We here at Inside Fitness are sure that by now you’re chomping at the bit to get back to your outdoor sport, track and field event, crossfit competition or road race. That’s perfectly understandable as it was another long Canadian winter with an extended below-seasonal spring, plus the conditions of the world as it is are not conducive to active competition right now. Yet, you still need to train. Eventually, things around your specific fitness community will normalize and at some point, you’ll once again be back at your exciting event day.
One of the greatest challenges for competitive athletes right now is to find a way to maintain their performance training, and what makes it especially difficult is the lack of access to the necessary equipment. Furthermore, as with any kind of athletic pursuit, you have to keep an eye on your competition even under normal circumstances; unfortunately, nowadays, you have no idea what they’re doing or how they’re training. Ultimately, the choice is yours: you can either give up and pack it in, or you can adopt a “where there’s a will, there’s a way” mentality. As an athlete, we know full well that you plan to get the job done. after all, you’re not just an athlete, you’re a competitor.
You may be vaguely familiar with the concept of plyometrics, but here’s some special information just for athletes who are open to the idea of leveraging them in their training, toward the ultimate objective of improved sports performance:
Plyometrics are a spectrum of bodyweight exercises that are designed to build your strength, speed and power. Many people attribute the origin of plyometrics to former Soviet sports scientist and coach Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky who espoused this mode of training for his nation’s athletes in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Although he was a pioneering proponent of its popularity, common sense dictates that human beings have long performed such a mode of training since ancient times.
Characteristics of plyometrics include the fact that they’re designed almost exclusively for pushing motions ignited by explosive action in your legs and arms. To perform them, you simply execute a conventional exercise, but extend the action past the peak position with explosive force that propels your body into the air. Most plyometric exercises are, in fact, based on powerful moves emphasizing your legs. In athletic performance, it’s almost always the legs where true power originates, even in throwing motions which culminate in explosive arm action.
For our purpose herein, we’re going to look at five plyometric exercises which have great applicability and usefulness to competitive athletes:
Enter into a standard squat position and descend until the point where your quads are about 30 degrees above parallel to the floor. Explosively extend your legs by pressing into the floor and ascend as rapidly as you can. Continue past the peak position and jump vertically into the air as you swing your arms in an upward arc for additional momentum.
Applications: weightlifting, soccer, volleyball, basketball
Stand upright in front of a box with a height of somewhere between your knees and your waist. Descend into a quarter squat position while you swing your arms behind you. Explosively press into the floor with your feet by extending your legs, and leap up onto the box as you draw your arms forward. Be sure to land with your knees slightly bent.
Applications: weightlifting, CrossFit, baseball, cycling
Stand tall with legs no wider than your shoulders. Descend into a partial squat with your weight on just one leg as you draw the other leg behind you. Swing your arms to the same side as your lead leg, explosively press into the floor by extending your lead leg, then swing your arms and your back leg forward and across as you leap in the air. Land on your new lead leg with knees slightly bent and repeat back and forth.
Applications: hockey, football, soccer, tennis
Vertical Jump and Reach
This move is similar to the squat jump where you explode vertically from the depth of a two-thirds squat position. Upon leaping vertically, swing both your arms upward with your reaching arm especially extended as high as you can to touch a point on the wall. On the landing, make sure to separate your legs and bend your knees slightly for the safety of your knees.
Applications: basketball, baseball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee
Enter into a standard push-up position from a near-horizontal body position immediately above the floor. Make sure your hands are in the plane of your lower pecs, rather than your shoulders. Explosively press into the floor by extending your arms quickly, and continue to rise through the peak position until your hands are off the floor. Clap quickly while in the air (twice if you’re able), then catch yourself with your elbows bent slightly.
Applications: shot put, discus, hockey, football, baseball
You can comfortably perform these five exercises within the breadth of one workout. Use a rep scheme of about 8 to 12 per set. Try to apply maximal force with lower reps and near-maximal with higher reps. The recovery periods with plyometrics is longer, so you can take up to two minutes rest per set. If you want to create a more intense, calorie-burning cardio workout, try to gradually reduce the time of your rest between sets.