If you could do only one thing in your training, what would it be? Plyometric Training! Really, why is that? I am not joking, I have heard something like that and thought to myself, if you really want to answer this question, you need to understand what are the benefits of Plyometric Training.
This article and video looks at
- the benefits of plyometric training
- the adaptations that follow the plyometric training
- in which sporting actions we see plyometric effects
- plyometric training can help improve the sporting actions
Before we get started to address What are the benefits of plyometric training, let’s go back to the definition of plyometric training.
As we have discussed in the previous article and video What Is Plyometric Training? there isn’t one commonly accepted the definition, so I came up with my own definition based on various sources ‘Plyometrics or Plyometric Training is a training that involves the stretch-shortening cycle as a means to improve speed and power.’
What are the Benefits of Plyometric Training and the Stretch-shortening Cycle?
The stretch-shortening-cycle is a protective reflex that prevents the muscles from overstretching and tearing. Once the muscle gets rapidly stretched, the body sends a signal to the muscle to contract, that is the essence of the stretch-shortening cycle and the why and how behind the stretch-shortening cycle.
This stretch-shortening cycle applied to plyometric training has two major benefits:
- the use of elastic energy
- increased neural activation
Let’s go through that step by step.
Elastic energy refers to energy being stored in the muscle during the eccentric phase, which can be used for an augmented contraction / stronger contraction in the concentric phase. More details on how elastic energy is stored and used during the different phases in the article How Plyometrics Increase Your Vertical
Neural activation refers to the activation of the motor units, a motor unit is the connection between a nerve and the muscle fibers this nerve activates. To read more on how motor units work have a look at the article 4 Unexpected Benefits of Plyometric Training
What are the Benefits of Plyometric Training and Increased Neural Activation?
In order to understand what are the benefits of plyometric training, it is important to understand the way motor units are activated.
In a nutshell, there are 3 different mechanisms in the neural activation / the way a muscle is activated
- the rate of recruitment
- the firing frequency
- the synchronization
The rate of recruitment refers to how many motor units can be activated, the firing frequency refers to how fast the motor units can be activated and synchronization refers to how effective and efficient motor units can be activated.
More details on motor unit activation in the articles
- Why understanding the Mechanics Behind Plyometric Training will make you jump like Michael Jordan
- The 101 of Power Training for Beginners
An adaptation to plyometric training is an improved firing frequency, so the muscles are activated much faster and a better synchronization, which means the muscles are activated more efficiently.
In very simple words, you have to think about synchronization like switching on and switching off, the muscles and muscle fibers needed for the movement are switched on, the fibers that are not used are switched off. Switching on then not only refers to being activated but also in different muscle groups working together more effectively resulting in a stronger and more forceful contraction.
If you have heard me talking and writing about Plyometric Training opens neural pathways, that’s exactly what it is.
A faster signal to the muscle and a more effective use of the different muscle groups.
What are the Benefits of Plyometric Training on Sporting Actions?
Almost every sporting action involves a stretch-shortening cycle in one form or the other.
I discussed the example of the stretch-shorting cycle on jumping in the article Why understanding the Mechanics Behind Plyometric Training will make you jump like Michael Jordan another example is the stretch-shortening cycle on throwing and hitting movements.
During the coiling of a hit or a throw, the muscles of the trunk and arms get stretched and activates the stretch-shortening cycle, so that the muscles can contract more forceful during the forward movement of the hitting action or throwing action.
Concluding What are the Benefits of Plyometric Training
Plyometric Training and the effective use of the stretch-shortening cycle can help to activate muscles faster and help muscle groups to work together more effective and efficient.
A targeted Plyometric Training can improve sport specific actions, such as running, jumping, kicking, hitting or throwing.
More information on Plyometric Training
For more information read the article or visit the plyometric training video library