May 13, 2002

Plyometrics: Yes or No?

 "Bright is the ring of words when the right man rings them." -Robert Louis Stevenson

Plyometrics is a topic that we are finally going to address. Many of our readers have asked about the use of plyometric jumps as part of their strength and conditioning program. The use of plyometrics ranges from activities such as running, box jumps, jump rope and all its varieties.

We have been around coaches who have their athletes do high impact plyometrics in hopes that it will increase their explosiveness. As with Olympic lifting we have found that the majority of the coaches that implement plyometrics often in the form of depth jumps or running stairs often find their athletes complain of joint pain in the ankles, feet, and knees.

Over the weekend we were e-mailed by a very angry reader who declined to sign his name. He pointed us in the direction of a June 19, 2001 Football Weekly Article and asked if we would comment on it.

The article gives an example of how a recent NFL player transformed himself into a great athlete through plyometric strength training.
"Rather than perform a standard bench press, [this coach] teaches athletes to explode through the movement, release the bar from their hands at the top of the lift, drop their hands to their chests, catch and explode back into the bar as fast as possible. [The coach] keeps his hands ready at all times, watching athletes to make sure they catch the bar."

We are glad that the coach is there to supervise the safety of his athlete as we believe that is number 1. However, we identify something wrong with this technique (If you do not agree with us... thats O.K.... leave it be.... but you asked....) While the arms are coming down rapidly and when the bar is thrown up in the air the tension is taken off the muscle which is something we try to avoid in our program.

Can an athlete succeed without these types of activities in their program? Definitely so. Why do coaches feel they need to implement high impact plyos in some form?

Most Olympic lifting athletes do plyometrics such as box jumps, hurdle hops because they believe in quick, ballistic movements in training as in their plyometric lifting. There are even many non-Olympic lifting athletes that do plyometrics that are usually low impact.

We have witnessed stress fractures, breaks, sprains in these athletes even if the frequency is twice per week. All types of athletes get injured doing plyometrics but usually the heavier athletes have more problems with ankle and knee injuries for obvious reasons.

We have trained one such athlete the past three years. He is a shot and discus athlete. He trained using slow controlled movements, never performing an Olympic lift in his life. He started out strength training in the winter of his freshman year in high school. His gains in strength developed explosiveness and became one of the best shot putters in the state. He received a scholarship and went to a non-Olympic lifting school which we were thankful. He has been training there for nearly a year now and has continued making strength gains.

His coach also made him do high impact plyometrics unfortunately. He complains of pain in his ankles and feet now after doing these jumps the past year. It has affected his throwing and is not making the progress he expected or should be making. What is to blame for this?

We believe plyometrics is to blame. Coaches, Open your eyes to the injuries you are creating by having your athletes perform high impact plyometrics. Don’t tell us you do them less frequently to avoid injuries. Don’t do them at all. We owe it to our athletes to provide a SAFE program.

  • Strength coach, Jim Kleibaso, writes in, “Plyometrics: My Story,” “Not only is [plyometrics] not necessary, it can actually be dangerous.”

  • Dave Walmsley in his article, “Plyometrics? No way!” states, “It is THE most dangerous form of exercise that you can undertake and my advice is don’t do them.”

  • Ken Hutchins in “Plyometrics: The Bane of the Exercise Community” writes, “There will be countless numbers of injuries from the ballistic practices of isokinetics, plyometrics, explosive maneuvers, and so-called power training. Many-practically all- of these injuries will go unreported, unacknowledged, and/or shrugged off.”

  • In an article “The Controversy Continues,” from Sports Medicine , Dr. Fred Hahn writes, “Recommending plyometrics for any reason is nothing less than insanity! Plyometrics are extremely dangerous and violate motor learning principles. If plyometrics belong anywhere it is inside a circus big top. It has no place in anyone’s exercise program.” agrees with Ken Hutchins that many coaches just shrug off the injuries that are occurring and that is just not right. Isn’t it one of the goals of training to prevent injuries and not to create them? Athletes get hurt enough in competition alone. What good is an injured athlete to any program?

Our athletes trust that we will train them in the safest, most productive way. Do not let them down! We would like to hear some of your comments on the topic of plyometrics or maybe some stories that you know of about the injuries that they cause.

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***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***