Recently, I’ve been tweaking my training to help manipulate my current athletic goals. Always a constant is increasing my strength. More recently, though, I’ve started training for some obstacle races and the like, which has forced me to shift outside of my comfort zone, and add a little more cardio into my life.
As a powerlifting purist, it can be said cardio can be counterproductive to strength gains. Obviously, if you are wrecking your body with hours upon hours of steady state anything, and not eating enough to support said activity, you’re going to waste some muscle and feel like ass when it comes time to lift. This is why we have to get creative. We have to strive to get the most gain out of our cardio bucks, preserve muscle mass, encourage adequate recovery, eat enough… it’s kind of a hot mess if you dwell on it.
I have been integrating HIIT and other forms of circuit training into my regime in order to meet my cardio needs, and one form that I’ve been particularly keen on lately is Plyometric Training. Without going all science nut on you, plyometrics are explosive exercises that typically involve jumping. I really like this article about plyos as it goes into great detail on the how’s and whys and an overview of a few various exercises. Basically, Plyometric training can help aid in the “explosive” muscle contraction you undergo in your sport. As a powerlifter, this means the bottom half of a squat or bench press, or the entire deadlift (in my opinion). Every sport requires some element of explosion, and the more power you have behind the movement, the more force you can exert, which translates to bigger, stronger lifts in my opinion.
Plyo workouts can also completely wreck you in a short period of time. However, you only get what you put in. I treat my Plyometrics as a strength building move, I do each exercise with a full range of motion, and my goal each rep is to jump higher, squat deeper, or go faster depending on the exercise. I rest between sets and exercises. Even though you will get sweaty and your heart will pound, when you do plyos you’re getting a two-fer – building explosive strength and pounding out some cardio.
I dedicate one workout a week strictly to plyometrics. Usually, it’s a day when I’m short on time, but still want to squeeze something in. I also pick one lifting day and do Plyometric exercises in between sets of my assistance work. It’s an easy way to save time in the gym and still accomplish the sprinkles on your already hardcore training cake.
I whipped up this little nugget for you guys to test drive if you’re looking to dabble in plyometrics. I suggest you do this on a carpeted floor or outside in the grass, as plyo can be hard on the joints. If you’re a beginner, rest longer between sets and cut back the reps to maybe 5 per set. Make sure you are adequately warmed up before doing this, and I don’t suggest doing jump training on back to back days for recovery purposes:
I have definitely seen results from training this way, in that there is a little extra “oomph” in my squats which were lagging for a minute there. I’m sure you can find a practical application for this kind of training regardless of your sport, I know we did a ton of this in my high school track days, and I was one hell of a hurdler. I like the concept of being explosive and dynamic – and I like that a little goes a long way.
Anybody else specifically train plyometrics? What are some of your favorite moves?