Plyometric exercises are specialized, high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power (strength and speed). Plyometric movements use strength and elasticity of muscle tissues to increase the speed or force of muscular contraction; therefore allowing someone to jump higher, move faster, throw harder, or to further improve performance in any particular sport.
A plyometric exercise consists of 2 different phases: the lengthening phase, and the stretch-shortening phase. During the lengthening phase your muscles are "loaded" (like stretching a rubber band) which is immediately followed by a shortening contraction. For example, when doing squats, going from start position to the squat position is considered the lengthening phase. The next phase, the stretch-shortening phase, is considered the plyometric contraction. This is the explosive movement of contracting your muscles. With the example of the squat, this would be considered the movement from the squat position back to the start position, in a brisk, explosive motion. The main purpose is for the muscle to generate a strong and lengthened contraction as quickly as possible.
Examples of Plyometric Exercises
There are thousands of plyometrics exercises for children ranging in intensity. Common activities such as hop-scotch, jumping rope, and even jumping jacks can be classified as plyometric exercise. Regular participation in a plyometric training program may help to strengthen bone and facilitate weight control in children.
Safety of Plyometrics
The American College of Sports Medicine states, “that plyometric training is a safe, beneficial and fun activity for children and adolescents provided that the program is properly designed and supervised."
However, keep in mind that plyometric training for children is much different than that of mature athletes. Young bodies do not have the bone strength or muscular development to perform exercises such as deep jumps and squats. In general terms, the muscles can be used to “explode” upwards or outwards but landings should be soft.
Should you allow your child to participate in plyometric training?
Plyometrics training can be a safe and effective form of conditioning and athletic training for children and adolescents. It is great for children of all ages, shapes, and sizes. If done properly and under the supervision of a qualified coach, your child can participate and excel in this fun filled form of training.
Note: Plyometrics are not a complete exercise program. Instead, this form of exercise should be incorporated into an overall conditioning program that includes strength, aerobic, flexibility, and agility training.
Check out plyometric exercises available for children for further reading.