Now we have a greater understanding of the fundamentals of plyometrics and what they are, we can begin to understand how they apply to sport, and the specific athlete. Plyometrics as discussed in part 1 are crucial in all training programmes where speed, power and explosive capabilities are present. Therefore plyometrics has a need to be incorporated into nearly all periodised training plans for athletes. When you look at all sports such as football, cycling, running, rugby, tennis etc., the presence of plyometric based exercises is more abundant than first though. Jumping, running and landing all involve a plyometric element that should be trained but is often forgotten in programmes.
Plyometrics will help an athlete develop explosive power, and contribute to the ability to exert force over a minimal time. This will allow efficient force production with minimal energy loss. This being said there are two kinds of plyometrics, fast and slow stretch shortening cycle (SSC) which are based upon the contact time (amortization phase). Sprinting is an example of fast SSC and drop jumps are an example of slow SSC. However, it is important to train both elements, especially for games athletes as they can go from jumping to sprinting at any point in the game.
To train the fast SSC, contacts need to be less than 250ms of contact time; where as slow SSC is anything over 250ms. This should be considered when applying the exercises to a training programme, for a sprinter looking to improve the short SSC, they should not be doing high depth jumps regularly, however, would be looking at toe sprints or light, quick unilateral work.
If you are looking to start incorporating plyometrics into a training programme, it is best not to start too high, but important to make sure the body’s functional movement is correct before applying loads, this can be assessed through a movement competency test. If an athlete is unable to squat properly or has unilateral imbalance, they should look to fix this before beginning plyometrics as loading upon this can cause to injury or incorrect form. Only when the athlete is competent can they move up each stage of plyometrics to improve, but this must be assessed through showing correct form throughout without imbalance or weakness.