Lachlan: Absolutely! It's certainly not something that I have magically invented, nor is it ground-breaking. All it is, is a systematic way to take someone through plyometric training safely with the end goal of improved sporting and athletic performance. To me, the plyometric continuum is something that I find works best for my brain - and hopefully it helps other people out.
Essentially it’s a five stage progressive model. The first phase is eccentric absorption, where you’re thinking to absorb the forces of the body. For me, it’s very important to teach the athlete/patient that in order to speed up, you've going to know how to slow down. Examples of training drills in this stage are “tall to short lands” and “altitude lands”.
The next stage is in the continuum is concentric development. So teaching someone how to actually produce force and produce power. So things like a squat jump or a sit to box jump are examples in this stage.
The next stage is called jump integration, and with the jump integration stage we start to tie the first 2 stages of landing and jumping together. In this stage, exercises that would be considered are broad jump or a single hurdle jump.
Then we move into a continuous jump stage, which is the fourth stage of the continuum. So things like a mini-hurdle hop or a continuous hurdle hop are good examples where the athlete/patient not only has to jump and absorb a landing, they have to then produce it again and again.
The last stage in the continuum is called the “shock method”; which I think only a few people have heard about. For me shock method is where you're really creating a highly aggressive jumping and landing, which creates a big impact on the joint and tendons. So things like a depth jump or a single leg three hop for distance are perfect examples of this.
Now, within those five stages there's a thousand different exercises that people can use and add to it. But the idea is to create a system, and you add whatever exercises to that system that suits you and the athlete you’re working with. For example, if you're working with ice hockey versus a track and field athlete, the plyometrics you’re going to do are going to be quite different. For an ice hockey player you'll probably have a lot more lateral plyometric work in there, whereas a 100/200m sprinter, you’ll have more horizontal or vertical plyometric movements in there.
Mick: I love it! It's very sensible. It starts low and increases complexity over time, and for my brain, it works really well too, so thank you! So in regards to where plyometrics should sit within a training session - is there an ideal time? I've been taught that they should sit at the start of the session when you're fresh so you're getting the most out of your neuromuscular system.
Lachlan: Yes and no. For me, you can put plyometrics anywhere you want. Unfortunately it's all contextual, and I think that's everyone's most hated answer. But I've put them in everywhere. Like if you're in grassroots sports, for example, working with under 14s and 15s, where they don't even get to be in the gym – I would start to use exercises in stages 1-3 on the continuum as a movement prep/warmup to their field work.
In saying that though, I would never put plyometrics at the end of a big weights session or a big field session. I think the athletes are just too fatigued, and you wont get any benefit of doing them.
Unfortunately, I know this doesn’t answer your question exactly, but it's going to be very individual. Overall, my opinion would be, everyone should try and get some plyometrics into their week somehow. But realise, that if you can only get little things like Pogo jumps into the training week, that's better than nothing. Don't think, "Oh, I can't get big continuous jumps in” or “I don't have plyometric boxes, so I can’t do plyometrics”. Keep it basic, keep it simple. Even if you do stages 1-3 of the continuum as part of a warm-up, that's much better than doing nothing at all.
Mick: Very good. Thinking ACL injury prevention for a second, rather than the performance benefits of plyometrics, do you see any value of doing landing drills or plyometrics at the end of a training session?
Lachlan: Look, at the end of the day, you’re never going to find research that's so perfect to your scenario that you can just tick it off and say “this is exactly my population and it's proved everything”. There is however research out there that shows skill acquisition under fatigue can improve it. So, for me, I think if you can minimize potential of injury, definitely I think it's massive benefit to it. So when you're talking landings at the end of a session such as “tall to short landings”, I think that'll be fantastic, and I'd have no issues with that. However, if you're doing three-hop for distance at the end of a big session, that's very different, and I would not see the value of doing something like that.
Mick: Nice one. Now I see a lot of injury recurrences soon after someone has returned back to sport; and my gut often tells me that they haven't completed their rehab properly. So in regards to rehab, how important are plyometrics as part of a comprehensive rehab plan?
Lachlan: Very important! I actually believe plyometric training is more effective for injury prevention and rehab than it is actually for performance. And specifically for injury rehabilitation, this is where the plyometric continuum works so well. Take an athlete with anterior knee pain for example. I often get asked this question, "When do you start plyometrics?” and I always respond “the time is now."
Start anything you can, as early as you can. It doesn't have to be a depth jumps. It could be as simple as Pogo jumps or skipping. It could be as simple as explosive calf pushes with a band. Just sitting there and pushing, getting some sort of elastic movement to the lower limb tendons so they get used to being under stretch before they have to produce force again.
I think people sometimes delay plyometrics because they’re worried that they are advanced, and it’s true for the aggressive stage four and five plyometric exercises on the continuum, but on the continuum, you can start at level zero and just introduce them as early as the injury tolerates them. So, for me as soon as the physio says they’re improving and getting stronger, I'm getting them to do something, it can be as simple as pogos. Then we build up skipping, and we continue to build up as their rehabilitation progresses.
Mick: Great, alright last question mate. Can you give some simple advice to anyone out there before commencing a plyometric program?
Lachlan: I think slow cook it. Take it very steady. If it means that you start with one set of two, so be it. You've just got to start somewhere. Because at the end of the day, in 12 weeks time, or in 18 weeks of your program, you want to be better than where you’re at today. By jumping into six sets of ten depth jumps, you’re going to be too sore to do anything consistently and you’re not going to get better.
Basically, I would always prefer to undershoot my first couple of weeks of programming with plyometrics rather than go the other way. Feel like it's easy, and you're dominating because in three to four weeks-time, you’ll be adding and adding to the program, and trust me, you'll find the limit of your ability.
Mick: Nice one Lachy, that's me done mate, so thank you very much for your time, wisdom and expertise!