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26 Dec 2009

"Plyometric Training Tips"
Lauren Downes MSPT

Plyometric exercise involves off-ice jumping that improves upon a skater's strength in the dominant lower extremity power muscles.  Here are several tips to maximize a skater's performance of plyometrics:

1) Always perform off-ice plyometric jumping in supportive athletic footwear to promote the best biomechanics of the lower extremity.  A pronated, flat foot promotes an increase in turn-in the knee, increasing risk of injury.  Athletic sneakers with a built in arch support, or the addition of an arch support to a good sneaker (we love the brand 'superfeet'), will minimize biomechanical problems.

2) Begin with the lowest jump height possible, working on perfecting your mechanics of the jump.  For example, with a two foot squat jump, start with a 4-6 inch step or hurdle.  Once you have mastered the correct movement pattern at that height, increase the jump height.  Jumping to a height or over a hurdle that is too high or difficult for you will create inappropriate movement patterns, increase the force of the landing, and greatly increase your risk of injury, especially at the knees or shins.

3) The movement at your knees should be a fluid down, up, down motion.  Any pause or break of this motion reduces your muscle power and explosiveness, resulting in a smaller jump.  For example, start in a standing position.  Go into a squat position with the knees not past the toes, and explode into the jump by rolling through the ball of your foot and the toes.  Do not 'stop' at the bottom of the squat position.

4) Always land softly!  When you land a plyometric jump, you should hear the littlest amount of noise possible.  If you land with a loud 'thud', you are either not ready for that jump height, or you are not landing with what we call 'soft knees'.  Absorb the shock of the landing by lowering into the final squat position, instead of stopping your kneebend quickly.

5) When you first bend and when you land, avoid turn in of the knees.  In a two foot squat jump, the knees should not touch, and each knee should line up with the toes. Excessive turn-in of the knee may indicate one or both of these issues: weakness in the hips, or pronated feet.

6) In a single leg squat jump, the hips should remain level and squared.  Weakness of the hip of the jumping side will present as a 'hip-drop' on the free-leg side.  A skater can squeeze the buttocks and concentrate on keeping the hips level to help these issues.

7) Practicing skating jumps off-ice is not considered true plyometrics.  Correct plyometric exercises include two foot and single leg squat jumps, lateral single leg squat jumps, lateral bounding, and progressions of these exercises.  Attention should be made to technique, development of correct biomechanics and movement patterns, and power development.