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Plyometric Drills to Help You Make the Big Play


Football movements require explosive hips, cutting ability, and transitioning quickly between acceleration and deceleration. Plyometrics are designed to work all of these areas. These dynamic exercises—up and down, side to side, and twisting back and forth—link strength and speed and activate your body’s central nervous system, stimulating the fast-twitch muscle fibers so that you can generate force as quickly and efficiently as needed. Movements include jumps, hops, and bounds in various planes of movement and of various speeds and loads.

Plyos are classified as jumps, bounds, or hops:

  • Jumps are a 2-leg take off followed by a 2-leg landing
  • Bounds are a 1-leg take off followed by the opposite 1-leg landing
  • Hops are a 1-leg take off followed by the same 1-leg or 2-leg landing

Plyos enhance power, but they’re also one of the greatest protectors a football player can have. Elasticity helps you withstand the rapid loads and lengthening of muscle tissue that happens on every stride and play of your sport. When a wide receiver goes up high for a catch with his limbs swinging and rolling and doesn’t get hurt, he can thank the elastic system.

The body’s ability to feel the rate of stretch, store the energy, and return it to the starting point is the saving grace. The next time you watch an athlete struck in football, consider how much outside force is applied to that system and how the body absorbs that force. That’s all because of the elastic system. Elasticity gives football players a set of involuntary brakes and deceleration mechanisms to withstand these high and rapid stretch loads so that the body doesn’t disassemble. “Football is all about accepting and reproducing force,” says Brett Bartholomew, a performance specialist who works with NFL veterans at Athletes’ Performance. “Plyometrics train the athlete to be extremely dynamic.”

Here are four plyometric movements that are especially valuable for football players looking to make the big play:

Hurdle Hop – Linear Stabilization

This movement greatly reduces the risk of injury to your hips, knees, and ankles. “Linear hurdle hopping translates into acceleration,” says Nick Winkelman, director of methodology at Athletes' Performance. “It also produces strength and power, underpinning all of the explosive movements you make on the field.”

Box Blast – Alternating Continuous

This drill, in which you jump vertically by throwing your arms and exploding through your front leg, extending the hip, knee, and ankle, is an effective drill for improving vertical leap and overall single-leg power.

3 Hurdle Drill – Continuous

This helps you work on getting in and out of cuts more efficiently. This is especially effective for linemen, who have to go laterally quickly and then decelerate. You’re keeping the feet apart, applying force into the ground, and then slowing yourself down—just as you do on the field.

45 Degree Bound

This movement, in which you load your hips and arms, bound at a 45-degree angle, and land on the opposite foot, with your toes pointed straight ahead, is especially valuable. “Going from one foot to the opposite foot mimics the cutting action of football,” Bartholomew says. “It’s even better than a lateral bound because you’re constantly moving up or down the field, whether you’re a defensive player in pursuit or an offensive play getting ready to cut and redirect.”

With ploymetrics and football, it’s important to place a greater emphasis on plyos during preseason conditioning and focus less on plyos during the season. “You’re already doing so much in season and adding more can add to soft tissue injury,” Bartholomew says. “It’s important that in-season plyometrics be reduced so you don’t add stress to strain.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Plyometrics, Power, Speed, Football, Sports Performance