Plyometric Training
Harnessing Explosiveness and Maximal Effort
by Jesse Seal and James Bullock

Plyometric Training

Original Photo

American track coach Fred Wilt coined the term plyometric in 1975, and it originates from the Latin root words plio meaning more and metric meaning to measure.

Plyometric training is what I call reactive power training. It enables the muscles to exert maximal force in a very short period of time, and is used to enhance the performance of athletes. Plyometric movements exploit what is called the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and involve the use of the stretch reflex.

The stretch reflex is utilized repeatedly during sports movements as nearly all movements involve the two phases of muscle contraction:

  • The eccentric phase (lengthening of the muscle under tension)
  • The concentric phase (shortening of the muscle).

The muscle is pre-stretched causing it to be lengthened (eccentrically) which creates a high degree of tension within the muscle. This tension creates a great deal of stored energy in the muscle that can be used to increase power if followed immediately by a concentric contraction. The speed and degree of the muscles’ pre-stretch determines the amount of tension created.

The stretch-shortening cycle is what makes plyometrics so important for increasing power. There are three phases to a plyometric movement:

  • Eccentric or loading phase
  • Amortization or transition phase
  • Concentric or drive/take-off phase

The simplest example of the stretch-shortening cycle is when an athlete attempts to jump as high as possible. The athlete bends the knees (eccentric phase), then forcefully contracts his legs to jump as high as possible (concentric phase). The time it takes to stop downward momentum and reverse it to the concentric phase is the amortization phase.

Training using plyometrics loads the muscles and contracts them very rapidly. The athlete benefits by being able to throw farther, jump higher, hit harder and run faster, among other performance benefits. Plyometrics are widely used in soccer, rugby, racket sports, basketball, mixed martial arts and in track and field.

This 3-in-1 Plyometric Box Set from Rogue Fitness includes 20", 24", and 30" boxes that fit inside each other for easy storage. Made in the USA. Check it out in the link below.

3-in-1 Plyometric Box Set

Benefits of plyometric training

Even though plyometric training is widely used by athletes, most people will benefit from this type of training by burning more calories and by increasing their overall strength, endurance and power. Benefits of plyometric training include:

  • Increased athletic performance – Running speed is enhanced for those participating in track and field sports. Performance is also enhanced for those involved in sports where throwing and punching harder would be an asset.
  • Increased strength and power – The potential of lower body strength is increased since plyometric training works the leg muscles at an intense level.
  • Increased strength endurance - Increased stamina and energy is achieved by plyometric training because it creates an explosive quantity of intense energy.
  • Increased fat loss – Including this training in a weight loss routine will enhance calorie burning and benefit weight loss.
  • Customization of training – The exercises can be easily customized to suit the individual's needs and abilities. Exercises may include simple activities such as jumping rope and trampoline for someone looking for a less intense workout. A more intense workout could include jumping from a low to a high platform, and then intensifying it by increasing the height between the two platforms.
  • No special equipment is needed – The training involves no expensive equipment. Simply using your own body weight and items found around the house are all the equipment you need. Although, many gyms can be found with plyometric (plyo) boxes.

As beneficial as plyometrics are, they should NOT be done by beginners. Only experienced athletes with knowledgeable strength coaches should implement them regularly in a training program.

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About the Author

Jesse Seal is the assistance Combatives Instructor, and has been training in Combative Sciences since 2008. He has also been training and learning through Bullock's Irondom Performance Systems since 2010.

About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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