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If you are an avid basketball player, you have most certainly heard of plyometrics. Plyometrics are a method of training meant to optimally utilize an athletes’ stretch shortening cycle. In relation to plyometrics, the stretch shortening cycle refers to a rapid eccentric muscle action, followed immediately by a concentric muscle contraction. An example of the stretch shortening cycle being performed in basketball would be second jump ability whereby an athlete lands and immediately jumps back up (for a rebound, to block a shot, etc.).
There are varying levels of intensity for plyometrics. Examples of lower level plyometrics are the box jump and low hops, with an example of higher level plyometric being the depth jump. The most important measure of plyometric intensity to discuss is the amount of ground reaction force the exercise produces.
When an athlete lands, there is a high level of ground reaction force that athletes’ bodies must absorb. The greater the height from which an athlete lands, or the heavier the athlete (from bodyweight or an external load such as a weighted vest), the more force an athletes’ body must absorb. If the athlete lands with improper technique, or is not strong enough to absorb a high level of force, plyometrics can be harmful to an athletes’ joints and bones. The best remedies are natural stress relief products but they can also be addressed with physical therapy. Athletes of all ages must be capable of determining whether or not they are capable of SAFELY performing these varying degrees of plyometrics.
Listed below are some characteristics to look for when determining whether or not the athlete should be performing plyometrics:
Landing Technique: The ability to land safely is one of the most overlooked aspects of plyometric training. Improper landing technique can put unwanted stress on the athletes’ joints.
– The athlete should land on their toes, and immediately roll back onto their heels so that they finish with their weight distributed in the mid to rear of the foot. (This landing technique applies to exercises that involve the athlete beginning each repetition in the hip hinge position, such as the squat jump)
– There should be an absence of knee valgus, which is observable when the athletes’ knees come inward towards each other
– The athletes’ feet should be shoulder width apart
– The athletes’ shoulders, knees, and feet should all be aligned on top of one another
– Both feet should make contact with the ground at the same time (during take-off, both feet should leave the ground at the same time, as well)
– The noise made upon landing should be minimal; the knees should flex during landing to optimally absorb the ground reaction forces. The degree of flexion in the knee will depend on the goal of exercise.
-The athlete should take a deep belly breathe in and brace their abdominals upon landing (brace = tighten abdominals as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach)
Strength: High intensity plyometrics, such as depth jumps from great heights, should NOT be performed until the athlete has developed a high degree of strength. Without a sufficient level of strength, the athlete will be at a much greater risk for injury as their bodies may be incapable of creating the stiffness required to successfully absorb the ground reaction force. A common rule to follow is that an athlete should not perform high impact plyometrics until they are capable of squatting at least 1.5 times their bodyweight. It is important to note, however, that this may vary from athlete to athlete, so please have a qualified strength & conditioning professional make the decision on whether you are ready for intense plyometric training. Youth athletes will benefit more by developing strong foundational strength, rather than jumping straight into intense plyometric training.
The box jump is a low impact plyometric for lesser trained athletes, that involves jumping onto a box and stepping down. Notice that shoulders, knees, and feet are vertically aligned. The weight of the body should be in the rear of the foot. Check out some incredibly high box jumps below, by a couple of guys with springs in their shoes.
If you have some friends to spot you and catch you incase you fall, video tape and e-mail your best jumps to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can see who has the best box jump in Canada.
In the depth jump, the athlete must make contact with the ground and immediately jump back into the air. This is a high intensity plyometric; as the height of the drop increases, the athletes’ strength must increase accordingly to safely absorb the ground reaction forces. Check out a video demonstration of a depth jump below.
If you are in the Greater Vancouver Area, please e-mail me at Sean@NorthPoleHoops.com, if you’d like me to help determine whether you are ready for plyometrics, and if so, how to perform them correctly, while catering them to your ability level. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area, please contact Dr. Thomas Lam at Thomas@NorthPoleHoops.com