Plyometric Drills For Athletes & Preventing ACL Injury
Plyometric exercises are an important piece to the puzzle when training athletes. They increase power, speed, and explosiveness. Most importantly, learning how to decelerate and absorb force through plyometric training is one of the best ways to prevent ACL injuries. As important as it is to train these movements, it is just as significant to monitor the quality and quantity of such drills. If an athlete lacks stability or strength, especially in the muscles surrounding the knee, they put themselves at a higher risk for ACL injury during sport. Plyometric training is best performed in a controlled environment under the close watch of a strength coach to ensure the athlete has proper form. A trained professional can assess where these limitations are coming from and provide corrective exercises to further strengthen and prevent injury.
Depth Drop From Box:
The depth drop is an ideal plyometric exercise to master landing mechanics before adding in speed and power drills. With this exercise, athletes learn how to properly land and distribute their body weight. The depth drop will highlight an athlete’s natural tendencies, as they start from a desired height and then land. Common mistakes during the depth drop include knees caving in, landing heavy, and lack of balance. Being able to identify and correct these movements are key in preventing future injury.
Grab a box or bench approximately 12-18 inches in height. Start with a lower height if you are unsure and progress when correct form is achieved. Stand at the front edge of the box. Step off the box leading with one leg and land on both feet. Land soft with your toes contacting the ground first and a quick weight distribution to your heels. Both feet should be flat on the ground in your final landing position. “Stick” your landing in a half squat position as if you were a statue. Do not let your hips dip to the ground. Return to box and repeat.
- Focus on keeping hip, knee, and ankle alignment, not allowing the knees to cave in or go past your toes.
- Maintain proper center of gravity, do no let your chest come too far forward. Think, “nose over toes.”
- Land as quietly as possible. Imagine; how hard you hit the ground is how hard the ground will hit you back.
Single Leg Box Jump:
Most sports require athletes to produce power on one leg. Whether an athlete is going up for a lay-up in basketball, hurdling a defender in football, or fighting for a header in soccer, they are constantly producing power from one leg. Single leg box jumps are a great exercise to replicate these movements seen so often in sports. Focusing on landing technique allows an athlete to translate what they learned through training and apply it to their field of play. Single leg box jumps increase power output, develop dynamic single leg balance, and emphasize proper deceleration. This exercise is not only perfect for increasing sports performance, but it also protects an athlete from injury.
Start by placing a secure box roughly 6-12 inches in front of you. If you are unsure of which height to start with, choose something on the lower side. Stand on one leg and go into a quarter squat, think about loading your hip. Once you have reached this position, explode up and jump as high as you can. Land on the box in the position you took off in, on one leg and in a quarter squat. Stick your landing as if you were a statue. Try to evenly distribute the weight in your foot on your landing, with your heel striking first. Focus on landing “soft,” and limit the amount of force you land with. Step down and repeat.
- Land “soft” with a slight bend in your knee. Landing loud will add unwanted stress.
- Use your arms to gain momentum while jumping.
- Do not land with an excessive forward lean. Again, “nose over toes.”
- Jump as high as you can, not just to the height of the box. The longer you are in “space,” the more time your body has to adjust to your jump.
Plyometric exercises that involve movement through the frontal plane, or lateral movements, have many benefits for athletes. Most sports involve cutting and change of direction. Stealing a base in baseball, and constant change of direction in sports like basketball and soccer, all require lateral loading. It is important for an athlete to understand how to move in this direction because they are constantly asking their bodies to do so. Plyometric training in the frontal plane allows athletes to learn how to absorb force correctly and prepare their bodies for these movements when they occur.
Start by going into a quarter squat on your right leg; focus on loading your right hip. Once you have reached your quarter squat, drive out as hard as you can laterally to your left. Land softly on your left foot, first with your toes; then allowing your heel to hit and “stick” to the ground. Sink into a quarter squat, similar to your starting position. As soon as you land on your left foot, jump back laterally to your right foot. Increase the height or distance of your jump if it is not challenging enough. Repeat for desired number of repetitions.
- Use your arms and hips to accelerate the jump in a counter movement to improve balance. (Ex: Right arm would be in front of chest when the left leg is on the floor).
- Land soft with your weight to the outside hip; you should feel your glute engaged.
- Keep your shoulders and hips square and facing forward. Focus on proper hip, knee, and ankle alignment.
Training sport specific plyometric movements in a controlled setting is one of the most effective ways to prevent ACL injury during play. At Olympia, we prioritize our athlete’s movements so they can succeed and do so safely. If you, or someone you know, is interested in sports performance training contact us today!
Pat Sturdahl worked in an outpatient physical therapy setting for over seven years before joining Olympia Fitness. He enjoys working with clients to help improve their mobility, stability and strength. Pat has experience working with local high school teams where he previously ran “Speed Schools.” This training focused on sport specific movements and plyometric drills.