What Happened to Plyos?

Plyometric training… at one time all the rage, now seems relegated to the shelf. Athletes jump onto boxes, but don’t jump off of boxes. Injury concerns have relegated plyo routines into the “excessively risky” category. Why?

I saw one major NCAA D1 football program at one time had 24 athletes miss practice one day in fall camp, all because of nagging soft tissue and connective tissue injuries. Only a couple were season ending, but the others debilitating none the less. This is becoming the norm in training camps and inseason in many sports. Why?

Identifying the Problem

Picture yourself as an athlete and put yourself in this scenario. You train regularly, lifting weights on a regular basis. Maybe you also regularly participate in fitness based running workouts or circuit training. Then suddenly, coach adds maximal velocity sprinting and plyometrics to the program.

The next day you are so sore you can hardly move.

You ask… “How can this be? I thought I was in shape”.

Coach says… “It’s different muscles”

No, actually you only have one set of muscles.

The reason why, is that the sprinting and plyos produce tension levels in the muscle and connective tissues that are higher than those you experience in the weight room and in typical conditioning training. These levels of tension are also reached in competition.


This leads us to two important conclusions.

1.  These tissues have to be trained to accept these levels of tension, and weight and fitness training don’t cut it. Sprinting (not running) and plyometric programs are the only way to reach these tension levels and prepare these athletes for these sports.

2.  Secondly, you’ve been told your whole life, that you become stronger to get faster, when it actually works the other way around as well. Speed and plyo training produce high levels of tension and levels of neural excitement you can’t reach in the weight room. If you aren’t doing speed and plyos, your weight training program is not operating at peak effectiveness regardless of how fancy your set/rep/load schemes are.

Of course anything can be overdone, and plyometric and sprint programs need to be administered correctly with proper, individualized progressions and loads. But we seem to have crossed over into the zone where we are so concerned with injury prevention that athletes are no longer prepared adequately and are at greater injury risk than ever.

We need to jump off of the box… and bounce onto the next box. We need to sprint maximally… regularly. Catching during Olympic weightlifting exercises are no longer in vogue, but is there a better way to prepare an athlete to take multiple hits in a contact sport than having them catch a heavy clean every once in a while?

Just saying.