Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

What is the importance of plyometric training and where does it fit in your program?


Plyometric training is one way to bridge the gap between the strength training program and the field of competition.  It is essentially speed – strength training, with the load fairly constant (bodyweight) and the training stimulus being speed of movement and volume (sets times reps).  Several years ago I was talking to some of the coaches at Nebraska, Mike Arthur and Brian Bailey and they had instituted an outstanding concept with their linemen.  Instead of a lot of traditional plyometrics, they implemented more agility training due to the size of the athlete they were dealing with at the offensive and defensive line positions.  They quantified the plyo’s by sets, reps and foot contacts and the agilities by sets and reps in order to keep track of training loads and volumes.

Since plyometrics are from track and field, which is a predominantly linear sport, they tend to develop speed and acceleration linearly.  Agilities are traditionally rooted in court/field sports that involve change of direction and acceleration.  Garret Giemont, the long time NFL strength coach organizes his agilities into speed angles and shuttles.  Angles being the W drill, the L drill, etc. which tend to conserve speed through the angles of the cuts.  These drills tend to be less demanding than the shuttle type drills (the 5 – 10 – 5 20 yard short shuttle) that require the athlete to change direction and come back down a line that is 180 degrees opposite of the one he or she was originally on.

Implementing these two concepts into the training program has elevated our return on training.  This coupled with the influence of Mike Boyle’s concept of a predominantly lateral day alternated with a linear day have produced even better results.

Our training progression is landing first emphasizing bend at the hip – knee – ankle and land soft. This is followed by the simple drills such as box jump – ups (and step down), which are done year round.  In the off – season we implement hurdle jumps and for the lighter athletes we also include hurdle hops.  The heavier athletes (football linemen) do more agilities.  In our total program, time – wise or rep wise, plyo’s only comprise a minute share of emphasis.  We implement a lot more agility training into our program because we feel we get more bang for our buck with agilities than plyometrics.  The ability to maintain speed through a cut or change of direction while maintaining a low athletic position is much more important than the ability to generate speed linearly.  We use the plyo’s to develop elastic strength in our athletes more than to enhance their ability to accelerate or develop speed.


What is your philosophy of training to develop power in your athletes?


Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport.  The ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement is central to most sporting endeavors.  In designing a program, there are many variables, but only a relative few will create a training effect of power.  Power development involves some load/resistance and a lot of speed of movement.  The load can be as light as body weight or as heavy as up to 60 even possibly 70 percent of a one rep max in certain speed – strength exercises.

In Olympic style weight lifting (which is speed – strength in nature) as the load increases, the nature of training will move from speed – strength to strength – speed as the movement slows with the corresponding increase in resistance.  In order to maximize the power output (or the speed variable in speed – strength) then two things are paramount in selecting the exercises, drills, protocols and modalities.  These are the load, which must be kept relatively light (depending on the exercise/drill selection) and whether the skill involves release of an implement or leaving the ground.   If at any point in the drill the movement slows more than 10% from optimum then the power output drops dramatically.  In the case of release skills such as throwing a medicine ball or squat jumps, the power output can be dramatic and measurable.

Any type of plyometric training is by its very nature power development.  Boiled down to its simplest form, almost every sport is based on some type of jumping, hopping, bounding and throwing.   Sprinting is bounding from foot to foot.  Cleans, snatches, jerks are jumping with weight.  Squatting is a very similar movement, but you don’t leave the ground.  In order to create power, you would need to do squat jumps, the same movement as squats, but with “release” off of the ground and a much greater power output.  Medicine ball training can be plyometric in nature such as mediball bench press, twist toss and crunch sit – ups with a toss.  Mediballs can also mimic cleans with forward and reverse scoop tosses.  The load is much lighter than cleans and snatches and the implement is released so the power output is greater with a very similar movement.

As with any quality training parameter, the rest/recovery bout should be long enough to allow for maximal restoration in order to keep the quality of the efforts very high in regards to speed and/or distance.  The volume is relatively low in total and especially within each set.  Remember, less is more in regards to volume in relation to power development.  In Olympic lifting the optimal rest is 2:00 for snatches and up to 3:00 minutes for heavy cleans.  Sets in Olympic style training usually have reps that are generally 2 + or – 1.  I have taken the same approach with mediball training, if it is total body exercises.  Remember, power training is for quality, not quantity of effort.  How many times do you come out of your stance as a football lineman every 40 seconds?  How many times do you come out of the blocks as a sprinter in 2:00?  How many times in a row do you jump for a rebound if you were a basketball player? 3? 5?  If it’s 10, maybe you are training the wrong basketball team.

The order of training is critical in a day as well as within the week.  In a workout, the order is warm – up, loosen – up and build – up to sport speed.  This warm – up is followed by technique work, speed training, and power development. Strength training and work capacity, fitness or conditioning is always last.   In any particular week, the order is speed first, followed by power second.  After this (or the second day) then there is some leeway in the composition of the final days of the workouts based on time of the year, training age of the athletes and number of days left in the program for the week.  If it is based on the European week, then Wednesday is fitness, Thursday is recovery, Friday is strength and Saturday is fitness, again.  In America, it usually is Wednesday is recovery, Thursday is strength and Friday is fitness.

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