Plyometric training – what are the key success factors?

The Introduction

plyoPlyometrics are exercises that are designed to enhance muscle power, mainly through the use of jumping or rebounding activities. Examples are skipping, hopping, jumping and bounding. These types of exercises are commonly used by sprint runners and team sport athletes where strength, power and coordination are crucial. Numerous studies have shown improvements of between 5 and 15% in the vertical jump height of athletes who do plyometric training in addition to their normal training. However, no research has determined the key training success factors to enhance jump performance through using plyometric exercises. This excellent review analysed all the factors crucial to maximising your plyometric training.

The Research

A well-respected group of sport and exercise scientists from Spain, Greece, and the United States of America combined their talents. Using rigororous inclusion criteria, they found 56 studies that had enough data included to enable them to use the results in their study that is what researchers call a meta-analysis – a statistical study of other studies!

The Results

The study concluded that:

  1. Athletes with a greater history of training in sport get greater benefits from plyometric training.
  2. Men appear to get greater gains after plyometric training than women.
  3. Training volumes of greater than 10 weeks and more than 20 sessions get greater benefits.
  4. Higher intensity sessions (greater than 50 jumps per session) get greater benefits.
  5. Combining different types of jumps (e.g. squat jumps, bounding, drop jumps)  gets greater benefits than using one form of plyometric only.
  6. Adding weights appeared to give no added benefit.

The So What?

The above factors should be considered in developing a training program where speed and power, especially jumping power, are crucial to performance. In older athletes, it is absolutely crucial that strength and power training in the gym is developed first before undertaking such training. As discussed at length in chapters 7 and 8 of The Masters Athlete, it is crucial that masters athletes new to such training get advice from trained professionals before commencing plyometric training.

de Villarreal ES, Kellis E, Kraemer WJ, Izquierdo M. (2009). Determining variables of plyometric training for improving vertical jump height performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23(2):495-506.