!

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