What are plyometric exercises?
Plyometric exercises are often used at the end stage of your rehabilitation to prepare you for your final return to sport. These exercises combine strength and speed to provide the ‘explosiveness’ required for many sporting activities, for example to increase the power of a soccer kick or the force of a basketball player’s jump. Plyometric training is different from traditional strength training exercise because it is performed quickly and explosively.
How do Plyometrics work?
It has been shown that a muscle that is stretched and loaded before it contracts will produce a more powerful response, for example, you can jump higher if you crouch down immediately before you jump than if you started in the crouched position.
This is said to be due to both the stretch reflex and the natural elastic recoil of muscle.
The stretch reflex works as an involuntary response to prevent the muscle from over stretching which results in a powerful breaking effect (at the end of the ‘crouch’ phase before you jump).
The elastic recoil in muscle is like stretching a spring that wants to return to its natural length. Elastic energy is stored as a result of the stretch which is then released with the immediate concentric (shortening) muscle contraction (the jump).
Check out the video below for an example of plyometric exercise for the upper body.
As you can see from these videos plyometric exercises require physical effort. Higher than normal forces are put on the body so it is important that your injury is well healed and you have good baseline levels of strength and proprioception before you attempt them. Technique is extremely important with these exercises so supervision by your physiotherapist is recommended.