High powered plyometrics are exercises designed to maximize force of a muscle contraction in the shortest amount of time. Plyometric exercises are an essential part of the training program for virtually every sport because they develop the explosive power and speed necessary to excel in sports maneuvers. Workouts use functional exercises that mimic the movements used in sports to develop vertical jump and the ability to change directions quickly.
The use of high powered plyometrics evolved out of jump training used by elite eastern European athletes in the early 20th century. Athletes adopted high powered plyometrics training because it increases vertical jump and develops muscle function needed during sports in ways cardiovascular training or strength training with weights cannot. Muscles trained using plyometrics are not necessarily stronger, but they do produce more force in a shorter period of time, thereby making them more powerful.
Athletes who use high powered plyometrics train the muscles to work together and improve the efficiency and function of the nervous system. During a plyometrics exercise, the muscle lengthens, or performs an eccentric contraction. As it lengthens, the muscle builds up elastic energy like a stretched rubber band. The muscle rests briefly during the amortization phase then shortens quickly in a concentric contraction, thereby releasing the pent-up energy in a fast, explosive, and powerful movement. Build-up of elastic energy allows the muscle to exert greater force in a shorter amount of time than it could by raw force alone.
Powerful movements are produced by the speed of the loading phase during the eccentric contraction. A faster loading phase results in a more powerful concentric contraction. To add even more explosive force to the motion, athletes utilize the stretch reflex, or myostatic reflex, which is a resistance response of the muscle to being stretched. This reflex is designed to protect the muscle from a possible overstretching injury.
Participants in high powered plyometrics training typically should already have a high fitness level before incorporating plyometrics into a training program. Other safety concerns to take into consideration before beginning a plyometrics training program are an athlete’s age, having a forgiving surface to practice on, and knowledge of proper form and exercise techniques. The safest way to practice plyometrics is under the supervision of a knowledgeable coach or trainer. Due to the explosive nature of plyometric training movements, the muscles and tendons can undergo high forces, thereby increasing the possibility of injury if the exercises are not performed in a safe manner.