Plyometrics in the Sand

As we continue to dive into the intricacies of plyometrics, we are going to come across a wide variety of scenarios when training the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). One of the most important variables is the surface on which the training takes place! Plyos in the sand highlight certain qualities of the SSC, and play down the effects of others. 

Why would you want to be jumping and landing on a softer surface in the first place? Well, the first benefit is the reduced impact on the joints compared to landing on hard surfaces. If one of the goals of the session is to protect the athlete from the rigors of hard landings, while still accomplishing quality work, plyos in the sand does that. Mirzaei and company looked at muscle soreness and how plyometrics in the sand affected it. Their study mentioned  that the sand work resulted in decreased muscle soreness, which in turn allowed for more work to be accomplished. (Mirzaei, 2014)

But coach Nate! What about the increased time spent in the amortization phase of the SSC, and the subsequent loss of elastic energy stored because of the increased time spent on the ground when stretching the muscle!?? Don’t worry my readers, it all depends on the goal of the session! The SSC in totality is one of the most powerful mechanisms we humans have that allow us to exert extreme amounts of force. If you take away the ability of one component of the SSC, in this case the eccentric component, the concentric component has to do some work to get the same task completed. This is similar to the max strength phase of training. The movement is slower, the benefit of the SSC is blunted, and a greater emphasis is placed in the concentric ability of the muscle. In the same study I referenced earlier, Mirzaei and company also mentioned that a 6 week plyometric program completed in the sand resulted in increased vertical, static, and long jump with increases in maximal strength, and decreased sprint times (Mirzaei, 2014).  All good things right? But, the study was completed on untrained individuals, and many of those adaptations could be accredited to neural adaptation, which increases the efficiency of the body completing the task. 

In my professional opinion, I do not have a problem with plyometric sand training. It is another stimulus you can expose an athlete to that still promotes quality training while protecting the body from hard landing. As long as the reason behind this training is sound, go ahead! If you goal is to focus on decreasing the amortization phase and getting off the ground as quickly as possible, then the sand is not the place to be. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength

Reference

Mirzaei, B., Norasteh, A. A., & Asadi, A. (2013). Neuromuscular adaptations to plyometric training: Depth jump vs. countermovement jump on sand. Sport Sciences for Health, 9(3), 145-149. doi:10.1007/s11332-013-0161-x





Instability Training... Why?

There seems to be an increased popularity in the utilization of unstables surfaces in the weight-room to improve balance, strength,  core strength, and sports performance. Why add another variable to a skilled movement? What does training on an unstable surface enhance, and/or hinder? To what capacity should you incorporate this modality in your own training regimen?

In the rehab setting, when an individual is returning from injury, it is very common for the usage of unstable surfaces to strengthen all muscles associated with the area being rehabbed. Without going too far out of my scope of practice, the unstable surface promotes co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscle groups to stabilize the joint and prevent future injury. 

Once someone is cleared from the rehab setting, the capacity to which someone would use instability training methods vary quite a bit. As I have discussed in previous posts, it all depends on what the goal of your program is! Let's look at two people: 1- a sprinter who has 5+ years training experience, 2- an average person not training for competition with < 5 years training experience. 

The sprinter has one goal in mind, and that is to get from point A to point B faster than everyone else. Peaking for these events require detailed programming in order to get the best out of the athlete at the time of the event. A sprinter needs to the ability to put a high amount of force in the ground in a very short amount of time. To aid in force absorption and redistribution, sprinters have the ability to disinhibit the natural inhibitors of muscle contraction. This is part of the reason why they look so fluid running down the track! This has a lot to do with co-contraction of muscles, sprinters want agonist muscle groups to shorten rapidly while the antagonist muscle groups relax. This increases the range of motion of the movement, allowing more time for force generation, and shortens the amortization phase of the stretch shortening cycle. I say all that because unstable surfaces promote co-contraction, thus fighting the results we are looking for! They also limit force production in one direction, meaning as you put force in to the unstable surface like sand, or a bosu ball, the force is distributed across the platform rather than back into the movement. Training to improve balance focusing on the usage of unstable surfaces for the sprint athlete would not be recommended. 

As an average person looking to improve overall fitness, I see no problem with using instability training as long as it’s performed safely with a purpose. Exercise should be fun for people, and if someone is inclined to use a bosu ball to do push-ups because they like the challenge… why not? Sure, they might be emphasizing efficient strength development, but there isn’t strength competition to prepare for either. Instability training provides a unique challenge, and easy way to track improvement with added variables to the exercise. As long as someone has a general strength foundation, and demonstrates that they can do the movement safely, I say go for it. BUT, you should know what instability training promotes if you are utilizing it in your program. If the goal of your program is to increase maximal power output, and one of your programs pillar’s is the utilization of unstable surfaces… I will shake my head in disappointment. 

People use unstable surfaces to promote balance ability, core development (abs, obliques, erectors, etc), a warm up to “activate” muscle groups before the session, rehabilitation from injury, and sometimes just to show off! These are all true statements, but are there better ways to accomplish these goals? For example, nothing has been shown to better develop core strength than performing standing, total body movement with an external load (LIKE A BACK SQUAT), and that includes the 30 minute crunch class. There is a time and a place for unstable surfaces, and IMO that is in the rehab setting, a warm up, a new challenge for someone not training for a competition, and to only be attempted safely by someone with training experience. 


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Jumping, its Role in Training!

Coach Nate Garcia

Plyometrics is an intense exercise training method. The reason someone trains with plyometric exercises is to improve the “stretch shortening cycle” (SSC) of the muscle system. Similar to the energy stored when stretching a rubber band, when you stretch your muscle energy is stored and if the stretch is followed rapidly by muscle shortening action you are able to use this energy to your movement advantage. Whether you know it or not, the SSC is used throughout your daily motion. One example of your daily utilization of the SSC is the use of your calf musculature when walking. Striking the ground with your heel creates a pre-stretch of the muscles that stores some elastic energy. The energy is released as you propel yourself forward off your toes.


A common example of a plyometric exercise is jumping. Jump training is often looked at as an activity reserved for the sports that primarily involve jumping (such as volleyball or basketball). However, what a lot of people neglect to acknowledge is that jumping relates to numerous activities that people perform, like sprinting. When utilized properly, jumping can be used as an efficient and safe way to improve power and sprint capabilities. However, jumping shouldn’t just be reserved for athlete training. The benefits of having the ability to jump not only means improved athletic ability, it also means improved efficiency with everyday tasks such as: traveling the stairs, preventing a fall, picking up objects from the floor, and running!


Just as with any exercise, in order to see progress in jump ability, you have to properly plan for your goals. Total Performance uses various different jumps in order improve power development. Youth athletes, or those with a small training age, must have their volume of plyometrics closely monitored. A high volume of plyometric training can result in overtraining and ultimately be detrimental . Since jumping is an implication of power, and power is defined as work divided by time, in order to train safely, you need to be strong. Research recommends reserving high volume lower body plyometric training for those who have the ability to squat at least 1.5 x your body weight. If one is unable to accomplish this, it doesn't mean you shouldn’t jump, it just means you need to be extra cautious with your volume of jumps. Advanced athletes have the ability to handle a high volume of plyometric training due to their ability to handle intense training activities. Manipulating jump movements is one way to increase difficulty of the movement. For example; requiring the person to jump and land on one foot, jumping backwards, side to side jumping, and a depth jump from height. There are infinite ways to increase the difficulty of a jump and it all depends on the goal of the training.


What is a “high” and “low” volume of plyometrics? As defined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), lower body plyometrics are measured via contacts. A contact is defined as contact with the ground. So, after one jumps and lands, that contact is counted. Beginner contact volume is recommended to be between 80-100 contacts, intermediate contact volume between 100-120, and advanced between 120-140 contacts. Again, the actual amount of plyometrics you complete all depends on your ability, your training goals, and what other training is being performed with plyometrics.


The volume of plyometrics is one of the several variables that can be manipulated in order to achieve training goals. To be discussed in future posts: what those variables include, how to manipulate those variables, and what those manipulations mean for training goal achievement.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, reach out to Total Performance!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com