Plyometric (plyo) exercise is great for training power, and speed, and increasing strength as a result. Plyo exercises involve some kind of jump or otherwise explosive movement, which requires and improves the ability to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible in as little time as possible. And the more muscle fiber activation we get in a single instant the higher we jump, the more we lift, the stronger our movement becomes.
All plyo exercises have three unique phases:
1. ECCENTRIC PHASE, aka: loading phase
2. AMORTIZATION PHASE, aka: transition phase
3. CONCENTRIC PHASE, aka: unloading phase
Let's use a squat jump as an example to explain each phase...
To begin a squat jump the first thing I have to do is LOAD my muscles, and I do this by squatting down PRIOR to actually jumping up. This creates and temporarily stores potential energy in the muscles that are about to be used for the jump. To visualize this, imagine stretching out a rubberband. You can just *feel* all the stored energy about to explode when you let go...
Next comes the amortization phase which occurs right at the bottom of the loading phase and right before the jump. It's a very brief moment of pause that can be seen at the bottom-most point of my loading phase. It's so brief that it's almost imperceptible to the eye. :O
This quick pause comes from the electromechanical delay in which the muscles transition from overcoming force (aka: storing potential energy in the loading phase) to producing force in the intended direction...
Then next comes THE JUMP! This is the unloading phase in which the elastic energy stored in the loading phase and redirected in the amortization phase is RELEASED. To visualize this phase imagine letting go of that rubberband you stretched out earlier. This phase is explosive, and the more you train with plyometrics the more explosive it will become.
Plyo exercises are intended to be performed quickly, so immediately after the jump I'd go back into the eccentric phase of my next rep and continue. Upon the final rep, I'll still want to sink into that eccentric phase, but this time the purpose is to absorb the landing. There is a right and wrong way to land a jumping exercise, and I see examples of the improper landing in the gym all the time.
It would include:
- Landing loudly
- Stopping short of a full range of motion
- A generally 'jerky' appearance to the motion
- High impact on the lower body joints
So what's the correct way to land??
QUIETLY and FULLY!
Absorb your landing by continuing to move even after your feet have planted. (This is that continuation into the eccentric phase even once you've finished your set.) When performing plyometric you exercise high speed and explosiveness in the actual jump, but you must also practice controlling that speed and slowing down after the jump. This is done by continuing your movement to absorb the impact of the landing.
When doing so you wind up:
- Landing quietly, sometimes silently!
- Continuing through a full range of motion
- Creating a much more fluid visual appearance to the motion
- Relieving much of the impact on the lower body joints