Should you do plyometrics to build muscle?
Today’s article is by Eric and Ryan Johnson of Sons Of Strength.
Sons of Strength created a program called Freak Muscle earlier this week (which is their first product), I got a chance to check it out and man did these guys overdeliver.
This product is so well put together that I reached out to them for an article so I could share it with you.
Those who don’t jump will never fly.
Plyometrics are a foundational exercise that can improve performance and body composition.
From extremely popular fat loss programs like Shawn T’s Insanity or Tony Horton’s P90 to freaky displays of athleticism, plyometrics are here to stay.
Whether you agree with their implementation and safety or not.
But do plyometrics hold the key to completing the Swole Trinity of strength training goals?
What if this single method could be the answer to performance enhancement, fat loss, and maximal muscle growth?
There is evidence of how the implementation of this method into an athlete’s training can help improve explosiveness, increase power and translate those improvements to their respective sports and playing fields.
And there is no shortage of videos displaying the impressive feats of “hops”. You know those freak of nature jumps of 50+ inches that drop your jaw (and fail videos that make you laugh uncontrollably.)
There is a reason why plyometrics are the primary training tactic in extremely popular fat loss programs due to their large energy requirements that result in maximal caloric expenditure.
But most people forget about the physique changing benefits.
We are here to cross the bridge and answer the question if it is worth it to include plyometrics in a bodybuilding program?
The Mandatory Origin Story of Plyometrics
To expose the truth, we must start at the beginning.
This journey begins in the Siberian Wilderness where Rocky prepared for his fight against Ivan Drago. Well, sort of.
Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky was the Russian scientist who deeply researched plyometric training within an athletic population. His unorthodox methods were used to train Olympian competitors from Soviet Bloc countries; specifically, the track and field athletes.
These individuals who were exposed to plyometric training were absolutely dominant in their competitions for nearly a decade. They broke records and turned the rest of the world’s heads.
Verkoshansky’s methods were partially responsible for their success and lead everyone else to want in on the secret technique.
To many, plyometric training is simply “jump training”. Most automatically think of the box jump videos of crazy heights on YouTube. Admittedly, we shamefully posted one of those videos in the past when Ryan haphazardly hit a 54-inch box jump.
However, plyos and their implementation go much further than that. For one, they are not limited to the lower body.
Instead, it refers to the training technique that utilizes explosive compound movements to produce the maximum force production in the shortest amount of time. These movements are typically performed with only bodyweight or very light loads.
The goal of plyometric training is to improve explosiveness and power through the development of type 2 muscle fibers.
Voila! Direct access to those coveted high-threshold motor units.
Match Made In Heaven?
The skeletal muscle composition within the body is broken down into two fiber types: fast-twitch (type 2) and slow-twitch (type 1)
Slow-twitch muscle fibers are mainly associated with aerobic-based activities that require endurance, such as long distance running.
Their counterparts, fast-twitch muscle fibers, are responsible for anaerobic-based activities that call for strength, speed, and power. Think more of a sprint than a marathon.
Plyometric training has its place in building muscle due to their recruitment of these fast-twitch muscle fibers. It just so happens these fibers are the strongest of the two and the ones you want to focus on when hypertrophy is the goal.
So, there is some validity of plyometric training when it comes to bodybuilding.
However, their implementation into your training must be performed correctly and planned meticulously. Because of their explosive nature, plyometrics have a very high-risk, high-reward.
For that reason, trainees tend to shy away from including them in their workouts. There are also some other faults of plyometrics that make them expendable in a physique-oriented program.
Here’s Where They Fall Short
The Skill Component.
Proprioception and overall athleticism come into play when performing this type of training. Plyometrics require a large enough strength base to be performed safely.
Since they require a large eccentric component, one should have a solid strength foundation and control over their body.
Loss of Tension.
When it comes to hypertrophy work, there is a vital importance on tension on the working muscle groups. That tension produces the primary mechanisms of hypertrophy (mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage).
If not performed correctly, plyometrics will cause a loss of tension in the working muscles during the “flight phase” of the movement when there is no contact with a stable surface.
Demand on the CNS.
Plyometric training places a large demand on the central nervous system and requires more recovery time. This becomes a problem in two scenarios. The first is when a trainee’s training program includes a high-frequency.
Plyometrics can compromise the recovery of those muscle groups that are being trained every 2 to 3 days. The second scenario is when a bodybuilder is in a caloric deficit.
This places more stress on the overall system, making recovery even more difficult.
As we grow older, we begin to lose type 2 muscle fibers around the age of 30. That decline, which can be extremely diminished with the right training, can make it difficult to move quickly.
Hence, plyometrics can be difficult to perform. But this is also a reason to include them into your training while you are still young.
That leads us to the next question is it worth the risk when it comes to building lean muscle?
The answer is that yes but it depends.
Yeah, we know that’s a bullshit excuse of an answer — but the answer is completely dependent on your current situation in regards to your diet and training age.
Plyometrics surely have a place in your training to improve your body composition in conjunction with your microcycle’s goals. They can allow you to access difficult high threshold motor units and provide a great stimulus for you to adapt to and grow more muscle, but they shouldn’t be used year-round.
If your workouts are focused on tempos with a large eccentric or isometric portion, plyometrics aren’t best for you at that moment. The same goes if you are still developing a strong base and focused on pushing your personal records to new levels.
Where Does Plyometrics Fit Into Your Training?
Got it. But where would you place plyometrics into your physique-based training?
There are a few pre-requisites before you jump right into it. No pun intended.
When you are in a caloric surplus or at least at maintenance calories and you have completed the following:
An execution phase where you have properly learned how to contract the working muscle groups. Lots of emphasis on contractions and tempos AND a strength-focused program that the goal is to build your base levels in the 3 to 5 repetition range.
Due to the high force demands, plyometrics are inversely related to the high intensity and effort needed so repetition and volume are low.
After completing the following two training microcycle, this would be the best place to introduce plyometrics.
At this point, we have some options of where to place them in the actual workout.
1. Reactive Warm Up
At the beginning of the workout, immediately following a thorough dynamic warm up. This will hit stimulate the type 2 muscle fibers for the following working sets.
From a safety standpoint, this is probably the best time to include plyometrics.
Exercises that require high amounts of coordination, power, and explosiveness are completed first. The reason being for how taxing these dynamic effort movements are on the central nervous system.
Since they require a maximum amount of force to move the resistance as fast as possible, one should be physically and mentally fresh in order to reap the benefits.
2. Contrast training
Immediately following a heavy multi-compound lift (think squat, deadlift, bench press) of 3 to 5 repetitions, you will go into an explosive plyometric with your bodyweight.
For example, you would hit front squat for 3 repetitions.
Upon racking the bar, you would move immediately into body weight jump squats for 5 to 10 repetitions or as many reps as possible in 5 to 10 seconds.
3. Power Training
This unconventional method is not for the faint of heart but certainly can turn you into a freak of nature. In contrast to the first placement, this is a simple trick of pushing your power movements to later in your workout.
From plyometrics to even Olympic lifts that you are technically proficient at, this switch up can have HUGE gains on your muscular development. To grow an abnormal amount of muscle, your thoughts and actions must go outside of the box.
Introducing ‘Freak Muscle‘
Power Contrast training is included in our muscle-building product, Freak Muscle.
Now onto something that is going to scare the hell out of you just in time for Halloween — this is something we’ve never done before.
You could even call it an experiment to take a select few willing individuals on a 12-week ride to a little freak party.
We’ve launched Freak Muscle to help you break through plateaus and reach maximal muscle gain.
Ultimately, the reason behind the creation of Freak Muscle was to unveil the truth about building monstrous amounts of muscle.
- Train harder than you ever have before
- Gain the most amount of muscle tissue possible with little-to-no fat gain.
- Unlock your muscular potential even though you believe you’ve reached your genetic ceiling
- Introduce you to some new, kick-ass training methods that will result in instant gains
- Build the confidence, backed by muscle, to embrace your inner freak.
There you have it…12 weeks, 4 cycles = 1 freak
For a mere $37, you’ll get The Freak Muscle-Training Manual, Four Freaky Training Programs, Freak of Nature Nutrition Strategy, The Guide to Freaky Supplements.
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