Benefits of Plyometrics
According to the American Council on Exercise, research studies have shown that plyometric training can lead to improvements in:
- Vertical jump performance
- Muscle strength
- Joint protection
In addition, regular participation in a plyometric training program may help participants control their body weight.
When plyometric training is combined with active warm-ups, stretching exercises, and other weight training, evidence suggests that it may significantly improve an athlete's explosive power.
Because plyometric training strengthens muscles and decreases impact forces on the joints, it may reduce the risk of injury in some people, especially in younger female basketball and soccer players who have a risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that's two to eight times higher than that of their male counterparts. ACL injury-prevention programs -- such as plyometrics -- are designed to enhance the proper nerve/muscle control of the knee, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
Risks of Plyometrics
If you're in poor physical condition or have bone or joint problems, you're probably not a good candidate for plyometrics.
But even if you're a seasoned athlete, it's important to remember that any training routine that builds strength through explosive movement is inherently associated with an increased risk of injury. In the sports science community, reported injuries associated with plyometrics programs of depth jumping have stirred considerable debate over the technique's safety. Some experts have even compared plyometrics to the now-discredited technique of high-impact aerobics, which increases the risk of injury to lower-body joints such as the knee and ankle.
But plyometric training is usually safe and effective. Make sure you've received adequate screening from a sports medicine doctor or therapist and enrolled in a program led by a qualified instructor who matches the exercises to your age and fitness level and teaches proper landing techniques before gradually advancing you to more difficult exercises.
Proper Plyometric Technique Is Essential
Beginners should only train under proper supervision, and start with easy and safe ground-level jump-offs onto padded surfaces such as grass or a gym mat over a wood gym floor.
The most effective plyometric programs emphasize the quality instead of the quantity of jumps, and teach safe landing techniques such as landing from toe to heel from a vertical jump, using the entire foot as a rocker to distribute the impact over a greater surface area, and avoiding excessive side-to-side motion at the knee. To promote low-impact landings, some instructors encourage participants to visualize themselves landing "as light as a feather."