You may have heard this term used by physical education teachers, athletic trainers, or physical therapists. A plyometric is a type of exercise that lengthens a muscle and then shortens or contracts it rapidly. It usually involves jumping or leaving the ground in some way. Think of it like shooting a rubber band. The further back you pull one end, the farther the band will shoot when released. This is the same concept used when jumping off the ground.
Plyometric drills are a great way to build muscular power in an athlete, but they should be progressed appropriately. The best way to incorporate plyometric training into your exercise program is to first build stability. This means stability in the joint structures as well as stability of the entire body. Balance and coordination fall into this phase as well. Secondly, you must build muscular strength through a large range of motion, for example, full squats and pushups all the way down and up. This way you have enough strength to support the force that is created when jumping off the ground and to absorb the force when landing back on the ground.
Once stability and strength has been established and achieved it is then safe to add power training through plyometric exercises to your training program.
It is essential that before leaving the ground you are able to or know how to stabilize the joints that are being used to get the job done. This will include the stability of the core, which you can achieve by strengthening the musculature of the core. Be aware that when you are moving rapidly, whether you are leaving the ground or not, you want to have the ability to keep the muscles of the core engaged to support the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle. When jumping off using the legs, it's important to be able to stabilize the knee joint.
Individuals that move into a plyometric drill before they are ready usually waggle their knees left and right as they move through the exercise rather than keeping the knee tracking over the big and second toe. This is a knee injury waiting to happen. If you are experiencing this waggle when trying to jump off the ground, do not hesitate to modify the exercise and do either squats, lunges, or some other balance work to learn how to stabilize the knee. For more on drills, please see Chapter 18.
Once the stability and strength has been set in your ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulder girdle it is then time to focus on the muscular strength component.
Since the goal here is to build up toward plyometrics, you should start with resistance training exercises. Once you are comfortable with the movements, you can speed them up as you prepare to take off from the ground. Take a vertical jump for example. You will want to feel as though your squat is solid before adding the takeoff and landing.
Once you have developed a solid squat position with a large range of motion, you can begin to speed up the repetitions of the squat. Control the motion on the way down, then swing the arms up and come up fast by pushing into the ground with your legs. At some point you may just start leaving the ground. Be sure once your feet start leaving the floor that you absorb the landing using your knees and hips. Your landing should not feel jarring on the body at all. If so, go back to the Basic Squat (Chapter 6, page 66) and visualize the downward motion of landing the Vertical Jump 1 (Chapter 6, page 69).
Now for the big bang! Power training is very explosive at its highest levels. Plyometrics are a great way to develop muscular power. This can be done with Squat Jumps, Jump Knee-ups, Jumping Lunges, Lateral Jumps, and many other variations.
Plyometrics can be done with the upper body as well. Bursting off of the ground while performing a pushup is one way that you can work your entire body during a plyometric exercise. Using medicine ball drills, such as throwing the ball forward, up, or any other direction explosively, is another way to develop power in the upper body.
Although plyometrics has been discussed as one way to develop muscular power, it's not the only training modality you may use. Any large, strong motion done at high speed is a form of power training. Take a round kick for example. If it's performed slowly, the amount of force used is minimal. It you take the same kick and increase the speed, you are now increasing the amount of power generated behind that kick. And guess what? You did not even have to jump off the ground.
The same holds true for punches and punch-kick combinations. It's simple physics: the force applied to an object equals the mass of what's being applied multiplied by its acceleration (F=ma). So increasing the speed of a kick or punch increases the force. In Krav Maga training, making punches and kicks fast and strong is key. Having power behind the attacks is quite often an emphasis with Krav Maga practitioners.
This can be done with your feet hip width apart or slightly wider.
With your feet about shoulder width apart, sit your hips back and down while keeping your back straight, as if you were about to sit down in a chair, bending your knees in a squat.
Place your arms down and back behind you.
From the bottom of your squat, swing your arms overhead and push down with your legs, moving your hips forward and up in order to jump off the ground.
After leaving the ground you must land appropriately. Use your hips and knees to absorb the landing. You should land back on the ground with a fluid and light movement. The landing should not feel jarring at all. Your arms should swing back upon landing and upward upon the take off. Try to find a smooth rhythm of legwork and arm swing so that one jump leads into the next in a continuous manner.
The faster you are able to generate large forces moving down into the floor, the higher and more powerful your jump will be. Once you are comfortable with this movement you can emphasize jumping higher, or swinging the arms faster, in order to produce more power by using the momentum of the arm swing. The same jump can be performed without using any arm swing at all. Place your hands on your hips and observe the difference in the height of your jump. Without the arm swing this becomes much more challenging.
SQUAT JUMP #1
SQUAT JUMP #2
Having something in front of you to jump up onto, such as a platform, adds a couple of elements to the exercise. It adds a competitive element either with yourself or with a training partner in that it challenges you to jump higher to get up onto the platform. It also adds a measurable element that makes jumping much more interesting. Maybe your fist platform jump is only eight inches high, but two weeks later you are now jumping onto a platform that is twelve inches high.
Stand in front of a platform, bench, or step (between roughly eight and twenty inches high depending on the desired level of difficulty) that has a stable surface.
Swing your arms down and back while bending at the knees and hips again similar to a squat.
Swing your arms up and burst off the ground, jumping up onto the platform and landing with a light and controlled manner. You may choose to step down in the beginning and repeat the exercise again, or you can jump back to where you started with a smooth and controlled landing.
The progression is to increase the height of the platform as you develop more power. Remember how important the arm swing is for height. If you find you are having trouble jumping up onto a certain height, try using a bigger and faster arm swing. The arm swing tends to be forgotten about when you're focused on jumping onto something that is raised up.
Once you are comfortable with jumping onto the platform, it is time to jump back down. You can do this in two ways. First, jump down while facing forward, again landing in a squat. Once you are comfortable with the height, jump off the platform moving backward, landing in the same spot you took off from.
PLATFORM JUMP #1
PLATFORM JUMP #2
This jump is more about covering distance than about gaining vertical height. Start this exercise in the same way as you would a Squat Jump. However, the takeoff for a Horizontal Jump should be roughly a 45-degree trajectory that shoots up and to your direct front. This means that the angle of pushoff for your legs is going to be different than it would be if you were jumping straight up.
Again, be sure to control your landing. If you are able to jump so far or so high that you cannot control your landing, then you need to back off on your distance goal until you are able to master a safe and proper landing. You won't be able to improve at this exercise if you injure your legs due to being a little too overzealous in the beginning.
High Knee Skip
Think of how you would skip as a child.
Swing the left knee up and simultaneously push off the right leg to jump off the floor.
The right arm swings forward as the left arm swings back.
Land with control on the right leg and step forward, moving right into the other side. Try to continuously alternate right and left with height being the goal rather than distance.
As your knee travels upward, push off the base leg and travel up. Although there is a slight amount of forward travel, the goal here is to go for height. Arm position can be a little tricky with this exercise.
Whatever knee travels upward, the opposite arm swings forward and up. This opposite arm swing is called a cross-extension pattern and is a very functional way to train because it is the pattern humans use to walk or move quickly. Again, be sure to control the landing and try to move from one rep to the next in a smooth and controlled manner.
HIGH KNEE SKIP
Lateral means to move away from the mid-line. So this exercise is done moving right to left in a continuous fashion. Begin by standing with most of your weight supported on your left leg because this is the leg you will be pushing off from. As your right foot moves to your right, your left leg needs to push off the ground to cover distance. Land on your right leg in control.
LATERAL PUSH #1
LATERAL PUSH #2
LATERAL PUSH #3
Remember to absorb the landing by bending at your hips and knees. Keep moving from side to side, each time doing so with a bend and push from your supporting leg. You may find that a slight swing of your arms is helpful in developing a little more power. Your arms will also help stabilize your landing.
The Lateral Push Drill is not meant to develop your speed. So going faster than is necessary or safe is not going to help you improve. Take your time so that you can really develop a nice strong pushoff that can cover an acceptable and challenging distance.
This may also be referred to as Jump Knees Up.
Bend your knees slightly as you would for a Vertical Jump. Swing your arms down and back behind you.
Burst up off the ground while your swing your arms in front of you.
At the higest point of your jump, quickly drive your knees up into a tuck position and then release them to prepare for landing.
Land softly, absorbing the impact of the landing by bending your knees slightly.
The lower body movement is similar to a Vertical Jump, meaning there is not a lot of knee bend before takeoff. For this exercise, use a large arm swing in order to get enough height to bring the knees up quickly at the top of the jumping phase.
The Plyometric Step-up
This can be considered a progression to the High Knee Skip.
1. Stand with a step, bench, or platform in front of you. Step your left foot up onto the platform.
2. As you bring your right knee up, jump off your left leg by pressing down into the leg. The arms move in a crossextension pattern just as in the High Knee Skip.
3. Be sure to come back down with control. The left foot lands on the platform and lowers your weight so the right foot is placed back to the floor.
4. Continue your next rep with the same leg up. As you come down, try not to let too much of your weight shift onto your right leg. To progress this exercise, try to get higher up off the platform with each jump.
PLYOMETRIC STEP-UP #1
PLYOMETRIC STEP-UP #2
Start with you feet hip width part. Bend your knees slightly and do a small jump, landing at the bottom of a Lunge (Chapter 5, page 52).
From the bottom of a Lunge, jump up evenly with both legs, switch your lead leg while in the air, and land in a lunge with your other leg forward.
Upon landing, stabilize the lower body then repeat this lunge on the other side. Try to make this exercise fluid when jumping from one Lunge to the next.
You may find it helpful to swing your arms from one lunge to the next. This can also be done without any arm swing to further challenge your leg power. Try making each repetition fluid and controlled, with soft landings from one jump to the next.
JUMPING LUNGE #1
JUMPING LUNGE #2
JUMPING LUNGE #3
Many people relate plyometrics and jumping to the lower body only. In Krav Maga it's important to be explosive with the lower as well as the upper body in order to deliver strong and explosive punches. Training with upper body plyometrics not only increases your explosiveness, it also helps to prevent injury by preparing the body for making contact while punching.
There are a few variations of Plyometric Pushups. Whatever variation you choose, the concept is the same. The first time you perform this exercise keep your knees on the floor. Once you are comfortable and have built some power in the upper body you may do the exercise on your toes. Keep in mind that it is much more challenging for women to do these exercises on their toes. Be smart about your progressions. Many elite female athletes only do these exercises with their knees on the floor.
Place your hands the same way you would for a pushup.
Move to the bottom of your pushup.
Similar to a Squat Jump, push down with your hands in order to go up.
Push with enough force that your hands leave the floor.
Clap your hands together (or attempt to do so).
Land softly by bending your elbows to bring your chest toward the floor.
Prepare for the next rep.
Continue moving down and up with controlled landings on the arms.
You can also perform this exercise by pushing off the ground and touching your shoulders upon takeoff. Another version is clapping the hands behind the back. One of the most advanced versions is with one hand elevated on a ball and switching hands while in the air. This version is challenging because not only do you have to get more height, but your body has to move in space to switch sides.
PLYOMETRIC PUSH UP #1
PLYOMETRIC PUSH UP #2
When training the muscles of the core or the trunk it's a good idea to train the muscles from both ends. This means that with some exercises you will anchor the lower body and move the upper body, and with other exercises you will anchor the upper body and move the lower body. The following exercises demonstrate each of these types of exercises for strengthening and developing power within the core of your body.
Punches are covered in depth in Chapter 13, but for the purposes of this drill, here are some tips on delivering straight punches:
Stand with enough distance from your target to extend your punch all the way — a little more than one arms length from the target.
Begin in a Fighting Stance (Chapter 13, page 146): face the bag directly; your hands should be at chin height, six to eight inches from the face, with the elbows close to the body to protect the ribs; the feet are shoulder width apart, and if you're right-handed your left foot should be about a step in front of your right foot.
Keep the elbow down as long as possible as the hand travels forward.
As you send the punch, the shoulder and hip rotate forward to add power and reach.
Make contact with the first two knuckles on your punching hand, and rotate the wrist 45 degrees as you make contact.
Return the hand quickly back on the same path it was delivered on.
Alternate hands while doing two, four, six, then eight straight punches. When the emphasis is on developing power, it is important to remember that you want to keep the strength of your punches while making them faster. The idea is to make each punch fast and strong without losing control of the limbs.
Begin in a solid Fighting Stance and start with 2 alternating Straight Punches:a left-right combination.
Now perform 4 alternating Straight Punches: left-right-left-right.
Move on to 6 alternating Straight Punches: left-right-left-right-left-right.
Finish with 8 Straight Punches, leading with the left hand again.
Repeat the cycle starting with two Straight Punches. Be aware of your stance and footwork, and generate power from the ground up.
You can also do this drill with a partner who will call out how many punches you are to perform. Another way of doing it is to cycle through the numbers on your own while working your punches to a heavy bag. Keep in mind that it's very difficult to increase the power of your punches without actually making contact.
Straight kicks are covered in Chapter 14, but here are some tips on delivering straight kicks so you can perform the kick drill:
Swing the rear leg forward with the knee bent.
As the hip of the kicking leg comes forward, the knee extends out and recoils back, placing the foot back in its original fighting stance position.
Make contact with the area of the foot where you would tie your shoes, with your shin, or with the ball of the foot. (In order to make contact with the ball of your foot you need to pull your toes upward to the top of your shoes.)
You want your foot to travel further than the contact point, so try to kick through the target.
Either alternate your kicks from one leg to the other, or perform the number of kicks all on the same side then switch to the other leg. The idea is that once you begin moving into the kicks you do not stop moving until you have finished the allotted number of kicks.
Begin in a solid Fighting Stance and start with 2 alternating Straight Kicks: a left-right combination.
Now perform 4 alternating Straight Kicks: left-right-left, right.
Move on to 6 alternating Straight Kicks: left-right-left-right-left-right.
Finish with 8 Straight Kicks, leading with the left leg again.
Repeat the cycle again starting with 2 Straight Kicks. Be aware of your stance and footwork, and generate power from the ground up.
Again, to develop efficient power you have to combine strength and speed with control. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to developing power in your kicks is that you have to make contact to a heavy bag or pad. If you do not have access to a bag, this drill will not work because you cannot put your weight into your kick properly without making contact.
You may take any combination — whether punches by themselves, kicks by themselves, or the combination of punches and kicks — and focus on strength, speed, or power. Focusing on power is the most efficient way for students to understand how to have strong and solid attacks.
A medicine ball is a great way to work on strengthening the entire body. It can be a very functional tool because many everyday activities require you to pick things up and move them around in space, which is exactly what you do when training with a weighted ball. You have the ability to move the ball in any plane and any direction, you can throw the ball, and you can hold it for added weight within squats or lunges. It is a very versatile tool and adds some fun to your training sessions.
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
Standing firmly on your legs, hold the ball at the height of your chest.
Powerfully throw the ball straight out and away from you either at a partner who is ready to catch the ball or at a wall.
Have your hands out in front of you, ready to catch the ball as it returns to you. As you catch the ball, bring it in toward your chest to absorb the force in a gradual and fluid manner.
Another version of this exercise, which would be considered a progression, is to sit with your feet out in front of you. Place your feet hip width apart and bend your knees at about 90 degrees. Tilt your torso or upper body slightly back to engage your abdominal wall. Holding the ball at your chest, toss it to your partner (who can be sitting the same way) or against a wall. Catch the ball with your hands away from you and bring them in as you catch the ball.
Medicine Ball Squat with Overhead Toss
This exercise also has a couple of variations to choose from.
While holding the medicine ball at the height of your chin, drop down into a Basic Squat.
As you come up, toss the ball straight over your head as high as you can.
Catch the ball with your arms extended away from you.
Bend your arms to bring the ball back to chin level as you bend into your next Squat.
A slight variation of this is to squat down the same way but throw the ball up high against a wall, absorbing the downward force of the ball as you catch it. Keep your eyes on the ball for the duration of the exercise.
Medicine Ball Bounce
This exercise can be done a couple of ways depending on what kind of medicine ball you are using. Not all manufacturers are the same; some balls tend to bounce easier than others, and some don't bounce at all.
Make a small jump and at the same time reach the ball over your head then slam it down as your feet land.
If you have a large ball that does not bounce well, you may have to get your hands under the ball rather quickly in order to catch it.
If you have a ball that does bounce, you can bounce it to a partner, against a wall, or just catch it yourself.
This exercise, when done correctly, strengthens everything from the legs to all the muscles in the truck to the upper body. It combines lunging, rotating, and reaching.
Lunge on the left leg and reach the ball down toward the outside of your left knee.
Push off your left leg as you rotate and reach the ball up to the right.
Drop back into the left leg lunge and repeat.