Why Do Plyometrics

A friend presented a question to me last week. And there it was, she said it right to my face.

 "So why do all the plyometric jumping and stuff? What's that good for...?"

Why do plyos? Why. Do. Plyos.

I was startled, frozen for a moment. I've never considered that as an option; that someone who is physically able to do plyos would not do them.

Uh. Let's see. Plyos are fun. And awesome. Enough said? [Walks away.] Well no, not really. So here are a few good reasons why athletes should do plyos.

1. Power

Power = Force X Distance / Time

In everyday life and especially in sports, the name of the game is power. Successful performance almost always depends on the ability to move your body, body segments, competitors, and sports implements quickly, with accuracy, and with good mechanics so as to remain efficient and healthy. Plyos teach your brain how to coordinate multiple body segments in order to generate force quickly.

Going for a jog or doing a bazillion reps (Ala P90 X or Insanity) simply doesn't do this unless you're very untrained. Heavy resistance training is the best way to increase your capacity to generate force and increase the size of your engine. But a proper progression of basic plyometric drills are what allow the brain to transform that force into real life, butt kicking power.

(You can legitimately argue that Olympic Lifts are good and necessary for power development, but see here for why I generally don't use of advise them.)

2. React

Plyos have also been shown to improve something called rate of force development, which is basically how quickly your muscles respond when the brain signals to move. And suddenly you're dunking, spiking, and breaking opponents ankles!

3. Fast Twitch Fiber Training

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[chart from Wikipedia] Type I fibers (red) Type II a fibers (red) Type II x fibers Type II b fibers (white)
Contraction time Slow Moderately Fast Fast Very fast
Size of motor neuron Small Medium Large Very large
Resistance to fatigue High Fairly high Intermediate Low
Activity Used for Aerobic Long-term anaerobic Short-term anaerobic Short-term anaerobic

Power produced Low Medium High Very high
Mitochondrial density Very High High Medium Low

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No matter the chosen sport or activity, you want to get all that you can out of your body. Even endurance athletes benefit from having trained all of the muscle fibers they are given. Now, the body won't even call the strong, fast twitch fibers into play unless it has to move something very heavy or move very quickly. Plyometrics preferentially target fast twitch fibers; the ones that just don't get used when going for a jog or with 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer.

4. Getting In Shape

Plyos are good for conditioning. Jumping, sprinting, cutting, skipping, striding, and various throws are all some the most metabolically demanding activities that you can dream up. Plyos are no stroll on the recumbent bike. Fifteen or twenty minutes provides a brutal training effect. I've witnessed endurance athletes with beastly cardiovascular systems become quickly gassed with a few circuits of intense plyos. It's a different training stimulus than what they are accustomed to.


Plyos are not nearly as boring and miserable as long drawn out cardio, especially if you have friends to show boat with. Plus - how you look and feel and what you can do after having trained your body with plyos...

Well there are many ways to do it, but we roll something like this:

 And a word of caution.

Plyos must be handled with care. They can be hard on your feet, knees, and lower back if you're inflexible or weak in the ankles, hips, and core. It's not just the middle aged men and their torn achilles tendons, because even young people will suffer if they do too much too quickly or even the right amounts with poor technique.

Just like anything else, use an intelligent progression to get the ball rolling and build up the intensity of impact as well as the total number of impacts. It's well worth it, unless you really don't care about being awesome ; )

Now go be strong, fast, and look the part. Defy some gravity, would ya!

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