Plyometric Exercise

28 04 2011

As there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be making good use of this glorious weather, I’ve written a health and fitness post for you to get out and try. I also applied for my London Olympics tickets the other day so I’m feeling in an active mood. If I get what I applied for I’ll be going to see beach volleyball, an afternoon of athletics and a day at Wimbledon for the tennis… fingers crossed!

In todays men’s fitness blog in colaboration with Maximuscle, I’ll be talking about power and how you get it through plyometric exercise. I’ve been dying to write this post for a while as a lot of people, despite being into exercise, don’t seem to know what it is. For instance, I was talking to a friend of mine about it just this morning and he was in the dark despite being a keen runner and footballer.

Plyometrics is conditioning your muscles and nerve system to combine speed and strength efficiently for the desired result: Power! A lot of people confuse power with strength but they’re two different things. I know big guys who are very strong and can squat a lot of weight, but if they were to break out into a sprint the conversion into explosive energy is poor and they end up lumbering around.

Power is how quickly you can convert potential energy generated into elastic energy. In physics the formula is Power = mass x speed / distance so the ultimate athlete would be strong, fast and subsequently powerful.

Jonah Lomu’s power is what took England apart in the 1995 rugby world cup and revolutionised the concept of a rugby winger. He was able to convert his considerable size and strength into rapid, powerful movements. Lets take a look at some other excellent examples of explosive excellence!

Amazing. You may notice from the videos above that black athletes are prevalent in sports/athletic events where power is essential. This isn’t always the case but there is a genetic predisposition amongst black people to have a higher ratio of fast twitch type 2b fibres which I’ll come to in a second. But basically these fibres are the cornerstone of generating power or sports such as sprinting, basketball and jumping events.

Skeletal muscle can be broken down broadly into two types – 1 & 2. Type 1 fibre appears red due to the presence of an oxygen binding protein myoglobin. These fibres are slow to fatigue as they use aerobic metabolism. Type 2 muscle fibres are white in appearance due to the absence of myoglobin and as they use both oxidative metabolism and anaerobic metabolism depending on the particular sub-type, are quick to fatigue. The table below gives a useful breakdown.

The point of this is that you can do all the squats you want in the gym but you will be merely exercising you type 1 fibres. If you want to gain more speed, you need plyometric exercises! Without baffling you too much here’s an example:

If you ran towards a high jump bar and just as your foot hits the ground to take off, you hesitate. All the potential energy generated by your muscles in their eccentric phase dissipates and you have no force for the jump. However, you try again and when your foot hits the ground, your eccentric phase (when the muscle has reached a great length at a higher velocity) is rapid, there’s a minimal resting phase as your brain fires messages to your motor neurons telling them to contract and finally the cocentric phase is fast and efficient; making best use of all the force you’ve generated and producing a great jump.

That’s the theory, here are the exercises that will help generate type 2 fast twitch fibres and train motor units to fire at a faster rate. I officially love this video, especially the cheesy music – I’ve been looking on Youtube for something suitable and this is without doubt the best.

As you saw, you can perform plyometrics with the minimum of equipment and like my man DeStorm says, don’t over-do your plyometric training, especially if your have a heavy build. Why not incorporate it into your training today?




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