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
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