Monday, May 18, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Speed Skaters

Plyometric exercises are specialized, high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power (strength and speed). Plyometric training involves high-intensity, explosive muscular contractions that invoke the stretch reflex (stretching the muscle before it contracts so that it contracts with greater force). The most common plyometric exercises include hops, jumps and bounding movements. These exercises typically increase speed and strength and build power.

Plyometrics (and any impact exercise) can increase the risk of injury if you don't follow certain safety precautions. The tremendous force generated during these moves requires that athletes use them sparingly and with proper training.

The most important aspect of a safe and effective plyometric program is developing a safe landing technique. This means the athlete lands softly on the toes and rolls to the heels. By using the whole foot (and a larger surface area) for landing it helps dissipate the impact forces on the joints. The other key to proper landing is to avoid any twisting or sideways motion at the knee.

Plyometrics Safety Tips

Plyometrics are recommended only for well-conditioned athletes.
You should have high levels of leg strength prior to performing plyometrics.
Warm up thoroughly before starting plyometrics.
Start slowly with small jumps and gradually build up.
Land softly (see above) to absorb shock.
Allow plenty of rest between plyometric workouts.
Stop immediately if you feel any pain in your joints.
Use footwear with plenty of cushioning.
Perform plyometrics on soft or cushioned surfaces only.

Here is my favorite plyometric exericse: the speed skater. The Speed Skater exercise will develop the muscles in the hip, groin, ankles and quadriceps. It will help to improve lateral quickness and agility.


Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees to lower your body 8-10 inches and lean forward until your shoulders are positioned above your knees. Even though you are leaning over, you should do so by bending at the waist while maintaining good posture in your upper back. Begin by lightly hopping sideways about 2 feet and landing on your right foot, then hop sideways back onto your left foot and repeat for 10-20 repetitions.

Land with your feet in a strong, full-foot position. Don't just land on your toes! You can increase the lateral distance of your hopping from 2 feet to 6 feet as you become more powerful. You can also perform this exercise in a stationary fashion or in a linear fashion by moving forward slightly with each lateral jump. Your legs will look like a speed skater powerfully pushing from side to side.

After you get used to this, add some intensity by placing a thigh toner around your ankles!