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Guidelines for Using Boxes and Barriers in Plyometric Training

 

By Dan Hutchison, MS, ATC, CSCS

Athletes strive to accomplish their goals.  Whether it’s on the playing field or in the weight room, a sense of accomplishment occurs when something is overcome, and that satisfaction is even greater when that something is ‘HARD’.  Strength and conditioning usually involves overcoming a weight or resistance, or it could be time, reps, distance, or height.

Plyometrics were founded on enhancing lower body power, often times involving distance jumped off the ground (“jump training”).  The ability to either jump on a box, jump off a box, or immediately jump onto a box after jumping off of a box, led to the original plyometric movements and programs that many coaches still use today and often times refer to as “jump training”.

All of these concepts are based on solid research that confirms that if we apply a force to an object (the ground) on a consistent basis and at various distances (heights), we should improve the body’s ability to not only withstand these forces, but to also overcome them at a higher capacity than before.

The question then becomes “When?”  In previous blog posts, we have covered plyometric applications using patterns (directional plyometrics) and resistance (cord or band resistance) in a progressive manner that allow soft tissue adaptation and performance enhancement.  Progressing the ‘fundamentals’ one step further, we can now introduce guidelines for adding boxes and barriers to a plyometric training routine.

Using Boxes for Plyometrics

Boxes have been used extensively over the last two decades for various means of improving functional performance.  Stepping, jumping, landing, etc., have been manipulated using various box heights.  One method that gets used very infrequently is the ‘rebound’ box jump.  Different from the traditional depth jump, the rebound box jump involves starting on the ground, jumping and touching the box at the specified height, than returning to the ground to immediately ‘rebound’ back up to the box.  This is repeated for a specified number of reps with the goal of leaving the ground and the box height as quickly as possible.  This application, although deemed aggressive, continues the same stretch-shortening cycle concepts as our fundamental plyometrics, but now allows for a slight increase in height.  That increase in height comes in very small increments of 2” to 6” for not only performance enhancement, but also for safety.  Starting individuals on box heights of 12” or more, especially when no ‘fundamental build-up’ has been practiced or established, is twice as dangerous as introducing a rebound plyometric concept.  This smaller box height increment, promotes ‘speed and power’ early in the process, which will lead to more and safer height enhancements in the future.

Perform-X Box-XBox Plyometric Key Points:

  • Establish fundamental footwork plyometrics (4-6 weeks)
  • Integrate box rebound jumps at a 2”-6” box (4 weeks) for 6-10 reps
  • 2-4 sets maximum
  • 2 Day (48 hr) recovery period
Using Barriers for Plyometrics

The plyometric barrier application does not involve a straight line of hurdles, but a directional movement pattern to development spatial awareness and improve ground force production.  A foam barrier is used with the Perform-X™ pattern sequence to establish landing areas, as well as barrier height awareness, for the individual to overcome and adapt.  Once fundamental directional quickness and body control have been established, the barrier application exaggerates those multi-directional forces.  As height can be manipulated by adding additional barriers, the goal is to promote ground force quickness at a low barrier level with the goal of maintaining or improving that ground force quickness with additional barriers.  Similar to the rebound plyometric concept, small incremental changes can promote large adaptations in the future.

Barrier Plyometric Key Points:

  • Establish fundamental footwork plyometrics (4-6 weeks)
  • Integrate barrier applications into simple movement patterns and progress according to athlete adaptation.
  • Time intervals per set should be no more than 10 seconds.
  • 2-Day (48 hr) recovery period.

 

Integrating vertical power development through plyometric workouts via box and/or barrier applications, adds a significant challenge and fun to the training session.  These two methods allow coaches to progress a plyometric program, especially for young athletes, by promoting ‘speed’ and ‘power’ over unreasonable box heights and unsafe barrier jumps.  As previously mentioned, we are fascinated by height and how to overcome it, but remember “To reach great heights a person needs great depth.”

 

References

Chu, D.A. and Myer, G.D.  (2013). Plyometrics:  Dynamic Strength and Explosive Power.  Human Kinetics.

Hutchison, D.  (2015). Perform-X Training Systems Education Manual.

 

 

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