| | Plyometric Training: Assessment

Author / Christopher McQuilkin

Plyometric-Training-Power-Athlete-Katie-HoganPlyometric training is frequently met with strong opposition, especially within high school and CrossFit communities.  Many of these opponents strongly believe that high impact loading of the joints in jumping or other impulsive activities is harmful to the joints. Some might even argue they decrease explosive performance.  Our argument against this goes back to Part 1 and 2 of this series.

How are those athletes executing the jumps?
Is the athlete’s posture or position in their body sacrificed at any point during the training?
In the situation the opposition is viewing, most likely so.

This discussion does not dismiss that there are risks associated with inappropriate or excessive use of plyometric training, but, as is the case with all forms of training, it comes down to the application.  Parts 1 and 2 of our Power Athlete Plyometric Series introduced many concepts and points of performance a strength coach should not only be identifying, but expecting out of their athlete’s jumps during training.

The first component to plyometric training is to establish correct alignment in both jumping and landing actions.  The coach’s eye needs to be trained to see proper mechanics before implementing plyometric actions. The assessments discussed below will introduce movements, provide proper execution, as well as the faults to expect to see from many athletes.

Power-Athlete-plyometric-trainingAfter much discussion about the hamstring and hip involvement during plyometrics with our friend down under, Antony “Physio Detective” Lo, we have put together a simple list of beginning assessments every coach needs in their toolbox.  This portion of the series will continue to expand the coach’s eye by introducing basic assessment tools for athletes in 1 on 1 assessment scenarios or group warm up preparation for plyometric training.

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Coach’s Eye

In part 2 we introduced this valuable tool and how it needs to be developed.  In order to accelerate this development and prepare a coach to identify what is going to happen during plyometric before an athlete even jumps we have provided 4 assessment tools! Here are four basic movements that represent all 3 lower body primal movements; the lunge, the step up and the squat, as well as the all important foot position.

These primals are found in an infinite amount and combination on the field, and a deficiency in one can have a drastic effect on performance.  Failure to identify if there is a deficiency and applying plyometric training to that primal can be drastic, especially if there is a misalignment.

The Physio Detective provides his coach’s eye during these videos, and walks you through his assessment mindset.  See if you can visually pick up on the misalignment and struggles discussed in the videos below as the athlete moves through each primal!

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/105030684[/vimeo]

Jump Assessment Tool: Lunge

Purpose:

The simplest assessment to start with, and will identify many initial alignment and imbalances that can be further tested and confirmed with the step up and step down.  The lunge singles out each leg and identifies what take off and landing might look like from an alignment and strength perspective.

Expectations:

  • Toes forward foot placement
  • Knee tracking straight forward through out eccentric and concentric phase
  • Stable trunk through out movement
  • Active/balanced pull forward with the hamstring, hips, and quadriceps

Deviations:

  • Foot placement and external rotation
  • Knee valgus on impact
  • Knee valgus during raising of lunge

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/105030762[/vimeo]

Jump Assessment Tool: Step Up

Purpose:

Check the proficiency of movement of the hips, hamstrings and quads through the step up movement.  Another Primal an athlete must be proficient in field sports that also identifies strengths and weaknesses in their ability to execute jumps.  This unilateral movement can identify imbalances, weaknesses, misalignment, and even muscle activation.

Expectations:

  • Toes forward foot placement
  • Knee tracking straight forward through out eccentric and concentric phase
  • Stable trunk throughout movement
  • Active/balanced pull forward with the hamstring, hips, and quadriceps

Deviations:

  • Knee shooting forward over toes on rise
  • Push off of back foot
  • Knee valgus on the rise or stepping down
  • Foot placement and knee tracking outside or inside foot

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/105031939[/vimeo]

Jump Assessment Tool: Step Down

Purpose:
Effective tool in assessing an athlete without them knowing they are being tested in order to identify how they are going to land from a jump.  The alignment and expectations are similar to that of the lunge and step up, but a coach can see how an athlete will instinctively execute a landing.

Expectations:

    • Commitment
    • Landing mid foot with dorsiflexion
    • Landing in knee forward/toe forward alignment
    • Pushing butt back into hamstrings evenly loading the quad, introt/extrot, and the hamstring

Deviations:

      • Look for instinctive weakness cues such as hands on knees
      • Knee valgus on single lead leg on impact
      • Valgus on both knees on impact from a drop down
      • Land pushing both knees outside the feet

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/105032005[/vimeo]

Jump Assessment Tool: Foot Position

Purpose:
Foot position has been discussed in great detail in our articles on dorsiflexion and building a power ankle.  We train our athletes that when their foot is off the ground it is in dorsiflexion. Period.  The reasoning behind this is that they are able to produce more force into the ground, quicker and they are preventing injuries to the achilles and calf muscle.  Ingraining this position into the athlete’s CNS needs to be done during step ups, lunges, and even wall drill, it then will instinctively carry over to single leg and double leg plyometric training.

Expectation:

      • Dorsiflexion in step down foot
      • Knee forward/toe forward alignment
      • Mid-foot strike upon ground contact

Deviations:

      • Variations of a plantar flexed foot
      • Stepping down leading with heel in dorsiflexion

Conclusion

The opposition against this form of training often only looks at the injuries, not at the athlete.  It is bad practice to throw a program at an athlete, plyometrics or not, without performing an assessment.  An assessment identifies if there are limiting factors in primals, alignment or strength.  The above tools provided are simple tasks that can be completed by any athlete.  If they deviate from the expectations provided, don’t expect them to be jumping into a plyometric program until the limiting factor has been fixed.

Many of the alignment fixes are as easy as making the athlete aware, the challenge comes when there is an imbalance or weakness issue. Catch up on some ways to attack these limiting factors in the ankles, hips and feet that may be affecting your plyo-training.

Part 4 of the Power Athlete Plyometric series will dive into corrective exercises to integrate into warm ups for plyometric days. And Part 5 will conclude with developing and implementing plyometrics into a strength and conditioning program from a developmental perspective.

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AUTHOR

Christopher McQuilkin

MS, CSCS, SCCC, CHES
Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:
calendly.com/pahq-tex

Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.

5 Comments

  1. NoColonBT on October 1, 2014 at 6:06 am

    Great stuff @physiodetective and @mcquilkin!

  2. NUTTER on October 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    @mcquilkin

    great article man! parts 1 and 2 were full of great stuff, but part 3 takes that knowledge and gives us coaches a few extremely digestible tools that I have no shame in stealing and immediately applying to my own athletes.

    Looking forward to parts 4 and 5.

    Nutter

  3. NUTTER on October 3, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Will part 5 lay out plyo programming and implementation on the larger scale/time frame? annual cycles and beyond?

    Interested to hear your thoughts pertaining to when different aspects of plyo/jump training need to be used in a seasonal athletes annual training program.

    How much adjusting needs to be done to accommodate CNS stress of in-season sports with multiple games a week?

    Not only volume and intensity changes, but movement and exercise selection. If higher stress movements like depth jumps are only done in the “off-season” to keep athletes fresh, can an increase in bio-markers be expected (assuming rest of training/recovery is good) throughout the season? or does it turn into a maintenance type thing? I would be nice to have my guys improve during the year and be at their strongest/fastest towards the end of their season, not spend the season in a steady state of decline. thoughts? or is some drop off in performance inevitable? is it acceptable if on field/court performance doesn’t drop?

    thanks

    Nutter

  4. NUTTER on October 3, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Or if higher CNS taxing movements are properly manipulated through reps/intensity can they stay in the program all year?

  5. Conor Lynch on October 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Have to second what @nutter had to say about this one. Love the practical break down of what to look for in basic movements so that you can assess an athlete before getting to dynamic movement. Particularly helpful to get insight into which movement patterns can be attributed to a lack of strength. Will be using lunges and step ups to layer position prior to box jumps the next time they come up in our workouts.

    Awesome article @mcquilkin

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