It is imperative that when trainers incorporate plyometric exercises in their programming, they have to justify why they are doing it. If the trainer has a client involved in an explosive sport such as basketball, tennis, soccer or volleyball, then plyometrics work extremely well. If a trainer has a client who is relatively new to exercise or one who is overweight, plyometrics will be highly inappropriate.
Specificity is critical also when using plyometrics as the exercises selected must be specific for the sport the client plays. There is little to be gained by incorporating lateral movements if the emphasis on the sport doesn’t reflect this movement pattern. Tennis players would benefit more from vertical jumps than bounding exercises, which would be more suited for basketball players, so specificity is the key.
We must consider the following aspects prior to implementing plyometrics into our programs:
- The client’s training age. How long has the client been exercising and, more specifically, how long has he or she been strength training? A good grounding in strength training is critical prior to plyometric exercise. A relatively good gauge is whether or not the client can squat or bench one to one and a half times his or her own bodyweight.
- The client’s weight. Plyometrics works better with lighter loads as the compressive forces on the joints are far less. Athletes who weigh more than 100kg don’t usually perform plyometrics, specifically high intensity plyometrics.
- What is the goal from applying plyometric exercise? If the client does not play sports and only wants to improve physical conditioning, stick to the basics of exercise selection (i.e., squats, chin ups, etc) or incorporate only basic plyometrics such as medicine ball throws or squat jumps.
- Do you have the facility to apply plyometric training? Landing surface is very important in plyometric training as it must be
able to dissipate forces. Concrete or hard floor surfaces do not provide adequate shock absorption. Rubber matting or grass is more appropriate. Additionally, the client’s footwear needs to provide good ankle support, have thin soles and obviously be non slip.
- Equipment check. It is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure that all equipment used for plyometric training, especially boxes, is stable and sturdy.
The real skills of a personal trainer are tested when decisions such as exercise selection, training frequency, duration and intensity have to be decided upon in order for the client to receive the highest benefit from plyometric training with the lowest risk of injury. There are many variables, some already mentioned, to consider, but the most important variable is the level of performance of the client. If he/she is an athlete, then you as a personal trainer is entering territory that could possibly backfire if you do not have the knowledge or experience to apply a plyometric program. Technique, especially landing technique, is absolutely crucial when performing plyometric exercises, and good coaching skills must be put into practice. Quality communication with the athlete’s sports coach is critical in order to prevent injury or overtraining.
Figure 1 - Medicine Ball Sit Up 1
Figure 2 - Medicine Ball Sit Up 2
If the client is a very fit and strong individual who is simply looking for more challenging exercises, then the trainer can implement plyometric exercises as there are fewer variables to consider. A good guideline would be as follows:
- Weeks 1-4 - Foundation exercises
- Weeks 4-8 - Power building exercises
- Weeks 9-12 - High intensity exercises
Some plyometric exercises can be incorporated more frequently than others, depending simply on the intensity of the exercise. The real issue is quality not quantity, as plyometrics not only stress muscles and tendons, but they also stress the central nervous system, which can take longer to recover from than muscle tissue damage. As a general guide, one to two sessions of plyometrics can be performed per week. Obviously, these sessions are best performed several days apart. Professional athletes can perform up to four sessions per week, particularly track and field athletes, with fewer sessions in season.
Figure 3 - Plyometric Push Up 1
Figure 4 - Plyometric Push Up 2
It is wise for the trainer to utilize various intensities within a plyometric workout so the client is not subjected to too much stress. Like strength training, the greater the stress of an exercise, the fewer repetitions performed. The session should progress from low to moderate to high, depending on the level of the client.
Plyometric workouts can be implemented for anywhere between 20 to 45 minutes. It is vital that a thorough dynamic warm up is performed prior to the session.
Sample Plyometric Programs
This type of program would be useful for volleyball or basketball players.
Figure 5 - Medicine Ball Chest Pass
|Alternate Leg Bound
||3 x 10
|Depth Jumps +
Medicine Ball Throws
|3 x 6
|Medicine Ball Chest Pass
||3 x 20
|Medicine Ball Sit Ups
||3 x 10
This type of program would work well for skiers.
Figure 6 - Double Leg Zig-zag Hops 1
Figure 7 - Double Leg Zig-zag Hops 2
Figure 8 - Double Leg Zig-zag Hops 3
|Double Leg Zig-zag Hops
(see Figures 4-6)
|5 x 4
|Squat Depth Jumps
||3 x 5
||3 x 15
||3 x 15
Even though rest intervals are stated between sets, for some high intensity exercises such as depth jumps, there will be a degree of rest required, approximately 15 seconds between repetitions.
Figure 9 - Russian Twist
Plyometrics is an advanced form of training designed to develop maximal power, predominantly in athletes. Personal trainers can implement plyometric programs for their clients, providing that they are of sufficient strength and conditioning. Exercise selection must be specific for the client and be progressive. Due to the increased risk of injury from plyometric training, trainers must ensure a safe environment and implement workouts that promote the greatest benefits with the least amount of risk.
- Baechle, TR. Earle, RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Human Kinetics, 2000.
- Radcliffe, JC. Farentinos, RC. High-powered Plyometrics. Human Kinetics, 1999.