"Getting Started" (In Plyometrics)
By: Vincent Belviso CSAC, SCS
Jump training can serve as the foundational element of power training before any type of external loading is applied. Maybe you haven’t started lifting weights yet or you have a younger child that you want to be more explosive on the field/court but are not sure their bodies are ready for the weights just yet. Jump training can serve as that introductory to force development.
Similar to almost every exercise out there, plyometrics have progressions and regressions. The important thing is to identify the base level, what we may refer to as an “assessment” in the fitness industry.
If someone wants to learn how to squat with the barbell, they should not just start throwing plates on the bar to see where they might collapse. Personally, we have every client perform a bodyweight squat initially. If someone is not efficient at controlling their own body in space, demonstrating the proper skills required in a squat (knees out, back flat, reaching proper depth), how can they be efficient in the movement once a load is applied?
In the same light, one should not just start stacking bumper plates on top of a box until they can no longer jump that high without mastering the fundamentals first. We want to train to perform better; not to fail. This requires being able to train on a consistent basis without having to take extended time off due to being so sore you can’t even walk for days or, even worse, injury.
Take care of one aspect (perfecting the basics) before trying to move on to the next level (progression)!
The following phases will detail lower intensity plyo work, feel free to use as THE workout in the beginning and gradually turn it into a warm-up as you become ready to progress:
I highly encourage you to begin here and perform this as your entire ‘plyo routine’ until you are comfortable and efficient at each movement, and to learn how to control your body so you do not feel like you are “crashing down” on every jump. As Tony Gentilcore would say, “land like a ninja.” The ability to control one’s own bodyweight in space needs to be the foundation of any plyo program. Do not rush through these steps- they are the building blocks for more advanced training.
Use this as a warm-up if you are interested in increasing your vertical, want to become better at jumping, or to feel better force production from your legs on heavier squats, deadlifts, or olympic lifting sessions. If you do, let me know how it goes. If you have any questions on how to implement plyometrics into your routine, let’s chat.
Vinnie can be reached at Vincent@freedomfitgym.com
Defining Goals, Intent, and Purpose
By: Vincent Belviso, CSAC, SCS
What are the two most common goals I hear most often from a great deal of people referencing their fitness goals?
“I want to lose weight and gain muscle.”
Usually at the same time.
While not impossible, it is incredibly difficult to accomplish both tasks simultaneously and takes a level of dedication (and quite a toll on the ‘quality of life’ scale) that would make daily life rather unenjoyable.
On the positive side, if you are a beginner, looking to start exercise for the first time, or get back into it for the first time in a while, you should be able to see decent progress in both directions as you form an initial routine.
The increased activity level should help you start to shed off some of that unwanted weight and, as your body starts to become accustomed to some of the exercises you are doing, you should be able to increase the weight in a majority of your lifts rather quickly.
When you start to progress past the newbie stage, the scale and/or the weight might begin to stall. Time for an adjustment!
The people that are most successful in achieving their fitness goals, assuming you haven’t resorted to taking locker room “advice” from the bro with the fanny pack in the gym bathroom (yes, drugs), are the ones that can prioritize losing weight or gaining muscle into separate cycles and stick to it.
The million dollar fitness secret… losing weight requires the body to be in a caloric deficit; gaining muscle requires the body to be in a caloric surplus.
We circle back to the initial point: if you had just one goal to accomplish, what is it?
It is important to define what your goal is because it should completely dictate your training approach and your nutrition. The same principle can be applied to various forms of exercise, especially plyometric and top speed training. If you have been following along with this series you now know what plyometrics is and how to warm-up/ prepare for jump training.
If you were training to increase your strength in the deadlift, you would want a metric to be able to track your progress. This is most commonly accomplished by testing a 1 or 2 rep max. After establishing a trackable metric, the first step would be to deadlift every week for the next several weeks. You also would not just perform multiple sets of 10 at the same weight every week; or, if you do, it is doubtful that your 1 or 2 rep max is going to change much. Instead, you would work in progression from week to week, adding on weight and performing less reps as the intensity increases.
Conditioning is not training for maximum performance! If you are new to jump training or top speed training, or just getting back into it for the first time in a while, initially just the acts of jumping or sprinting will help you improve. However, at some point you will stall and without a progressive approach, you may hit the wall.
Performing box jumps until you are blue in the face or running fatigued sprints out on the track can help your conditioning, but will poorly translate over to force development. In order to get faster or jump higher, each rep must be performed with high intensity (MAXIMUM EFFORT!). This means treating this form of training in the same manner you would train to improve your 1 or 2 rep max for deadlift: low, challenging rep schemes and enough rest time between sets so you are as close to 100% fresh as you can be before the beginning of the next set.
Sessions need to revolve around performance and execution, not exhaustion.
Generally speaking, if the goal is to simply increase your aerobic conditioning, by all means set up that low box and unleash your inner-bunny at any point in your workout. However, if you are prioritizing jumping higher, being able to run faster or using plyo training to help increase one of your major compound lifts, plyo training needs to be prioritized towards the beginning of your workout when you are fresh, keep your sets short so that you can attack every rep with intent and purpose, take as long of rest times between sets as needed, and there should be a 48-72 hour recovery period between sessions.
Intent is key, define your goal.
Vinnie can be reached at Vincent@freedomfitgym.com
The Foundation To "Jump" Plyometrics
By: Vincent Belviso, CSAC, SCS
Following from last week’s article, Plyometric training (plyo) refers to the use of exercises where an eccentric lengthening of the muscle is rapidly succeeded by a powerful concentric contraction.
The elastic energy produced through these powerful contractions allow for an increase in force production, muscular power and running velocity/economy.
Yes, plyometric jump training can translate into not only jumping higher or further, but running faster as well. I should have every athlete in the room’s attention…
When programming plyometrics into a routine, one must consider the intensity of the activity you are asking the body to perform. Weightlifting aside, jump training alone can place a high level of demand on your muscles and joints. A proper warm-up is essential to prepare joints, ligaments, and tendons for the shock absorption demands required for any plyo work.
Personally, I am a big fan of:
· banded walk-outs,
· lateral steps,
· clam shells
Put a band around your knees and get that booty burning!
Before you even consider leaving the floor, be sure to master the primary positions:
1. Athletic/Romanian Deadlift (RDL) position: this is the position you will be “grooving” during your warmup with the band. I live by the principal that, “if it feels funky, it probably is.” This skill can easily be practiced at home and performed static/without bands. My favorite cue here is to get into the same position as someone playing defense in basketball. Even if you never played basketball, we have all seen someone play defense in basketball- so not the NBA. If you have truly never seen someone play defense, “actually, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing!”
Your feet should be underneath your hips, butt back, slight forward torso lean, shoulders proud, back flat, weight evenly distributed through your feet. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Sitting back into your hips is square one to involving major working muscles, like your hamstrings and gluteals, and also saving your knees from unwanted stress.
2. Single-Leg Athletic/ Single-Leg RDL position: once you are comfortable on two feet, the same static position is needed from one foot alone. I address this skill in a dynamic warm-up with many of my clients and athletes. Balance and equal activation in both legs is critical for performance and injury prevention.
3. Snapdown: before you start to move (and especially before you start trying to move quickly), the static position must be mastered before you can perform a movement properly in a dynamic fashion. Snapdowns are simply putting that Double-Legged Athletic position into motion. Stand tall, reach for the ceiling, and quickly bring your hands down to the sides of your hips as you sit back into the RDL. Your hips, knees, and ankles all need to maintain healthy alignment- no knees caving in and your heels should be on the floor (weight distributed evenly throughout your feet, remember)!
4. Single-Leg Snapdown: I think you can see a trend, once you are proficient doing a movement with both legs, work on equal efficiency from each leg. Side dominance can easily lead to injury down the road.
* 1-4 have been compiled into a demonstrative Instagram video *
**The snapdowns can be progressed by pushing up on your toes while you are reaching for the ceiling at the top, then quickly bringing your hands down to your hip as you sit back into your RDL position.**
All of these drills serve as “skill builders,” therefore are very low on the intensity scale. Practice them while you are fresh and often before you consider advancing. Being able to sit into the athletic RDL position is a skill you must be able to do without even thinking about it if you want to improve your athletic ability.
Master these steps and you will be on the way to healthily attacking jump training with the ability to fully recruit the posterior chain, and maximizing the progression (and success) of your hard work. Stay posted as I will be diving in on how to implement and advance plyometrics into your routine in the weeks to come.
Vinnie can be reached at email@example.com
What Is Plyometrics?
By: Vincent Belviso, CSAC, SCS
What is Plyometrics?
Hear the word around a crossfit circle, it probably means you will be “jumping around all nimbly bimbly like” until you feel like your heart is going to explode…or until you misjudge that one fatal step and skin your knees.
But, what if I told you the concept of plyometrics (plyo) applies to much more than box jumps alone?
Plyo can be performed in both upper and lower extremity movements in exercise and in sport. A basketball player soaring through the air to posterize some poor defender en route to a rim rocking dunk can easily be seen as plyometric; but, a pitcher (or any baseball player) making a throw is also utilizing the same concept, only being demonstrated by a different muscle grouping during a different movement pattern. In the weight room, plyometrics are not just those agonizing box jumps- the concept is also being utilized during explosive squats, olympic lifts, and even the bench press.
A plyometric movement is one in which a Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) occurs within a muscle by using a lengthening movement (eccentric) and is quickly followed by a shortening movement (concentric). The easiest comparison is that of flicking a rubber band: place a rubber band between two fingers, create little to no tension in the band and remove your fingers. The rubber band will harmlessly fall to the ground. However, pull one of your fingers back, lengthening the band and quickly letting go, the band will first shorten and then propel itself across the room in accordance with the amount of built up tension prior to the release.
Thus, plyometrics is split into three phases:
The eccentric pre-stretch phase is the muscle during the lengthening stage. If you have performed a box jump, before you go to take off you more than likely (at least, you should be) bending at the waste, sitting back into your hips and priming your glutes and hamstrings for take-off.
That moment pre-jump when you no longer are lowering or sitting your hips back any further, but just before you drive your feet as hard as you can into the ground to initiate the jump, that split second of isometric action is referred to as the amortization phase.
Technically speaking, it is the time delay between overcoming the negative work (the pre-stretch) of the initial lengthening phase (the muscle getting longer) to generate the force production (pushing your feet into the floor during jumping) and accelerating into muscular contraction (shortening phase, BLAST OFF!).
The shorter this phase is, the more effective and powerful the preceding movement will be. Like our rubber band, or slingshot, stretching and holding is far less effective than, say, stretching it and releasing very quickly. Energy is being stored in the form of elastic momentum within the working muscle group during the pre-stretch leading to the “stretch reflex.”
Think about hitting the bottom of a really heavy squat and feeling your hamstrings bounce you out of your terminal position- stretch reflex! However, if you reach end range of motion and hesitate (or purposely delay like in paused reps), that bounce is no longer there. This amortization phase has been removed because that stored elastic energy is wasted as heat and the stretch reflex was not activated. As a result, the following concentric contraction will not be as effective. An experienced lifter knows the timing of activating and utilizing the stretch reflex can be the difference between hitting that new PR or turning your spotter into a lifeguard.
The final phase, the concentric, or shortening, phase can also be referred to as “resultant power production performance” phase… or not, because that is a mouthful. This is take off-- actually leaving the ground during the jump, or utilization of the stretch reflex out of the bottom of the squat or bench press to return the weight forcefully back to the top.
This is how jump performance can improve from repeatedly practicing proper jump technique. It is why a coach might program you to drop a few pounds in your olympic or compound lifts and tell you to move the weight faster. Efficiency is key: efficiency in the desired movement pattern, efficiency in barbell path, efficiency in utilizing the stretch reflex. Efficiency= better power production and efficient power production over time = more strength.
Blending the three aforementioned phases to perform a plyometric movement is used to enhance a muscle’s power performance. The rapid deceleration to acceleration produces an explosive reaction that increases both speed and power during athletic activities.
So if you want to develop speed, or power, utilizing plyometrics is a valuable tool in your toolbox.
Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out his Instagram: vibes_training
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