If you are not familiar with plyometric exercise then let me introduce you to an extremely effective method of resistance training that is especially useful for you as an athlete. It is a great way to add some new spice to your regular workout routine and it will give your muscles additional shock to stimulate new growth, as well as increasing the speed and power of your movements dramatically.
In the traditional resistance training model we tend to associate increased strength with increased power. To create more power all you need to focus on is lifting heavier and heavier weights so that your muscle’s ability to move an object becomes greater and greater. This is very true and basic resistance training should be a staple part of every athlete’s training regimen. But our muscles also have other capabilities that, when trained, lead to creating much more force in our movements.
Our muscles can be thought of as kind of like rubber bands. A rubber band has no ability to stretch itself. Yet when it IS stretched it is able to forcefully contract. Our muscles, like the rubber band, only have the ability to create force as they contract. Take, for example, your bicep and triceps muscles. When you extend your arm your triceps contract. This stretches out your bicep muscle. Now, as you bend your arm back towards your body, your bicep contracts, stretching out your triceps.
If you’ve ever been playing with a rubber band, stretching it out quickly over and over until it snaps, you’ll easily appreciate the fact that our muscles come pre-packaged with a “break” system. As we extend our arms forcefully outwards our bicep muscle will automatically put on the “breaks”, slowing us down enough to ensure that we don’t injure or snap it like we did the rubber band.
Unfortunately for the martial artist who is trying to increase the speed of his or her movement the “breaking system” acts like an over-protective parent who is quick to jump in at the slightest sign of trouble. So the athlete must ADAPT his or her muscles to making explosive and forceful movements. Again, like dealing with an over-protective parent, one must repeatedly familiarize the muscle with operating at faster and faster muscle contraction speeds without injury to the opposing muscle so that the body becomes more and more comfortable with not hitting the breaks as soon as before and instead allowing more and more full speed of the movements.
Studies have proven that those who combine weight training with plyometric training make exceptionally greater gains in speed and power. So I highly recommend to look into plyometric training and begin by adding a couple of exercises to your current exercise routine.
To help you begin, I will share 3 of my favorite plyometric training exercises to get you started:
1. Clapping push-ups:
Just like normal push-ups but as you push yourself up give yourself a good enough shove that you are able to clap your hands together and then catch yourself as you lower yourself down again for another push-up. As your strength increases try doing two claps before landing, or even three. Some people will even clap their hands behind their back, although don’t attempt it unless you’re willing to explain to your coworkers how you faceplanted on the floor.
2. Alternating Power Lunges:
Start in a normal lunge position, one leg in front and one leg behind. Your rear knee should be almost touching the floor. Now jump up and switch feet, landing back in the lunge position with the opposite legs out. Repeat over and over, being sure to squat down each time you land.
3. Side Hops:
This exercise is great for increasing the springiness and lightness of your footwork. Lay something beside you on the floor. It can be something as small as a rope (like your jump-rope) or something larger like a small punching bag. Now jump over it as quickly as you can, going back and forth from one side to the other. Try not to bend your knees too much, using mostly just your calf muscles, although depending on the size of the object you’re jumping over you may have to bend down a little more.
Once you start playing with these and other plyo exercises you’ll find that there are all sorts of ways you can change them and work with them to develop different attributes. Just like with weight training, have fun with the exercises and change them up regularly.