Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Plyometrics for Baseball

Over the years plyometrics have been named many different things from reactive training, explosive training, to neuromotor reactive training. No matter the name the priciples are the same if it is truly plyometrics, and for the sake of argument we will continue to use plyometrics for this specific training style in this blog. So the question is what is plyometrics?
One of the best explanations I have found explains plyometrics as: the ballistic actions which exploit the stretch-shortening cycle; exercises aimed at improving elastic/ reactive qualities of strength.(Radcliffe) These type of exercises should enable the athlete to achieve maximal rates of force development and increase muscle stiffness regulation in short periods of time.
What is the stretch-shortening cycle? It is the synergistic coupling of the eccentric and concentric actions of the muscle when rapid deceleration of the bodies mass is accompanied by the amortization (pause between changes of directions) and acceleration of the bodies mass in the opposite direction at maximal effort. For training purposes it is broken down into 4 parts or phases, the eccentric action, the amortization phase, the concentric phase and the distinguishing part of plyometrics the maximal effort and speed of the concentric phase. I put great importance on the maximal effort and speed during the concentric phase because without it the training becomes less effective as plyometric. Every exercise an athlete performs has the first 3 phases in some form, but the 4th quality makes the difference. Let me give you and example; I have heard many people call an exercise like jumping rope plyometric, but does it meet the criteria just set forth. No because it does not require maximal effort on the concentric phase as well as the eccentric demands are low in most cases. This does not require the body to recruit nueromuscularly in a maximal explosive manner, and so a plyometric exercise it is not.
In application for baseball I encourage coaches and trainers to see that every exercise can be plyometric if the 4 phases or qualities are met. This type of training should be very high intensity and so planning appropriate times for this training are very important to the baseball player’s performance. In most cases higher volumes of plyometirc training are saved for the off-season, but integration of a few exercises in-season can keep the player fast and powerful.

Brian Niswender
Co-Founder BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

1 comment:

  1. Interesting discussion... The most important phases to focus on for performance are clearly the concentric and effort-speed component. The faster the amortization phase, the less energy is wasted... From an injury prevention standpoint, the eccentric phase and landing (stabilization) components are often overlooked. Plyo's can be defined as quality work, not quantity work... Performing plyometrics in a fatigue state, as a conditioning exercise, will do little for maximal speed or power (like running a mile to get better at a 100m dash). Recovery is vital with high intensity activities like plyos. We use lower body plyos a great deal with professional players at Minor League parks where a weightroom is not available. Squat jumps, long jumps, split jumps, skater bounds, and medicine ball throws are ideal for field circuit work for pitchers or position players.