What is Plyometrics?
The history of plyometrics dates back to the 60's when Russia & eastern bloc countries used new & unique training techniques on their Olympic athletes. As we look at records of those athletes, they dominated certain sports during this era. Their training consisted of different styles of jumps, foot speed drills, training equipment, stretching, and weight training exercises that when combined properly, resulted in speed development.
Today, the goal of plyometrics is to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions as a result of rapid eccentric contractions. This is accomplished through various techniques. The first is to develop the hip flexure muscles, its physiological function is to lift the leg. This maximizes the frequency of the turn over of the leg during the running stride, the balance, and the alignment of the body during movement. The result is a stronger and faster athlete with increased explosive power, vertical leap, reaction speed, lateral speed, coordination, foot speed, balance, development of the stabilizer muscles in the ankle, knee and hip joint, and more energy transferred to the movement. Core training is also vital. Core training was also discovered and developed through the research and study of early exercise science. Core training is the strengthening, developing, and training of the mid-section area of the body - the abdominal muscles, oblique & lower back. This also equates to increased speed development.
One of the first coaches in the United States to utilize this knowledge of plyometrics and incorporate this into his training regimen was Tom Landry, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the 70's & 80's. The Dallas Cowboys dominated the NFL during that time. Since then, other professional sport organizations, Olympic teams, and major universities added this training system to their program. Plyometrics is a ever evolving science as we continue to see athletes reach new heights & set new records.
Until recently, plyometrics has been utilized only at those levels - collegiate, Olympic, and professional. It has now found its way into the middle school & high school athletic programs. There are athletes as young as 6 participating in this training. The fact is, SPEED has become the number 1 factor for college and professional recruits & scouts, replacing brute strength. They are asking "What is your time in the 40?", not, "What is your max in the bench press?". There are many other factors involved, such as the athlete's frame, their ability to visualize, the specific sport, and the position played, but all of these are considered in relation to the athlete's speed.
Plyometrics has become so important that if an athlete is not involved in this type of training, he will fall behind his peers. Athletes are now being chosen by colleges because of their speed, agility, and strength due to their exposure to this unique style of training. As stated in the Sports Illustrated article, this is "The Future of the Next Generation of Athletic Training."