Along with being one of the main points in my vertical jump training program, (Believe the Flight, A Comprehensive Guide to the Vertical Jump. For the Better Athlete. By the Better Athlete) I can personally attribute a large amount of my success as an athlete to my discovery of the benefits of aquatic plyometrics!
In my own experience, I have built, maintained, and recovered my body all using aquatic plyometrics.
Throughout my basketball career (in college and as a professional), I have undergone two-foot surgeries, tore ligaments on both sides and broke my left ankle, suffered a Pars fracture in my back, and dealt with chronic tendinitis in both knees. However, even with these injuries and a laundry list of others, I have managed to continue to improve my overall athleticism and vertical jump.
The reason? Aquatic Plyometrics.
Aquatic plyometrics have been the Single-Most useful training component I have ever tried in treating Jumper’s Knee, and it has helped me maintain the youth in my legs even though I’ve dealt with numerous lower-body injuries.
For those of you without any experience at all, aquatic plyometrics is simply performing plyometric exercises in water; it isn’t much more complicated than that at all! However, the benefits are far more interesting!
When applied on land, plyometrics can cause intense muscle soreness, along with severe amounts of stress and impact on your tendons, joints, and cartilage.
Both land and aquatic plyometrics can have substantial benefits for any athlete assuming that they are appropriately utilized, and are even more beneficial for athletes who have already been training for a significant number of years and still looking for an extra edge!
The primary benefit of aquatic plyometrics is that you can enjoy the benefits of plyometric training, without nearly any of the potentially dangerous stress.
Plyometrics itself is a training style which involves fast and explosive movements, with the aim of increasing the overall power output and sports performance of a given athlete.
Aquatic plyometrics specifically target your legs and your core, and each exercise provides a different benefit and works a different muscle.
You can perform aquatic plyometrics more frequently than on land, since there is not an overwhelming strain on your Central Nervous System (CNS), as in land-plyometrics. Examples of aquatic plyometric exercises include:
Challenges of Traditional Plyometrics
As I said before, traditional land plyometrics are useful, but they are dangerous as well. Issues which make classical land-plyometric training unsuitable for many athletes include:
- Plyometrics training can easily lead to acute muscle soreness due to their high impact, holding back the rest of your workout.
- Plyometrics are not very suitable for athletes that are undergoing rehabilitation of a significant injury, as they could further place stress on the area affected.
- Plyometric exercises themselves are dangerous, as a misstep can easily lead to injury.
For healthy athletes, plyometrics are a useful tool. However, you don’t want to overuse them. Plyometric exercises should be limited to once or twice per week, especially while you are “in-season.”
Benefits of Aquatic Plyometrics
Several plyometric exercises can be done in water, offering athletes the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of plyometrics with the common issues associated with it. Some of the benefits of aquatic plyometric training include:
- Improvement in joint function. Training in water naturally allows your muscles and joints to lengthen more efficiently, allowing for proper movement patterns and reduced strain.
- Improvement of peak power, as during eccentric contractions, your muscles can achieve maximum potential. Aquatic plyometric training reduces the time between eccentric and concentric contractions, enhancing your muscle speed and power.
- The joints of your knee, hip and ankle will all become naturally more stable, as the water helps these joints to work better.
- There is research showing a reduced case of acute knee injuries and evidence from several studies using jump based plyometrics which indicates a significant improvement in vertical jump performance.
- When training with aquatic plyometrics, the water density and buoyancy counteract gravity, resulting in a reduction of overall impact on your body.
- By exercising in water, you burn even more calories than on land! Water makes your body work harder, even though you do not know it. The intensity of the exercise does not come down on your joints or tendons at all, allowing you to burn more calories as well as train for a more extended amount of time!
Another unique benefit of aquatic plyometrics is that it stimulates blood flow, which can improve the health of your body in numerous ways. Laird Hamilton, a radical fitness expert, disclosed that water is 800 times as dense as air and that it creates enough pressure on your body to increase your blood flow substantially.
Aquatic plyometrics provides you with an excellent opportunity to enjoy the benefits of plyometrics training, without experiencing the dangerous side-effects of plyometrics.
I started my own version of aquatic plyometric training when I was about 19 years old, and without exaggerating at all, it increased my vertical leap by about 8 inches in one summer of intense use!
I started with simply jogging in the water, and performing high knees/butt kicks.
As I advanced as an athlete, so did my methods.
I am 100% confident any athlete can benefit from incorporating aquatic plyometrics into their training program!