Plyometric exercises are intense, explosive movements that condition your entire body, improve your agility, and strengthen your overall muscle-power. They do so by incorporating eccentric muscle movements, which are movements that force our muscle fibres to lengthen as they contract. Eccentric muscle movements have been found to result in greater muscle strength and conditioning than opposing forms of muscle movements, such as the more common concentric muscle movements.
The demands of plyometric exercises help us activate our fast-twitch muscle fibres, which is one component of this training that sets it apart from others. Fast twitch muscle fibres give you the ability to perform agile, explosive movements, yet are much more difficult to activate than slow twitch muscle fibres. These muscle fibres can only be activated in one of three ways: 1) while working in your maximum performance threshold; 2) through electrical stimulation; and 3) through patterns of high intensity bursts of exercise, such as plyometrics.
The intensive effort required to perform plyometric exercises helps us enter a performance threshold that allows our body to activate our fast-twitch muscle fibres, and in turn increase the speed and power of our movements. It is crucial we ensure that we are performing our movements with extreme intensity in order to successfully activate these muscle fibres. This is why a general rule of thumb to follow while performing plyometric movements is that quality is far more important than quantity.
Proper activation of both our fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibres are important to reach an overall, well-rounded level of fitness. Activating only one form of muscle fibre more often than the other limits our athletic performance capabilities. This is because our fast and slow twitch muscle fibres help us to perform different exercises. While slow twitch muscle aid in our endurance, fast twitch help us perform short bursts of exercise. Over-activation of only one type of muscle fibre is evident when an athlete is able to run a marathon successfully, yet fails to perform basic agility movements.
Eccentric muscle contraction and fast-twitch muscle fibre activation are two components that set plyometric training apart from other forms of training. The intensive nature of plyometric exercise may look a little intimidating at first, but its’ numerous benefits prove that sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone really is worth it.
Plyometric Movements You Can Try:
By Julia Solimine