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Building Back Athleticism Part 1

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Use Box Jumps to Start Your Plyometric Workout | Muscle & Fitness

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A lot of people think that just because they do not actively participate in a sport, they do not need to train any sort of athletic ability. However, I think that everyone should add some sort of athletic qualities to their training. These athletic qualities can help provide a new training stimulus, provide some variety in movements and muscle function, connective tissue health, and may make training a little more fun. There are many qualities of being athletic, however, for this post we are going to be focusing on the following.

  1. Jumping

  2. Plyometrics

  3. Throwing

In the following sections, I am going to let you know some simple ways for you to add each of these elements into your training.


Jumping


Jumping is a great way for any body to train lower body power. The ability to produce power often declines rapidly with age so it wise to keep some element of it in your program. To successfully get back into jumping, it is wise to take it piece by piece, and work on each individual part of the jump. The deceleration down towards the ground, the re-acceleration to initiate the jump, and then the landing. There are many ways to train each of these. For the downward deceleration, I will typically start people with some sort of snap down or medicine ball floor slam. Both of which require the person to rapidly create tension and stiffness within their whole body to decelerate and stop the downward movement.


For the re-acceleration up into the air, a seated box jump can help people focus solely on generating lower body power to propel themselves up. Finally, to work on the landing, landing onto a box can train the body to accept the landing forces with less stress on joints such as the knees. To progress this, simply reduce the height of the landing box and then take the landing box away all together. Then, put all the above pieces together and go through following vertical jump progression that goes from vertical jump and stick the landing, repeat vertical jumps, and finally cyclical vertical jumps. This can also be applied to horizontal and single leg jumping as well. When getting back into jumping, start with 2-3 sets of 3-5 jumps, and increase sets over time rather than reps. This will ensure quality of each rep is high.


Plyometrics


Plyometrics are typically defined as a concentric muscle contraction preceded by a rapid eccentric muscle action that results in an increase in force and power production. For the conversation of this article, we are going to separate plyometrics into extensive and intensive plyometrics. Extensive plyometrics are low impact and low intensity, and intensive plyometrics are higher impact and greater intensity.


Think of lower level plyometrics as jumping rope, skipping, and two and single leg hops in a variety of directions and sequences. These are activities emphasize short contact times and a lot of ground contacts. This can be done for a long time for higher number of reps or sets. A good way to add these into your training is to add them into your warm-up, specifically towards the end to ramp up the central nervous system. Jumping rope, skipping, or pogo variations for 10-30 seconds for 2-3 sets can help get some more spring and elasticity in the lower body.


Intensive plyometrics require a little more consideration. These are things such as drop jumps, depth landings and jumps, certain single leg jumps, and continuous hurdle jumps. I would suggest going through a jumping progression like the one described above so that you’re well equipped to handle the stress of higher level plyometrics.


Because height is a big factor on the impact these more intensive plyometrics have, start with small height depth landings, low hurdles, and single leg jumps that are not focusing on maximal height at first but landing with stability and control. In addition, adding an extra short bounce or two before sticking the landing may reduce the landing intensity because it allows for some of forces to be dissipated so that the final landing forces are reduced. Then slowly increase the height of the jump or landing.

Throwing


Throwing is a great tool and activity for athleticism because it allows us to produce power by focusing on velocity rather than brute force. This also allows us to get some new movements which can help us open our movement options. Typically, a medicine ball is your best tool for the throwing activities. Rotational wall throws, floor slams, and chest pass wall throws from various positions such as tall kneeling, ½ kneeling, and split stance are great options to start from. Medicine ball throws are great also for conditioning as you can manipulate the work to rest periods in a variety of ways. In order to throw we need to be able to produce some rotational movements, provide some core and trunk stability, and produce power all in one movement.


I like to incorporate these at the end of a warmup and pair them with some extensive plyometrics. For example, doing a few sets of 10-15 seconds of a skip variation or jump rope then rotational medicine ball throw will prime your nervous system very well for the workout ahead. Also, throws are a lot of fun, especially when you need to let out some frustration.


These are some examples of how you can either reclaim some athleticism or add some athleticism to your training. I will say it is very tough to determine which starting point is best for people. It is also sometimes difficult to know how to progress through these elements of athleticism to keep challenging yourself.


There will be another article covering other components of athleticism such as acceleration, change of direction, and sprinting. So be on the look out for that!

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