Plyometric Training Zone!

Plyometric Training – Part II
Jump Higher for Basketball Season

by Juan Carlos Santana, MEd, CSCS

In the Plyometric I article we discussed the basic premise of plyometric training. We outlined the basic physiology of plyometrics and also drew a distinction between general power training and true plyometric training. This article will describe a basic plyometric program with an emphasis on basketball lower body power in order to jump higher.

Remember this program is a general example of a simple progression. Plyometric training is very individual and must be tailored to the specific athlete it is intended for. Every athlete has different concerns and needs. Additionally, injury can result from the incorrect use of plyometrics. Therefore, make sure you seek the advice of a professional who is trained and experienced in this method of training before you embark on a serious plyometric routine.

First, let’s describe some program considerations.

As discussed in previous articles, the principle of specificity must govern the training regimen. Thus, the exercises selected for this program simulate basketball movements in speed, biomechanics and resistance.

Safety and proper progression must be at the forefront of the program. It is better to under-prescribe then to over-prescribe. Advanced exercises must be reserved for only advanced athletes. Beginners always want to progress faster than they are capable of. It is the coach’s job to explain, and insist on, proper progression.

Although beginning plyometric programs may be performed by most people, to participate safely in an aggressive plyometric program many authors suggest that the athlete should be able to squat 1.5 times body weight. Therefore, a considerable strength base becomes imperative when embarking on a challenging plyometric program like the one we will discuss. For most athletes, 8-12 weeks of periodized, resistance training should be sufficient to bring strength levels to adequate levels.

A proper warm up and cool down can not be emphasized enough. The warm-up must proceed from general (e.g. jogging or skipping rope) to specific preparatory exercises (e.g. dynamic stretches similar to exercises being performed). The cool down should focus on flexibility via static stretches and allow the gradual return to a pre-exercises state.

The correct dose of stimuli must be provided. High intensity must dominate the plyometric training session. Quality, not quantity, is the cornerstone of plyometric training – all exercises are to be performed at 95-100% effort. However, there must be a balanced relationship between stress and recovery. Insufficient recovery is the most common cause of injury in plyometrics. Generally 1-3 minutes between sets and 3-5 minutes between exercises is sufficient recovery within a single training session. Recovery between sessions becomes more complex due to the many variables to consider (e.g. practice schedules, strength training volume, level of athletic development, etc.). It is here where the experience of a trained professional becomes paramount.

Finally, Individual program design must be part of the final process. Although a general program can be designed for a team. The coach must “tweak” each program to deal with the specifics of the individual athlete. Adjustments to fit the athlete’s characteristics are always made. Because of individual variations, cookie-cutter plyometric programs are a sure way to hurt athletes. Medical history, training age, muscle imbalances, sport and position played are some of the variables that will dictate the specific design of the program.

To organize the voluminous plyometric training information, several authors have described various categories of plyometric exercises. However, for the sake for simplicity we will restrict our discussion to the three major categories of lower body plyometric exercises. The three basic categories of lower body plyometric exercises are jumps, hops and bounds.

Jumps are exercises where you land with both feet (e.g. long jump). The take off can be performed with one foot or two feet. Jumps can be done in place (e.g. jumping jacks) or for distance (e.g. multiple long jumps). Hops are exercises where you take off one foot and land on the same foot (e.g. single leg hopping). Hops can also be done in place (e.g. stationary single leg ankle hops) or for distance (e.g. multiple single leg hops). Since hops are a single leg exercise, they require much more strength than jumps. Bounding exercises are exercises where one takes off on one foot and lands on the other foot (e.g. alternate leg bounding). Bounds are usually done for distance. Bounds can be the most challenging of the plyometric exercises. However, there is over lap between the categories. For example, a very advance jump exercise can be more demanding than a beginning bound exercise.

Now let’s get to the program. I have used the structure of the 12-week plyometric routine illustrated here very successfully with high school and college level athletes. Keep in mind that to assure the appropriate strength base; 8-12 weeks of resistance training would precede this program. The weekly chart includes the number of sets and reps (depicted as foot contacts). I have also included some figures to help with the identification of the exercises.

This routine can be performed during the pre-season, 2 times per week in conjunction with a 2-3-day/week resistance-training program emphasizing functional strength and power conversion. Once season begins, cutting down to once per week may be indicated. This would depend on athlete’s physiological development, resistance training and competition schedule.

The progression allows a two-week block to adapt to each exercise. As the complexity and intensity of the drills increase, there is a corresponding decrease in volume. This allows, and encourages, higher efforts to be put forth in each repetition. As mentioned before, this increase in intensity is essential for optimal power development.

Remember that this program is for illustrative purposes only. It is not meant to be a prescription for you, or any other person.  If you are interested in safely participating in a plyometric program, take the time to consult a professional. The knees and ankles you save could be your own!

The last article in this series, Plyometrics III, discusses an upper body plyometric program designed to develop upper body explosive power. Until then, train hard and train smart!

Illustrative 12 Week Plyometric Program for Basketball

Sets Foot Contacts
Week 1-2
Ankle jumps (Stiff leg, fast ankle action, on balls of feet) 3 12
Vertical jumps (Go for repeated, fast rebounds under rim) 3 10
Front obstacle jumps (jump multiple cones or hurdles) 3 10
Lateral obstacle jumps (jumps sideways over multiple cones or hurdles) 3 10
12 126
Week 3-4 
Ankle jumps (Increase air time) 4 10
Vertical jumps (Increase airtime and speed between jumps) 3 8
Front obstacle jumps (Increase distance between obstacles) 4 8
Lateral obstacle jumps (Increase distance between obstacles) 3 8
14 120
Week 5-6 
Power skipping (Exaggerated skipping with powerful leg thrusts - distance) 3 12
Repeated tuck jumps (Jump and tuck knees high and feet under butt- height) 3 8
Multiple long jumps (For distance and height) 3 8
Lateral obstacle jumps (Increase distance between obstacles) 4 8
13 116
Week 7-8 
Power skipping (Increase distance covered per skip) 4 10
Repeated tuck jumps (Increase height – lots of air time) 4 6
Multiple long jumps (Increase distance and height) 4 6
Diagonal obstacle jumps (Zigzag jumps over low bench/row of cones) 4 6
16 112
Week 9-10 
Alternate Leg bounding (Exaggerated running –go for distance between steps) 4 8
Single leg hops (Repeated hops on one leg for distance) 4 6
Squat jumps (Increase height of jump) 3 6
Fronto bstacle jumps and sprints (add a 15-20 yrd. sprint after jumps) 3 6
Diagonal obstacle jumps and sprints (add a 15-20 yrd. sprint after jumps) 3 6
17 110
Week 10-12 
Alternate Leg bounding (Increase distance between steps) 3 8
Single leg hops (Increase total distance) 3 6
Squat jumps (Increase height of jump) 3 6
Lateral obstacle jumps and sprints (add a 15-20 yrd. sprint after jumps) 2 8
Front obstacle jumps and sprints (Increase intensity of jumps and sprints) 2 8
Diagonal obstacle jumps and sprints (Increase intensity of jumps and sprints) 2 8
15 108