Friday, August 19, 2011

Plyometrics for Lower Extremity Power Training

Plyometrics is a form of exercise that is designed to improve muscular power, speed of contraction, and improve the response time of the neuromuscular system. It is typically used by competitive athletes as a form of cross-training, but recently has become more po pular in the non-professional athletic community. The technique involves combining muscle loading and fast contractions in order to improve muscle power. Muscle power includes not just strength of muscles (i.e., how much weight a person can lift) but also considers the speed at which that force is delivered.

In particular, plyometrics are used to strengthen and train the muscles and reflexes of the lower extremity, as well as improve core strength. Research has shown that the use of plyometrics in professional athletes has increased performance as well as decreased the incidence of injury.

Specific exercises include a variety of different lunge and squat techniques. The plyometric exercise consists of a fast elongation phase of contraction (eccentric phase) followed by an amortization or resting phase, which is then followed by a short burst contraction phase. For example, this may involve a quick squat, followed by a brief period of rest, followed by a jump off the ground.

The science behind plyometrics revolves around the specific muscle fibers being trained. The muscle fibers of the body consist of slow-twitch (type I), fast twitch type A (type IIA), and fast twitch type B (type IIB). In plyometrics, the fibers being worked are the fast-twitch fibers. Plyometrics also helps train the muscle reflexes that help control muscle contractions.

Plyometrics can be a excellent adjunct to an training or exercise program, but should only be undertaken by those in good physical condition. Because of the high impact nature of many of the exercises, those engaging in plyometrics should be ready for this impact. The technique used is of utmost importance, so as to avoid injury when training. Age is also a consideration, as many people of advanced age are advised against high impact activity due to arthiritis, osteoporosis, or other conditions that may jeopardize the safety of the individual.

There is not usually much equipment required for plyometrics. Generally a pair of sturdy training shoes designed for lateral movements, comfortable clothes, and enough space to move around is all that is needed. Many people follow instructional videos, or participate in organized classes that can help with technique. Plyometrics is an intense workout, so if you’re planning on trying it, be sure that it is safe by talking to your doctor about your new exercise plan. And bring plenty of water.

Central Florida Foot & Ankle Center, LLC
101 6th Street N.W.
Winter Haven, FL 33881

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