Plyometrics leaps into mainstream but experts urge caution

By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Once the reserve of professional athletes, fitness experts say plyometrics has leaped into the mainstream thanks mainly to the explosive popularity of jump-filled workouts such as high-intensity interval training, CrossFit, and boot camp classes.

But the system, also called jump training, is not without its perils, especially for the everyday exerciser.

In his new book Donald A. Chu aims to guide coaches, trainers, athletes and others safely and progressively through the high-risk, high-reward regimen.

"This is the CrossFit crowd," said Chu, who co-wrote "Plyometrics" with Dr. Gregory Myers, the senior research adviser to the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention in Massachusetts, referring to fans of the high intensity, constantly varied workout craze.

"They're the younger population who want to expend a lot of energy to accomplish high-end goals," he explained.

Plyometrics, Chu said, is designed to develop explosive strength in a muscle.

"It's one thing to be strong, another to be explosive," said Chu.

Plyometrics is any exercise in which muscles are repeatedly and rapidly stretched and then contracted, from jumping high off the ground to doing push-ups with a clap between each. Playing catch with a medicine ball is plyometrics, along with skipping, bounding and jumping.

"Plyometrics teaches the muscle to react faster. You develop more power because the faster a muscle can contract, the more powerful it becomes," said Chu, the director of Athercare Fitness and Rehabilitation in the San Francisco Bay area.

He said research shows that plyometrics improves strength, endurance and speed.

"It absolutely ups your game. It's long been part of training for accomplished athletes and sports," said Chu, whose book suggests sports-specific programs for tennis, baseball and volleyball, track and field, and even swimming.

"Plyometric programs have been found to go a long way towards developing the younger athlete," he said, but it doesn't get much attention in endurance activities.

"But if someone wants to surge in a marathon race plyometrics will help them," he said.

Chu stresses that with plyometrics proper training is progressive and the right instruction is crucial. Most injuries, he added, occur when people try these things without supervision.

Dr. Mark Kelly, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise said that while plyometric training is important for athletes, especially those who engage in stop-and-start sports like basketball and tennis, it is not something for everyone to jump into.

"It can be hard on the tendons," Kelly said, referring to the tissue attaching muscle to bone. "Tendon elasticity goes down with age and tendons get injured more as you get older."

He recommends that even the well-trained athlete limit plyometric drills to twice a week.

Correctly and sparingly is the only way Connecticut-based fitness coach Tom Holland believes people should do plyometric jumps, squats and lunges.

"Plyometrics is beneficial but high risk," said Holland, author of "The 12-Week Triathlete," adding that exercisers should not attempt the jumps until they can squat their own body weight.

"The ability to land safely takes time. You need to get strong first," he said.

For the soccer-playing college woman, Holland said, doing a lot of plyometric moves like jumping over cones, skipping and ladder-hopping on ground works to slowly train the neuromuscular system.

"But for the average person whose goal is weight loss, I'm not recommending it," he said. "For the weekend warrior, maybe I'd do it once a week for five minutes at low intensity."

But not every day.

"Most responsible coaches with tell you that for every hard workout, you need two days to recover," he said. "But it's hard to sell moderation."

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Richard Chang)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »