Plyometrics are around for decades now and athletes have used Plyometric Training to improve speed and explosiveness for years.
It seems that Plyometrics has had a revival in recent years as a popular training method in the last years and you find claims, that Plyometric Training is an effective training method to lose weight and also build muscles.
Is that really true?
This article and videos discuss
- Can Plyometrics build muscle mass?
- How to build muscles with Plyometrics?
- What adaptations from Plyometrics can help facilitate muscle growth?
- How to best use Plyometrics to build muscles?
As I mentioned in the introduction, Plyometric Training has been popularized in recent years as a secret weapon to accelerate weight loss and promote muscular gains.
In addition to that, Plyometric training offers the benefit, that you don’t need much equipment, which makes it even more appealing.
However, the question, that stands out is, whether Plyometric Training can help you to gain muscle mass and how.
Just check out a few popular articles, that outline the benefits of Plyometric Training to promote muscle growth.
- Plyometric Exercises to Build Muscle Size from Live Strong
- Plyometrics: Build Lean Muscle, No Weights Required from Fitness Mercola
- How To Use Plyometrics To Build Muscle Faster from Men’s Health
- The Power Principles: Plyometrics from Muscle & Fitness
Ok, let’s take it away, Plyometrics is actually not the best training method to build muscles, period.
Why is that?
In order to build muscles, the two main drivers of muscle growth are
- The mechanical load, determined by the external load
- The time under tension, determined by the rep cadence and the number of repetitions
The higher the mechanical load, the higher the potential for muscular growth. This is why you won’t see massive guys, who don’t lift massive loads.
The ideal time under tension for your muscles to grow is somewhere between 25 to 60 seconds, depending on whether you work on functional hypertrophy or the non-functional hypertrophy. For more information on Functional Hypertrophy and Non-Functional Hypertrophy, check out the article The Holy Grail of Strength Training – Sets and Reps
From this criteria, you can see, that the mechanical load that is needed for eliciting muscle growth is too low and the time under tension that is needed to provide a stimulus on the muscle to grow is too short.
However, if you look at adaptations that follow Plyometric Training, you can see that there are adaptations, that can help indirectly to facilitate muscle growth.
What are these adaptations?
How to build muscles with Plyometrics by optimizing the Firing Frequency
Plyometrics provide a high neural stimulus.
This high neural stimulus leads to adaptations of the nervous system.
Plyometrics can open so-called neurological pathways, which refers to the signal from the brain to the muscle can travel a bit faster.
For more information on firing frequency, check out the article Plyometrics benefits – Why is Plyometrics effective?
How to build muscles with Plyometrics by activating the more Fast-Twitch Fibers
In very simple words, the muscle fibers within your body can be classified as fast-twitch fibers and slow-twitch fibers.
Fast-twitch fibers can produce higher forces, but fatigue faster, slow-twitch fibers can’t produce very high forces but are fairly fatigue resistant.
If you take a closer look at the fast-twitch fibers, they can further be divided into type 2X fibers and intermediate fibers, type 2A fibers, that possess qualities of the type 2X fibers, but also qualities of slow-twitch fibers.
Plyometric Training activates more of the type 2X fibers or type 2X motor units (let’s just use muscle fibers and motor units interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing, but for this outline, we can use it interchangeably).
If you follow a regular muscle building regimen with more repetitions (above 4 – 5 reps), lower intensities (between 65 – 85% 1RM) and more controlled bar speeds, these Type 2X motor units are often not activated, you mainly activate the type 2A motor units.
Consequently, what Plyometrics can do for you, if you add Plyometric Training to your regular training routine, is that the signal to the muscle travels a bit faster so that you can activate your muscle fibers faster. And Plyometric Training can help to activate the type 2X motor units, that are usually not activated but possess a great potential for muscular growth.
You could say, it’s an untapped opportunity.
For more information on different muscle fiber types, check out the article Why understanding the Mechanics Behind Plyometric Training will make you jump like Michael Jordan
How to build muscles with Plyometrics through a stronger Muscle-Tendon Complex
Plyometric Training strengthens the muscle-tendon complex.
What is the muscle-tendon complex?
Very simple, the muscle is attached to a tendon and the tendon is attached to a bone.
An adaptation following a Plyometric Training program is, that the muscle-tendon complex gets stronger, especially the tendons.
How does it help to have a stronger tendon?
Well, you could ask Dorian Yates, who tore his Triceps tendon in the preparation for the Mr. Olympia 1997, check out his recollection (from minute 00:53)
A stronger muscle-tendon complex helps you to tolerate higher loads and ultimately lift higher loads. Remember, I mentioned earlier, the two main drivers of muscular growth are the mechanical load and the time under tension. Consequently, the higher the mechanical load, the higher the stimulus for muscle growth.
Concluding How to build muscles with Plyometrics
Plyometrics in itself is not the best method to elicit muscular growth for the simple fact, that the mechanical load is too low and the time under tension is too short.
However, there are certain adaptations that are following Plyometric Training that can help you to build muscles in the long run.
These adaptations are a stronger muscle-tendon complex, a higher firing frequency and a higher activation of the Type 2X fibers, the fast-twitch muscle fibers.