Written by: Clement Golliet
***Clement Golliet is the newly appointed Director of ACE Fitness and is overseeing the fitness component of all ACE Tennis High Performance programs, is the Head Trainer at Toronto Tennis City and ACE Burlington, and offers private and group fitness sessions for ACE and OTA players as required. Clement’s mandate is to help build the new ACE Fitness brand and to offer leading edge training for tennis players in Ontario.
Clement has a Bachelors of Kinesiology from the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) and possesses various certifications in the areas of private training, spinning, T-Rx, performance, and reconditioning. A former high level basketball player and bodybuilder, Clement also has his French Federation Level 3 in kayaking. Before coming to Toronto to work with ACE Fitness, Clement was a personal trainer, fitness, strength, and conditioning coach at Sporting Club Sanctuaire in Montreal for tennis, basketball, and track running. Clement also has professional training in Clinical rehabilitation and experience as a sports teacher in Switzerland.
If you have any questions for Clement, he can be reached here.***
Plyometrics is a compound name that puts two concepts together. It is interesting and useful to remember what they mean: ‘plio’ comes from the Greek and means ‘more’, and ‘metric’ means ‘measure’. So plio + measure equals a quick and powerful movement that involves an eccentric phase (stretching of the muscle) followed by a concentric phase (shortening of the muscle). This is due to an involuntary response from the body to an external force which stimulates the stretch reflex.
Let me take a simple example to illustrate this: during a jump, muscle lengthening occurs stimulating the stretch reflex, which orders the muscle to shorten rapidly. Due to the storage of elastic energy – which is the passive energy of the muscle released during the concentric phase – the force production is increased. In other words, the higher the jump is, the more force will be produced. Hence the ‘plio’ (more) concept.
Plyometric is a well known training technique aimed at increasing force output in sports during explosive movements. But it can be hard on the joints, ligaments, tendons and create micro-tears and lead to injuries if used unwisely. Some research has shown that highly intense jumps are potentially damaging for the younger ones due to the fact that growth plates are open and the jump can cause them to close prematurely, thus resulting in limb length discrepancies. But on the contrary, other studies show improvement in muscular power and bone strength if the training is done with a well-adapted program.
One specific area of research done on the effects of different training methods on sprinting time for male youths aged 8-18 years, show that plyometrics is seen as the most effective type of training.
Furthermore, another research on Plyometrics’ Trainability in Pre-Adolescent Soccer Athletes has shown greater performance gains on speed tests, vertical jump tests, agility and leg strength.
If a few studies show that plyometric training can be bad for young athletes, as mentioned above, other recent studies demonstrate that significant improvement can result from plyometric training. Therefore strength programs must be designed carefully, even more so with young athletes. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), prepubescent and adolescent children may perform plyometric exercises but with cautious supervision and following an appropriately-adjusted program, which should take into consideration some basic principles:
- Depth jumps (such as jumps from a box from over 30 cm) and high-intensity lower body plyometric exercises are contraindicated.
- Allow two to three days between plyometric workout sessions.
- Focus on the technic to be used to develop neuromuscular control and anaerobic skills.
More advice that young athletes should conscientiously follow:
- Before your session, do an appropriate warm up
- Ensure to have a 2-minute rest between each set of exercises
- The number of sets needs to be proportionate to the level of the trainees: Beginners level : 2-3 sets, Advanced level : 3-5 sets
- The higher the intensity, the less contacts should be done: by ‘contact’ I mean here touching the ground or an object, with any part of the body, either feet or hands
- Contacts per session should be between 80 to 140 depending on the level of the athlete and his/her biological age
- Keep a tight abdominal wall which will protect the spine against compression and help to a better rebound like a hammer on an anvil.
- Do not start to do plyometric training unless you have a good abdominal wall, muscular endurance and strength.
In conclusion, plyometric exercises should be handled with care for a safe and efficient use of plyometric training. This training technique is beneficial at any age, for any sport because it requires quick, powerful movements and changes in direction of the type needed in many sports and more specifically in tennis.