Plyometrics are one of the best, low-cost, high-reward exercises we can add to our training program. So, what are plyometrics? Plyometrics are any movement that have a landing, take-off, and another landing phase. Examples would include pogo jumps or jumping rope. Single-leg hops, consecutive broad jumps, hurdle hops, bounds, etc., would all be considered plyometrics as well. Technically speaking, a box jump on its own would not be considered plyometric in nature, since there is no initial landing phase. This is not to say box jumps have no place in our program, but we just want to keep in mind that we won’t be getting the same reaction and results out of our muscles and tendons that we would if we had that initial landing phase.
So why is an initial landing phase so important? Because during the landing phase, often referred to as the amortization phase, is the point where we are quickly changing from a lengthened eccentric contraction to a shortened concentric contraction. In simpler terms, we are absorbing force then quickly reversing it, which all takes place within around 0.1-0.2 seconds. Much of this lengthening and shortening takes place in our tendons as well, which is why it is so important if we want to remain athletic and have healthy joints as we age. The ability to perform these quick contractions is also what keeps us moving quickly. Often as we age, we start to slow down in all movement, but regularly performing plyometrics will have us feeling like we still have a pep in our step.
An easy way to add plyometrics to our program is to start with pogo jumps, which are basically jumping up and down like you would if you were jumping rope. Form-wise, we want more of a mid to full foot landing, rather than just staying on the balls of our feet the whole time. This will give us more benefits in our Achilles tendon long term since it’s in a slightly more stretched position upon landing. Pogos are also very scalable. You can jump up and down very high, which will greatly increase the ground contact forces, or you can just do low ones for higher reps. A majority of the time you will want to perform low pogos for higher reps and sprinkle in some higher ones here and there. Another big key when performing these, or any other plyometric for that matter, is to get into a rhythm. Getting into a good rhythm is far more beneficial than worrying about how high or far you can jump. This rhythm is what makes that amortization phase smoother and allows us to really get the most out of the exercise. If you have not jumped for a while, add a few sets of 10-20 reps at the start of your workout and see how you feel.