Beginning Plyometrics – A Rookie Level Plyometrics Plan
By Rick Morris
Basic plyometrics, which used to be more commonly called jump training is a type of strength training drill that provides a link between muscular strength and speed of movement. It is that very important link that trains your muscles to produce lots of explosive power. Plyometrics improve the elasticity of your muscles and increase the ability of your leg muscles to efficiently store and release the energy you build up during your running stride. One way to envision this is to think of building a stronger rubber band. If you stretch and release a weak rubber band with little elasticity, it will have very little power and will not fly very far. On the other hand, a strong rubber band will have lots of power and will fly far and strong across the room.
The best way to build that power and elasticity in your leg muscles is with plyometrics. At the beginning or rookie level you have a bit of work to do before beginning a plyometrics program. The high intensity jumping movements in plyometrics involve dynamic stretching and shortening of your muscles. That places a lot of stress on your leg muscles. If your muscles are weak, they may not hold up to that type of training, so if you have not engaged in a basic strength training program, you need to start there to build up a good base of strength to support the higher intensity plyometrics.
Basic Strength Building
Here are some exercises to build a base of supportive strength. If you already have a good base of lower body and core strength you should be able to skip this phase and jump right into the rookie level plyometric plan. The length of your basic training plan will vary according to your current strength level. If you have never performed strength training and have not base of lower body strength, I would suggest following this plan for 6 weeks. If you have some basic strength built from other athletic activities but no formal strength training, you can probably get by with 3 to 4 weeks. Perform each of these exercises 2 to 3 times per week with at least one day of rest between sessions.
Single Leg Bench Squat
- Begin in an upright position. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Place one foot behind you on a moderate height bench or step. Keep your other foot (forward foot) flat on the floor and directly under your center of gravity. Now, drop your waist and bend your forward knee until it is at approximately a 90-degree angle. Keep your knee behind the toes on your forward foot. Slowly straighten your forward leg and return to the starting position. Repeat for about 20 to 25 repetitions.
- Repeat this exercise using the other leg as the lead leg.
- Do not lock your knees at any time during this exercise.
Bench Step Ups
- Stand in front of a bench or step that is 18 to 24 inches high. Start with your right foot flat on the bench and your left foot on the ground. Keep your weight centered over the heel of your right foot (the one on the bench) and while forcefully pushing off with your right foot, lift your left foot up to the bench next to your right foot, so that you are in a standing position on the bench. Now slowly step back down to the ground with your left foot.
- Perform 20 to 25 repetitions.
- Switch leg positions and repeat.
One Leg Calf Raise
- Stand on the edge of a bench or step with the ball of your right foot on the edge of the bench and your right heel extending off the bench. Hold your left foot and leg loosely off the bench with a bent knee. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Now, rise up on the toes of your right foot as far as possible. Keep your left foot and leg off the bench.
- Next, drop your right heel down below the level of the bench as far as possible before rising up on the toes of your right foot as far as possible again.
- Do 20 to 25 repetitions on each leg.
- This straight leg exercise emphasizes the use of your gastrocnemius muscle, the largest and most visible muscle in your calf.
One Leg Bent Knee Calf Raise
- Stand on the edge of a bench or step with the ball of your right foot on the edge of the bench and your right heel extending off the bench. Hold your left foot and leg loosely off the bench with a bent knee.
- Now, drop your hips and bend your right knee slightly. About a 75% bend is a good target.
- Keeping your right knee bent, rise up on the toes of your right foot as far as possible. Keep your left foot and leg off the bench.
- Still maintaining that bent knee, drop your right heel down below the level of the bench as far as possible before rising up on the toes of your right foot as far as possible again. Do 20 to 25 repetitions.
- This bent leg exercise emphasizes the use of your soleus muscle which is located under your larger gastrocnemius muscle.
Body weight Goodmornings
- Begin in a kneeling upright position. Clasp your hands behind your neck and point your elbows forward.
- Keeping your upper legs completely vertical, slowly bend forward at the waist until your forehead and elbows touch the ground.
- Slowly straighten your body at the waist and return to your starting position.
- Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
- This is a good body weight exercise to strengthen your hamstring muscles.
Rookie Level Plyometrics
Now that you have built up a good base of lower body strength, you are ready for some entry level plyometrics. Always pay attention to proper form when doing these plyometrics to avoid injury. I would suggest performing these two times per week with at least a couple of days between sessions.
- Do this drill on a grass, artificial turf or other soft surface.
- Start with an easy jog and then smoothly push off explosively with your left leg and drive your right knee up and forward.
- Land on your right foot and immediately push off explosively with your right foot, driving your left knee up and forward.
- Continue this bounding or exaggerated running stride for about 50 meters.
- Emphasize an exaggerated high knee drive as well as maximum distance with each stride.
- Do 20 repetitions of this exercise.
Double Leg Vertical Jump
- Stand in an upright position with your knees soft and very slightly flexed and your feet shoulder width apart.
- Quickly drop your hips towards the ground and then rapidly explode upward.
- Swing your arms forcefully upward and reach as high as possible. Keep your toes dorsi-flexed (toes up position) throughout this exercise.
- Land on the balls of your dorsi-flexed feet and immediately bounce back upward as far and quickly as possible.
- Focus on springing off your dorsi-flexed feet rather than gathering yourself and jumping.
- Repeat for about 30 seconds. Do two sets.
Double Leg Forward Hops
- Start in an upright position with your knees soft and very slightly bent in an athletic stance. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart.
- Rapidly drop your hips and then explode up and forward.
- Swing your arms forcefully up and forward. Focus on jumping forward as far as possible. Keep your feet dorsi-flexed (toes up) throughout this drill.
- Land on the balls of your dorsi-flexed feet under your center of gravity and very quickly bounce forward again.
- Keeping going for about 30 meters.
- Just as with the double leg vertical jump and most other plyometric exercises, focus on bouncing off your dorsi-flexed feet rather than gathering yourself and jumping.
Double Leg Lateral Hops
- These are similar to the forward hops, except you will jump from side to side, instead of forward. Keep your feet and toes dorsi-flexed throughout this exercise.
- Begin in an upright position with your knees soft and very slightly bent in an athletic stance.
- Quickly drop your hips and rapidly explode upward and to the right.
- As soon as your feet strike the ground, very quickly bounce back as far as possible to the left.
- Repeat for 30 seconds. Do two sets.