Many athletes use plyometric exercises but are they being coached correctly and do the activities relate to the needs of their event?

As coaches we can often just let our athletes get on with plyometrics, thinking they will do them properly. But turn your back and you’ll often find them chatting and not doing the exercises in a way that will really benefit performance. Here’s a checklist to utilise when “coaching” plyos.

1. Make sure the athlete knows what the exercise is.

So many times I’ve said single leg and they do double leg jumps. (Perhaps they don’t listen!). Degree of knee bend is another crucial point – of which more below.

2. Focus on the degree of knee bend.

Invariably this should be minimal and there should not be undue preparation for the ground contact. We want the athlete to react to the contact and not delay and then react to power up and forwards, for example (this way the plyometric stretch/reflex is optimised).

3. Invariably ankles should be stiff on contact with the ground.

They should then be pulled up to facilitate the reaction and create greater stiffness (known as pre-tension).

4. The arms should aid transition/transitions.

The action may need to be coached and varied in relation to the specifics of the event. That is, single arm for long jump and double arm for high jump/ triple jump.

5. Mix up plyometrics.

Do single, double and multiple ground contact combinations – but really think which type will benefit the athlete in terms of the specifics of their event.

6. The athletes must be in the zone.

They should “want to move quickly and powerfully” – failure to be in this frame of mind will result in sub-maximal performance and therefore much reduced event transference.

7. Emphasise speed of movement.

Specifically the stretch/reflex over height or distance gained.

8. Don’t give all athletes the same exercises.

Think which may be more beneficial to some and not to others. Long jumpers, for example, may not benefit as directly from multiple bounds compared to a triple jumper, while a sprinter may benefit from speed bounds performed from standing. A high jumper would benefit from more jumps with a vertical displacement.

Consider that take-off and running drills are very much plyometric exercises, so consider the above points too when coaching/monitoring these activities.

Tip: use single and double foot near straight leg plyometric drills (partial hops and bounds) which emphasise the natural elastic “bounce” of the legs. These exercises transfer power and leg stiffness nicely into running and jumping and other plyometrics where greater knee bend is required. Instruct the athlete to “bounce” on stiff legs.