Monday, January 16, 2012

Plyometrics and Agility Ladder Drills

Jumping, hopping, running up the stairs two at a time:  these quick, explosive movements are second nature to young children.  By the time I was twenty this sort of exercise seemed like way too much work.  A couple of years ago I decided to work on agility and quickness and discovered that exercise science has a name for this sort of training.  Plyometrics, as it is called, was invented in Russia by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky in the 1950’s as a way to improve power and jumping ability for the track athletes he was coaching.

A plyometric move consists of the rapid stretching of a muscle (eccentric phase) immediately followed by the rapid contraction of that muscle (concentric phase).  The web site gives a clear description of how it works.  Research has shown that plyometric training, even in limited doses, can improve agility and quickness in a variety of activities.  I’ve been using several types of plyometric exercises in my workouts:  jumping jacks as part of the warm-up, hopping onto and off a small stool, and stepping onto and off a taller stool somewhere in the middle of the workout, and exercises with an agility ladder at the end.

An agility ladder is basically is series of slat-like plastic pieces spaced at regular intervals along two pieces of tape.  When laid flat, it can be used for a variety of drills including jumping and hopping routines, such as hopscotch, and stepping exercises that resemble dance steps.  I never was much good at learning dance steps and I suspect that the stepping routines are probably using an underdeveloped part of my brain, as well as helping my coordination and balance.  There are lots of good agility ladder drills on the Internet: has some here:  There is also an excellent book devoted to both plyo and agility work, Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness by Brown, Ferrigno, and Santana, which comes with a DVD demonstrating some of the exercises.

I’m not a real athlete and probably never will be, but I think that better agility and quickness can benefit me when I’m walking around, driving, and doing other everyday activities.  It also seems to help me move with more confidence.  Stepping exercises can be fun once you get over the initial, tripping-over-your-own-feet phase; plyometric routines are just plain hard work.  I recently watched the Plyometrics DVD that is part of Tony Horton’s extreme fitness program P90X.  The DVD features Tony, then 45, in the gym with three younger, very fit people.  Three-quarters of the way through all four of them are sweating and panting.  If it’s hard for them, it’s hard for everybody!

No comments :

Post a Comment