Ins and Outs of Plyometrics
Plyometrics are the best and fastest way to turn the strength you built in the weight room into speed and explosiveness. They are also incredibly easy to screw up and the best way to not screw them up is to understand how often to use plyometrics in your workouts.
If you randomly add plyos into your routine, you run the risk of turning your plyos into conditioning drills; which won't help you build explosive power and increase your risk of injury.
Here are three rules to get the most out of your plyo workouts:
1) Don't do plyos everyday.
Plyos were originally referred to by their creator as the "Shock Method". The "Shock", or stress, improves the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC), which is a three step process in which the muscles slow down the body's momentum, hold on to the energy from landing for a tiny fraction of a second, and convert that energy into forceful movement. Doing plyos improves the efficiency of the SSC so it's able to more quickly store and release force. If you place just the right amount of "shock" or stress on your body it will adapt to handle it in a fashion similar to the way weight lifting increases your strength. Now, if you place too much stress on your body it will lead to limited training gains and increased risk of injury. Your body needs between 48 and 72 hours to recover after a plyo workout. Because of this required recovery time typically plyo sessions are limited to three or less workouts per week.
2) Limit your total reps.
Plyos are measured in ground contacts or the number of times your feet contact the ground. The total number of ground contacts you should get during a workout depends on several factors including height and weight, and training level. A good general rule for appropriate ground contact numbers is below:
Beginners - 80-100 contacts per workout
Intermediate - 100-120 contacts per workout
Advanced - 120-140 contacts per workout
In fact, a study done in 2008 found that athletes who performed a low or moderate volume of plyometrics per week experienced greater improvements in speed and explosiveness that those who did a high volume. This is because plyometrics must be performed quickly and with maximum power and speed and once fatigue starts to set in each contact slows down. Less is more.
3) Take enough rest between sets.
The biggest problem with plyos is the tendency to turn them into conditioning workouts, which are designed to make you tired - the exact opposite of what you should be doing during a plyometric workout. The whole point of plyos is to perform every rep quickly and powerfully. If you are not doing that, you are not making improvements in your stretch shortening cycle and you might as well just do cardio. The only way to build explosiveness is to allow your body to fully recover between sets. The ideal recovery time is 3 to 5 times longer than the duration of your set. Take too short of a rest and you won't develop the SSC, but take too long and you are just wasting time.
These three rules can help you perfect your plyo workouts or help you understand why we program your plyo workouts like we do at SCC Fitness.