Like a rubber band being pulled back, when tendons or muscles are stretched, there is elastic energy stored inside tendons. When the muscle and connective tissue is stretched and immediately contracted, like in a quick change of direction or jumping, the contraction is stronger. This is known as the stretch reflex or stretch shortening cycle.
As a youth athlete, it is important to spend time developing the ligaments to prevent injury and improve the potential elastic energy stored. Properly progressed, preparing the body to absorb and create force develops general strength and can be done with sleds, weight training, and through jumping. However, progressing too quickly, or doing too much too soon can be dangerous. Follow these simple guidelines to help the athlete progress:
Learn to properly land. Jim Wendler simplified this by saying “If you were training a ski jumper, would you teach them to jump or land first?” Put this way, the answer is obvious, but the step is often skipped. In short, land with your feet straight, knees track over the toes, and keep the chest tall.
Learn to extend hips. Jump from the knees and land on your feet.
Learn to jump off of two feet. Do low level repetitive jumps off of two feet to build coordination. Jump rope, pogo hops, lateral jumps, dot drills, squat jumps.
Learn to jump off of one foot. Skip in all directions, single leg jump rope, hop and stick landing, low level lateral bounds.
These things should be pretty basic, but the truth is that early in an athletes development, the time spent on honing the basics will pay off and prevent injuries when learning more advanced plyometrics.
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