Understanding the fundamentals of the plyometric jump is essential for any strength and conditioning coach. Plyometrics are an excellent way to increase durability in athletes which make it a great part of the conditioning routine. Plyometrics play a vital role specifically in event training for elastic capacity of athletes utilizing explosive movements during their sport. Breaking down plyometrics for lower body in a single jump will help show the execution and specific properties of the movement.
The first and most important part of the plyometric movement for athletes is the drive. Consider this the takeoff from the ground or base level. The detonation can occur with either both feet or a single leg drive. Encourage athletes to remember to explode and drive upward utilizing the lower body to gain height in their jump.
The landing of the plyo jump is where many athletes in training vary on implementation. It’s important to train on how to land correctly (especially on a raised plyometric box) during these jumps for full efficiency. Encourage your athletes to land lightly with “soft feet” then stand fully upright locking out the knees. With hopping or bounding in single leg plyometrics, the landing will occur with the same leg that was driving during takeoff.
For intensive training purposes, coaches will often load their athletes with weight to add difficulty to the plyometric movement in order to increase those targeted muscles for explosive activity. Applied, wearable loads for increased gravity such as wearing a weight vest are excellent for plyometrics because they still allow for arm movement. Keeping the arms free during the plyo jump is beneficial for the athletes because so much of the coordination of the arms and legs working together helps with balance and maximizing that initial explosive drive. This is often why most coaches will opt to use attached light sprinting sleds to athletes rather than utilize a heavy pushing sled. As for single leg plyometric jumps, loading athletes with external weight is not recommended, but with the proper guidance and utilization, is certainly possible.
Understanding the variations of plyometric movements and being able to match which specific movement is best utilized for a particular purpose is incredibly important in coaching. The main purpose the athlete should be trying to improve upon should be taken into consideration when selecting a plyometric movement to work with. Finding the main goal or benefit of each plyo movement is what you should aim to find to create a move beneficial training plan. For instance, explosive jumps with a plyometric box using both feet at once and landing lightly with knees locked helps create muscle memory for a hard drive upward and opening the hips for the initial pull of Olympic lifts.
As a strength and conditioning coach, make it a goal to be able to notice the differences in each plyometric exercise. Doing so will help your instruction during training and will also allow for a foundational knowledge that can build up into more complicated exercises down the line. Being able to demonstrate proper mobility and drive with these movements will be exponentially more effective than being able to talk and instruct through a coaching session.