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Chasing Greatness

This is DANGEROUS!- Plyometrics

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To develop more explosive and powerful athletes we all (should) use plyometrics.

But here's the thing: They can be dangerous!

And they should be taught using a specific progression. The progression I think makes the most sense is one I learned from studying Vern Gambetta. The problem is that a frightening number of coaches do it ass backwards and therefore should be asked never to work with another child again.

More specifically, underqualified coaches like to start their athletes off by doing the exercises that have the highest nervous system demand, highest training stress and require the largest training base. This means ONLY the most advanced athletes should be attempting them. They are entirely inappropriate for beginner athletes. What constitutes a beginner athlete? Any athlete that has not satisfactorily moved through the progression I lay out below. So the LAST types of plyos any coach should be 'teaching' their athletes are shock jumps, also known as depth jumps.

These exercises consist of jumping down off of boxes and/or doing rebound jumps over hurdles placed at mid thigh height or higher. Recently I was out at a facility and witnessed a coach doing possibly the most incredible thing I've ever seen. If I didn't know better I'd think some coaches purposely try to hurt kids. We can't keep handing culpability off like a hot potato. 

But I digress…. This human had his athletes jump up onto a 24" plyo box. Then jump UP off the plyo box, attempt
to catch a medicine ball that was tossed higher than the athlete's head and then attempt to land holding the med ball. Then repeat.

Unbelievable. Maybe these were advanced athletes, you say. No. They were high school sophomores, I'm told.

There's more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy. But that kind of approach is just wrong. Is it even debatable? Some people reading this are nodding their heads in agreement. Others are ashamed because they're doing shock jumps with young kids who have a training age of 1 or 2.

So to avoid any more additions to the epidemic of sports injuries created by less than stellar coaching methods, here is the progression of plyos that I believe should be followed. If you have a better way, I'd love to hear it below.

Don't let your athletes move on to the next level of plyo until the meet the standards of the more basic movement.

To see these progressions taught and performed
correctly, check out Complete Jumps Training.

1. Landing – Goal is to teach proper foot strike, use of the ankle, knee and hip and absorb shock.

2. Stabilization Jumps – Goal is to reinforce landing technique and increase levels of both eccentric and stabilization strength

3. Jumping up – Goal is to teach takeoff action and proper use of the arms.

4. In Place Bounding – Goal is to teach quick reaction off the ground as well as vertical displacement of the center of mass/gravity

5. Short Jumps – Goal is to teach horizontal displacement of the center of mass/gravity

6. Long Jumps – Goal is to add more horizontal velocity. (Most athletes will not progress past these movements in the first year of specific training. Even if taught a proper progression such as the above!)

7. Shock Jumps– The last form of plyo that should be taught and certainly not something that athletes should be doing during preseason or the early preparation periods.

So there you have the truth about how plyos should be taught and a little taste of what your kids' coaches are doing to them. Am I crazy? Am I the only one witnessing these truly dangerous coaching practices? Is there anyone willing to admit that they're doing it wrong?

Is there a solution to this pandemic lack of modern day coaching knowledge? Should I just stop complaining and only worry about what I can control?

 


Recommended Athletes' Acceleration Products


 

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31 Comments

  • Paul says:

    I see unsafe practices all the time.

    This with middle school or younger players.

    – running downhill
    – single leg hops up stadium stairs
    – sprinting after watching a 10 minute video in 30 degree weather!

    Parent asked me who do they trust when they entrust they child to coaches who are suppose to know?

    Honestly, I didn’t know how to answer that!

    Paul

  • I think Latif ids correct. For me the most important thing is to not over do it. Start off slow and build up.

    I am 62 and still think it is a good idea to do wind sprints and deep yoga stretching and breathing.

  • MDT says:

    Oh my. I saw the same type of horrible thing after coming back from a seminar on plyometrics. This football coach gets plyo stands – 1′ 2′ and various sizes..gets ALL his football players to line up – on the concrete basketball courts and start jumping up and down on this plyo circuit with NO instruction on landing etc…they ranged from freshmen to seniors and he had NEVER done anything like this before. The track coach tried to tell him to work them slowly and NOT on the concrete but he just said ‘they’re football players they’ll be fine.’

  • Dear Latiof
    As we have spoken many times regarding the training and development of young athletes, it is still my belief that up to the age of 15 athletes should not be pushed in any way but encouraged to try many different sports and use the many skills that they learn in their favourite sport later in their development this will add to flexibility speed of thought and a more natural attitude towards the many skills and training methods required to be a good sportman or woman.
    As an athlete, i like to see my youngsters within my squads continue with their swimming and gymnastics classes at school.
    Also when it comes to weight training, there should be no heavy weights at all, no exceptions, i believe that if they start on heavy weights too early this can have a restrictive effect on the athletes overall development, 18 is early enough to introduce athletes to heavier weights, lets look after our world of talent and help them to understand why we ask them to perform each and every task during their training life, athletes like dogs are not just for xmas, they have a lifetime of ambition to fulfill, so dont make them do things that their underdeveloped bodies cannot perform wiothout long term damage.
    Best Wishes to you Latif and your many fllowers.
    Vivian Rees, Wales Athletics and Rugby Union coach 07968 962277

  • josh ortegon says:

    great post…i also believe there is a difference between teaching a “different” technique or phylosophy or a “wrong” technique of phylosophy. Great post…often see many trainers promote “plyometrics” without realizing the dangers of them if they are not progressed correctly or strong enough yet…

  • Tim Graf says:

    Latif,

    Unfortunetly people get things off the internet and then become self proclaimed coaches. I’ve been doing this for 21 yrs. and I like you do nothing without the proper research. Alot of people get into this just for the money and ego. this person doing the shock jumps is like a speed coach that has never run a sprint. Without the proper research you just don’t know what your doing! I like you have studied under the best of the best. I’ve never once used shock jumps for training and I’ve put 32 guys in the NFL.
    As a sprinter, you and I can see what athletes feel!

  • Coach G says:

    I agree whole-heartedly that this is inappropriate and dangerous. I coach at the collegiate level at a division 2 school. I am a relatively young coach, however consider myself to be rather knowledgeable when it comes to training athletes. I was a competitive div. 1 athlete in college, trained under a great coach and have since obtained my USATF level 1 (getting level 2 this summer). The coaches at the university I work at have some other than desireable techniques when it comes to training their athletes. They had freshman (as well as the older athletes) who clearly had poor coordination, mechanics and technique (not to mention strength) single-leg bounding for up to 50 yds in the begining of the season! I have seen them have the high jumper single leg bound for height! Why would you have someone single leg bound (while still asking him to progress horizontally) for height? Once they actually asked him to single leg bound for 75 yds! I had to intervene and told him to break it up into 3 x 25. The coaches are from an older school of thought (as well as an incorrect one) and it is quite difficult to get them change their ways (being that I am the youngest coach on staff). Though the athletes I train may not be the best competitors and have these great marks, none of them has been injured my any of my practices. I would estimate that up to 70% of the rest of the team is/was injured this year. Overly aggressive training tactics are counter-productive. I would rather live on the side of caution and wonder if I can squeeze a little more out of an athlete than be aggressive and have them compete with nagging injuries or lose them for the season completely!

  • Paul says:

    Plyos are by far the best way to transfer the Natural strength of ones body to power. I have seen many coaches introduce the jump box hop and catch on high school freshmen. I have even seen the players get hurt. The coaches all would yell and drill into them that this was the only way to get better by pushing themselves. needless to say I walked away from that coach. I believe in personal athletic development and individual drive along with constant watch of your own body to get the most gains as an athlete.
    thanks for this wonderful site of knowledge
    deep down I know all athletes know their body’s better than anyone else.

  • David says:

    The FIRST step is to build strength to a base level. Squats, snatches, calf-raises, pushups, LOTS of core work are essential prior to attempting ANY plyo training. You get these jokers that put out flyers to unknowledgable parents saying ‘Basketball Muscle Memory’ and they have no idea what they are doing. Latif, when are you coming to Central Texas??

  • Brad W. Lutz says:

    Latif,

    Thanks much for your message. I have been coaching youth xc for years and take an incredibly long time to properly warm up and prepare my athletes for their workouts. The vast majority of the injuries I deal with are from middle school coaches that fail to warm up their athletes at all before a workout. My kids will come to practice and tell me that they had to run 10 x 100m sprints without any warm up or stretching of any kind. When they do warm up … as you said perfectly, it is always ass-backwards … using the most difficult of movements first.

    Glad I’m not the only one that see’s this type of poor judgment in youth athletics.

    Best regards,

    Brad.

    Brad W. Lutz, Head Coach
    Lake Cities XC
    214-244-3271
    brad.lutz2@verizon.net
    http://www.lakecitiesxc.org

  • dacula dave says:

    too many old school pirates out there. too many saq pimps taking advantage of kids and parents eager to hear anything positive about their kids (even if it means pimpos lying to them)—-feeding them the line that more is better—inserting busy-work (parachutes, overspeed bands, etc) to make the parents and kids think what they are doing will produce results. give me a speed trap II (i have two already) and developing speed and power is a piece of cake. speed is built layer by layer and slowly over time, not overnight.

  • GLENN says:

    Latif, I have been training my son since he was about seven years old. He has had some very good coaches and some not so good. What I find is the problem with the not so good coaches are they have stopped learning they feel they have enough knowledge base to instructed athletes. I do use advance plyo methods but only as a progression for the very basic movements. What I find is that even if you know what your doing you have to be so nit picky on how they proform the movements because they are so dangerous I don’t no how many times I have had to stop the drill to demonstrate again and again. To me it is like you said about being in the weight room that is the most strenous time for the coach or should be any way. I just want to thank you for reenforcing what I already new.

  • Mike Goss says:

    I’m a collegiate jumps coach; I’ve studied “shock training” the Russian method and various philosophies. Even the eastern block nations required a squat of around 1.5 body weight before initiating depth jumps.

    Latif is correct; study the science of plyo’s and you can determine specific heights for boxes and levels of training. It isn’t difficult to do!

    I’m a less is more coach; and it’s about rhythm, posture, perceived fatigue…..not what some superman is doing! Kenny Harrison (96′ triple jump Olympic Gold) could execute 3,000 meters of bounding in 30 sets of 100 meters@$^*^!! But look at Kenny, in his prime, very few could even imagine such a feat. And even fewer should give it a try. Latif is a master of his craft – my opinion jumpdoc

  • Rob says:

    Latif I agree 100%, to many coaches in america are coming back from clinics or getting something off the internet and trying it on kids who flat out are not ready for this type of training. Sadly parents of these kids think that they need this to make them a better player. I think your on to something and we should all make sure that we are the exception not the rule that we see in so many programs across this country.

  • Von Butler says:

    I just witness some of the same horrrors in the local Las Vegas area. Coaches must understand it takes time to progress correctly into full spectrum ply-o training. This is the only way that we as trainers can ensure the longevity of the player’s athletic career.

  • Brenda says:

    I too was in this predicament. I was a Freshman in High School practicing long jump. I had to run, jump on a box and then jump over a rake. After doing over 20 of these, I blew my knee out and was out of the season. I had knee surgery a week later. I bucketed the meniscus and tore the acl just by doing this outrageous drill.

  • Nick says:

    Latif,

    I agree with you and the crew 100%! The boxes have always scared me even with the advanced kids/young adults because of the hexagonal metal legs that go to the ground on a 75 degere angle in a lot of cases. I’m always scared waiting for the kids to hop to the next level waiting for them to scrape the front of their shins. We moved to eqaulizers & the plastic boxes. In any event, that’s irrelevant it’s a coaching mess out there with a ton of pretenders…So when are we doing the Mastermind Group 😉 ? Secondly, are you going to Nike Boston Champs today? I’ll have my guys stop thru and say hello if so.

    Nick

  • Louis says:

    What you witness is called overload progression and should not be attempted unless what you stated, they must be advanced in stage to take on the training otherwise there wasting there time I seen this over and over .

  • mr thomas says:

    your the best keep it up my grandson has dev. in the last yr. from your rec.

  • Ted says:

    Latif –

    I cannot agree more about you more about “Bad” coaching and “Most Coaches should be Fired!” There are so many coaches and trainers that train and condition all athletes the same. Even within a small team you have to consider the individual competencies of each kid. Because someone is designated as a coach, it does not mean they are knowledgeable or really care about your kid!

  • Tony says:

    I would hurt myself if I tried to land with a medicine ball in my hands. But, perhaps we are looking at some kind of genius. Let us see if he gets any good results. If he doesn’t get good results then he may have bad athletes in the first place. I have rarely seen a coach in any sport take a bunch of bums and lead them to the championships. Every coach wants the best players. American coaches will try innovative things. If the DANGER man succeeds you will be all copying him. The permutations are endless. At least this DANGER man hasn’t gone by the Marion Jones route. At least he is trying to do today what he hopes the others might be doing tomorrow.

    I’d like to see Latif Thomas get some kid put under his charge, who is almost indistinguishable from a lump of clay, and turn him into a long jumping, shot putting, lightning fast sprinting machine.

    No, we all like to get athletes who are more or less ready made. It’s easy in track and field, much harder in football or basketball where a degree of subjective judgement comes into it. (and perhaps a touch of genius) No, in T and F you either measure the tape, or read the stopwatch. Here is an example, you get a 9 year old girl come to you. She jumps FOUR METRES in the long jump. Her parents look tall and athletic. She seems as keen as mustard. Baby, you just found one. Congratulations. Too easy! So, in summary, coaching is about trying something. If you destroy a bunch of youngsters and still produce one world champion or an Olympic medallist, you will be declared a guru! Institutes will hire you, you can make DVDs, Hollywod will beckon. Etc. (Ok perhaps I exaggerated the last part. and when all is said and done it still doesn’t mean women will magnetically be attracted to you.)

  • Tony says:

    The greatest athletes (and racehorses)can take about twice as much training as normal people (or horses) without breaking down. If you are going to do an AC joint, tear a cartilage, tear a thigh, irrevocable damage your ankle ligaments, etc, then that is considered par for the course. The athletes who are born with the gift of never breaking down, are few and far, and FIT.

    Ken Doherty wrote of the great miler Herb Elliott, who used to train to black out stage. (I wouldn’t think this possible) However, Elliott was never beaten over the distance, and then having destroyed all opponents and all world records, he retired. I find it most unusual to find a person who went from being unhealthily obssessive, (as nearly all elite athletes are) to quitting in one fell swoop.

  • dennis says:

    I agree with what all of you are saying, but quit lamenting and complaining. Do something about it. I coached track for many years and have made a lot of mistakes. The last three years as a head coach, I made $1100. I had to beg, borrow, and steal to get equipment. I have studied and researched as much as possible. Information is expensive. Many schools just don’t have the money. You want better, safer coaches, get them the info free. Get it out there to them. I have gained a lot of info from Latif and greatly appreciate it. Yes, there are poor coaches out there. Fire them all and many kids won’t get an opportunity to even participate. Many coaches are parents trying to help out. I am coaching distance runners this year without a budget. I am seeking out as much info as I can, but who is to say if it is right or wrong. I just try to use common sense. Teach, give out the info don’t fire them. You want to improve coaching—- give them the info and support they need.

  • Doug says:

    Latif, you’re somewhat right on plyo training. But, you, being a former track athlete should realize that box / depth jumps are appropriate methods of training that are no more dangerous than sprint training. If properly set, box / depth jumping is akin to the elevation of COM between ground contact of the foot in sprinting. And, if both feet contact the ground simultaneously in box / depth jumps, isn’t ground force less than actual sprinting? If so, then your logic for eliminating box jumps as part of sprint training is flawed, unless you also advise against sprinting as a means to improve speed.

  • Daniel Linsacum says:

    Latif,

    Young athletes have more issues than sports illustrated to start out. The posture development of the athletes is terrible, so many coaches don’t even put this in the equation, these kids sit on there butt all day long with lazy body position. Then they are going to teach plyos without teaching the most important part a body weight squat, asorbing of shock is more important the the explosive. How are these kids going to absorb when they can’t even do a body weight squat. It is crazy, Good stuff!

    Stay Functional,

    Daniel Linsacum, CSCS
    Beastraining

  • james says:

    I totally agree with your concept on how to develope this type of training through stages. I think you should have to have a level of certification to coach any level of athletes. Most coaches do not develope ankle strength before teaching bounds, plyo-jumps along with not teach proper technique. Keep doin what your are doing because you have sprarked me to remember the very thing i learnd as a young sprinter and now a vetern coach.

  • Adam says:

    Yup. Bad Coaches suck big time. I really hate it when they are richer than good trainers too. Goes to show ya- even a fool can be a good cheerleader, and example enthusiasm, to make some big temporary gains. I hope the little kids recover!

  • I agree fully that there is a lot of dangerous training going on out there. What is a shame is that the root cause is the same as what is helping this industry. We are now able to get any kind of information that we want on training from the internet, which is great if used properly. The problem is that many unskilled coaches / trainers are now searching the web and just copying what they see with their athletes. They are not taking the time to research the movement or the requirements leading up to it. So I guarantee that if you asked any of these coaches “how did you develop that routine?” they would answer that they saw it on the internet. Great post and keep up the great work.

    Julian A. Amedee

  • P.Rubin says:

    As a PE teacher I have learned that if you do not teach a skill using the proper progressions you will be open to a LAWSUIT. Judgements have been made agsinst shcool districts for this reason. The same holds for athletics.
    Question, where is the supervision ?

  • Marcie McLeod says:

    Latif , I am a personal trainer and nutritional med student and now training young athletes and it is very specific and I am yes searching the internet AND I FOUND lATIF THAT WAS LUCKY! , I am studying my notes and building a network of professionals around me because I do not know it all I can tell you.So far I have successfully got five out of six runners through to the State championships with success and without injury.However I am noticing closer to the end of term they are tired and hamstrings and calves are tight.I have tried to train them for skill.I also utilise my nutritional diploma and physio friend.I have three weeks to prepare the kids for the State championships and I must say it really takes careful planning ,intuition and reassessment.Latif I would love you to see my programmes because I want to help my kids reach peak not plateau out.Is there some one to help me climb the brick wall.Thankyou Marcie

  • Robyn says:

    Today my son (in high school) was forced by his PE teacher to do backward sprints or get a bad grade. He fell broke his arm in 3 places and severed his growth bone in his wrist. He is getting pins in his arm in surgery when the swelling goes down on Mon. I am furious! This should be STOPPED!

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