Following a warm of somewhere between 10-30 minutes (depending on how I feel), I get into an explosive round of exercises. This usually takes only about 10 minutes, and has me feeling fantastic for the rest of the day. I feel light on my feet, any running or walking feels relatively effortless, and my active range of motion is often noticeably improved.
What is plyometrics?
To put it simply, is ballistic, explosive exercises such as bounding and jumping. It takes advantage of the muscle stretch-shortening cycle to develop neuromuscular coordination and power. Without getting too involved, the concept is that when a muscle is dynamically stretched (up to a certain point) just prior to contraction, it will then be able to contract harder producing a greater amount of force. This is high intensity exercise that places significant loads on the body. So from an injury prevention point of view, the volume needs to be kept low. Furthermore, low volume also seems to be more effective in producing the desired training effect. Maybe mervous system fatigue plays a role there.
The nuts and bolts of it.
My warm typically begins with some light running up to the point where I feel good. This can take anywhere between three or twenty minutes. Then it's onto a series of dynamic mobility exercises. The aim here is comfortable increase the intensity while extending my active range of motion through exercises including, knee lifts, heel flicks, fast feet, walking lunges, skipping and anything else that is dynamic and takes my body through extended movement patterns. I find all this a lot more effective than the traditional static stretching.
Then its onto the main part of the session. For each plyometric exercise I repeat for 2-3 sets of 2-5 repetitions. Nothing is set in stone. If I'm feeling fresh and good, then I'll do a little bit extra. If I'm feeling flat then I'll cut everything by half, or just call it a day. The exercises I usually include focus on the running movements. These are:
- Tuck jumps - drop to deep squat, explode upwards as high as possible, bring knees up to chest
- Rocket jumps - drop to deep squat, explode up and forward extending arms up and forward
- Lunge jumps - drop to deep lunge, explode up and switch legs
- Skips for height - skip as high as possible
- Bounding for distance - bound forward, focusing on distance covered, not height
- Straight leg bounding - keep legs right through knee, walks posterior leg chain muscles
- Sprints (20-40m) - as fast as possible
The key to plyometrics is once you are able to perform the movement with good balance and coordination, then it is all about speed with particular focus on minimise any ground contact time. Meaning, on landing the aim is to explode off the ground as quickly as possible. This will take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle and will assist with developing maximal power.
During my current training I'll include one or two plyometric sessions during each 8-9 day training cycle. As I get closer to race day, I'll reduce this to one, before resorting to maintenance which will involve taking only one or two exercises, performing half the number of repetitions as part of a warm up for the longer training sessions.
Sprints and explosive movements have generally been my weak point throughout my sporting life. It feels good to see improvement in areas where you traditional struggle. Also keep in mind that the biggest improvements often come from working on your weaknesses.