Shock Method Plyometric Training For Elite Athleticism
If you're an athlete and aren't incorporating plyometrics, you're missing out on some serious gains in your athletic performance. But let's back up, what are plyometrics?
Plyometrics are not what you normally are accustomed to seeing-some goofball in a weighted vest doing a way-too-slow box jump. No, plyometrics-done right-are something else entirely.
Plyometrics is a type of exercise designed to produce powerful, fast movements to improve functions of the nervous system for sport performance. The proper way to perform plyometrics is referred to as Shock Method Plyometrics, a term coined by Russian Scientist and athletic coach, Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky. His work demonstrated that this produces the largest yield in power for sport.
Under the hood, Shock Method plyometrics are about training a specific response in the relationship between the involuntary nervous and musculoskeletal systems. This relates to a series of muscle/tendon action sequencing that's coordinated by the nervous system. This is achieved by the stretch reflex (myotatic reflex) that transpires in the muscle-tendon complex of skeletal muscles. The stretch reflex refers to muscular contractions in response to a lengthening (or stretching) within the muscle just prior. This provides automatic regulating of skeletal muscle length.
When the muscle is stretched in the immediate action, the muscle spindle lengthens and its nerve activity heightens. Increased neuron activity causes muscle fibers to contract, which resists the stretch. Another set of neurons causes the opposing muscle (antagonist) to relax.
In a nutshell, in an attempt to prevent the muscle from tearing due to excess stretching, a successive powerful contraction occurs automatically that causes muscle fibers to shorten. Check out the video below for an example:
Watch how easily he relaxes before he contracts. Now contrast this to a commonly-seen plyometric movement:
No, this isn't an attempt to hate on CrossFit-I like CrossFit. But look at how the arms seemed disconnected from the legs-like they aren't communicating. He seems to hold tension in his antagonist muscles (from years of weight training without training the relax/contract sporting movements) which is de-programming his athleticism and is akin to driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes. Now CrossFit is a sport that necessitates maximal weight training beyond a certain point, so in his case, this probably isn't a huge deal. But if he's competitive, even CrossFitters are missing out on some performance by ignoring the athletic qualities that we can train. That said, if he was a team sports athlete, his ceiling for 'athleticism' would be limited by this phenomenon. The best athletes have a keen ability to relax.
Now, refer back to the original video. Once the feet make ground contact, a rapid muscle/tendon lengthening movement (fast eccentric movement) takes place. This is followed by a very brief resting phase (fast amortization phase) and the conclusion is an explosive muscle shortening phase (fast concentric movement) occurs to allow the athlete to jump high.
Plyometric machines are key. Combining this with the neuwave (neufit) system to repattern the brain and nervous system for repatterning muscle firing sequences without external joint load.
Elastic energy is stored in the tendons and released during this rapid change-over. According to Verkoshansky, maximal force occurs during this change-over-the eccentric-concentric flip during plyometric movements. If you're going to train plyometrics as an athlete, you NEED to focus on making this change-over occur in the shortest amount of time. When you do this, you enable thermal energy stored in the muscle/tendon complex gets maintained in the muscle and converted to kinetic energy during the explosive concentric phase of the movement.
This trains a critical quality of athleticism, known as rate of force development (R.F.D.). Whereas maximal strength refers to the maximal amount of force that can be exerted in an unlimited amount of time (i.e. powerlifting), emphasizing this alone does not translate to most sports wherein there is a cap on the time to perform movements. In fact, most sports are won and lost on fractions of seconds. Explosive strength refers to the ability to maximally exert force in the shortest amount of time. This is what we are trying to train when we train with Shock Method plyometrics.
Let's revisit and once again surf the strength curve. Performance in various sports is based on different displays of strength. No one is going to say that a powerlifter cannot generate a massive amount of force, but they do so in much more time than, say, a basketball player generating force in an explosive movement. A powerlifter generates peak explosive strength by delivering a large force at a slower velocity (slower RFD), but the basketball player generates less force at a much faster velocity (faster RFD). Explosive strength is contingent upon both velocity and force and you can train both. This is why a mix of the proper strength training and plyometric training is key.
At XIIAM Labs, athletes are not just trained in plyometrics, but reactive plyometrics to simulate sport situations. The plyometric machines also help train athletes to address both the force and velocity in the ratio applicable to their sport and position. Athletes have to both move a target load, do so rapidly, as well as from an anatomical power position relevant to their sport. This addresses both the resistance and plyometric qualities needed. We can use body weight-loaded plyometrics to get athletes used to moving their own body weight in space and time, as well as use the plyometric machines to train the nervous system to move faster than it would be able to with external joint load (isokinetic training).
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