Monday, May 05, 2008

Power Training and Plyometrics - What not to do

Today we need to address how to develop the explosive power of your players by using plyometrics.

Now, plyos are one of those touchy subjects that some people don't have a very good understanding of.

So, the first thing we have to do is get a working definition of what plyos actually are. Otherwise, we can't be sure we're doing them correctly, if at all.

Plyometrics are defined as movements that cause a rapid change from eccentric contraction (lengthening a muscle) to concentric contraction (shortening a muscle).

In fact, the very act of running fast is a plyometric activity, as it trains for the storage and release of elastic energy. And elastic energy is required for faster running.

You can develop the ability to store and release this elastic energy by having your team engage in a variety of activities such as hopping and bounding drills, box jumps, hurdle hops, medicine ball throws, etc.

But there's a catch.

These movements require a healthy degree of strength, coordination and balance.

My point?

You can't just decide that tomorrow you want to do hurdle hops or single leg bounds with your team.

Plyometrics are a SKILL that take a great deal of practice if your expectation is that players are going to do them correctly and actually get something out of it.

Ok, it's story time...

Last year I was at an area high school gymnasium helping a friend of mine while he conducted practice for the team that he coached.

On the far end of this gymnasium a football team was lined up in front of a row of 8 plyo boxes that were of various heights between 24" - 48".

So I decided to watch, hoping that I was going to see an impressive display of athleticism brought about by some coaches who had taken the time and effort to learn how and why certain activities are performed before having their football teams perform them.

Well it turns out that my wish went unfulfilled.

These football players started doing their box jumps (jumping up onto the box), then went right into depth jumps (dropping down off of the box) trying to negotiate 8 boxes of different heights.

So, like clockwork, the line of kids began to lose focus. Their form, this was already terrible, began to fall apart. This was not geared to improve their speed training at all.

Then it happened.

One young athlete, during a depth jump, landed awkwardly and began to fall forward. But instead of stopping or bailing out of the drill, he tried to jump up onto the next box.

For a number of reasons, that didn't work. He clipped the front of his toot on the box, fell over the box, and landed on the floor in a heap, clutching his leg.

The result?

The kid broke his ankle in three places.

Needless to say it wasn't pretty.

Don't let this happen to your athletes.


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