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  1. #1
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    Plyometrics and Training

    Just wondering who here incorporates plyometrics into their training and how? Lately i've been thinking about ditching weights and just going with plyometrics but i'm unsure of making these specific workout days or combining them with cycling workouts (Carmichael wrote an interesting article where suggests doing some before a sprint/interval workout). Any tips or strategies would be appreciated.
    there will come a time when there will not come a time.

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    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Personally, I like Tai Chi, but that's just me. <jk>
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

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    I just stopped by this forum...not much experience with racing, but I have quite a bit of experience with training for athletic improvement, plyometrics, olympic weightlifting, etc...

    What are your training goals?

    Plyometrics will help you turn strength into actual, usable power. For a cyclist, plyometrics would mostly be used to help improve sprinting power, I would guess. They will not help much when it comes to spending significant time in the saddle. The energy systems used will be much, much different.

    As a general rule, plyos are not a replacement for weight training, but rather a supplement. Personally, I could not see a long-term application where an athlete would do plyos but not lift weights.

    Many strength and training coaches will ONLY use plyos with athletes who meet certain strength benchmarks...for example, front squatting 1.5 x BW.

    Consider two athletes who are training for, say, basketball. They want to improve their vertical leap, which is a pretty good measure of power. They are both 6' and 180. Athlete A squats 315 and has a vertical jump of 28". Athlete B squats 385 and has a vertical jump of 22".

    Athlete A would be applying his/her power pretty well and has a much higher than average vertical jump, but they actually have a slight strength deficit for an elite athlete. If I were the trainer, I would not have athlete A spend much time on plyos, but rather spend time working to build max strength.

    Athlete B, on the other hand, has quite a bit of strength, but their vertical jump is not as high as it might be for an athlete with a 2 x BW squat. Athlete B would definitely spend some time jumping rope and doing box jumps and depth jumps...maybe some medicine ball work. Athlete B has strength, but not as enough power to apply the strength quickly.

    So...it all depends on your goals and your personal strengths and weaknesses....what are you training for and where are you now?

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    Haven't done much myself but a teammate's coaches have him do series of running hill sprints followed by sqaut jumps once a week in addition to motor-pacing and other in-the-gym work. I ride with him once or twice a week, whatever he's doing the rest of the time definitely seems to do the trick.

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    wow Vud, that was intensely helpful.

    thanks for the info.

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    Blast from the Past Voodoo76's Avatar
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    Great post Vud, that's how I always understood it as well. Goes hand in hand with strength training, and that Plyo work w/o adequate strenght base can easily cause injury.

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    Senior Member Dubbayoo's Avatar
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    Solid info, vudu.

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    I do stadium hops and run stairs once a week, from November 1st thru the end of February.

    They work just fine without weight training...

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    Using speedskating as an example we didnt lift weights but sure did a lot of plyo workouts.

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    Thanks for the info vudu!

    What i'm working on primarily this season is 'explosive' power, not just for that final sprint but also to react to surges and launching a fast attack. Quick bursts of power appear to be a limiter of mine, but i do have a good sustained power output once i get going. I guess it would be equivalent to a sprinter coming out of the starting blocks, i'm slow to start but once i get going i'm fine...so this is where i thought plyometrics would come in handy.

    Now since my original post i've been reading various studies that suggest combining low weight/fast movement training (say 30% of your 1RM done very quickly) with plyometrics. Any suggestions on that approach?

    edit: and just as a note i have spent the last 4 or so weeks building a weight training base, so i'm not going into the plyometrics from scratch
    there will come a time when there will not come a time.

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    Slow'n'Aero DrWJODonnell's Avatar
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    I used to use plyometrics and felt it helped with my sprint. I do weight training and would not recommend only Plyos as others have said. I have not done plyometrics in a while though as 3 hours of volleyball a week is more than enough for to keep explosive leg strength going.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcates View Post
    Thanks for the info vudu!
    You are quite welcome. My caveat is that I have not trained with many endurance athletes. Cyclists are actually an interesting blend of endurance and power. The only athletes I can think off off the top of my head that use similar energy systems might be soccer players. They have to be able to run and run and run...but they also have to be able to sprint in bursts and get vertical for balls in the air. It's a challenge.

    Quote Originally Posted by pcates View Post
    What i'm working on primarily this season is 'explosive' power, not just for that final sprint but also to react to surges and launching a fast attack. Quick bursts of power appear to be a limiter of mine, but i do have a good sustained power output once i get going. I guess it would be equivalent to a sprinter coming out of the starting blocks, i'm slow to start but once i get going i'm fine...so this is where i thought plyometrics would come in handy.

    Now since my original post i've been reading various studies that suggest combining low weight/fast movement training (say 30% of your 1RM done very quickly) with plyometrics. Any suggestions on that approach?

    edit: and just as a note i have spent the last 4 or so weeks building a weight training base, so i'm not going into the plyometrics from scratch
    Explosive lifting with 30% of 1rm method has definitely been used with great success by a lot of strength athletes. Again, I would probably use that in conjunction with some other training, which I'll talk about a little bit below. One other thing I would point out about the 30% method is that, contrary to intuition, the reps are actually kept LOW in this type of training. You are training FOR EXPLOSION. So even though you could do a LOT of reps with 30%, you will keep those sets to maybe 5-8 reps at the MOST. When the bar speed slows down, you've gotten everything you want out of that set. To some people, it feels like they haven't worked that hard, but it works very well.

    You might even try something like TEN sets of only THREE reps with this kind of protocol.

    (Side note...if you are training in a powerlifting gym, they might have something called a Tendo Unit. These machines measure bar SPEED and they can help you make sure you are generating the proper wattage or power...maybe something like those little hub computers I've seen people refer to in these forums? Anyway, when you use a Tendo or something similar, you do reps until the beeping unit tells you that your speed is not up to snuff....you're not generating the power.)

    I'm not positive about this, but I believe that the Westside Barbell guys were pioneers in this type of training. They are Powerlifters who compete in the Squat, Deadlift, and Bench. You could google "Louie Simmons" or Westside Barbell and get a TON of info about how to apply that to a weightlifting program that is designed to boost your max strength.

    Westsiders break their training down into DE (dynamic effort) days and ME (max effort) days. The ME part of the program is designed to build pure strength. Again, for explosive POWER, though, you have to be able to apply strength QUICKLY, hence the dynamic effort days. Plyos are certainly a dynamic effort and the 30% explosive lifts are DE, as well.

    There are, of course, various modalities of strength. There is max strength. How much can you move? There is also speed strength, which is more of a power measurement...how quickly do you apply that strength? There is also strength-endurance, which, I'd suspect, would be an important quality for a serious cyclist. The Westsiders do not do a lot of strength-endurance work. Quite honestly, most athletes I have trained with also do not do a lot of strength-endurance work. Plyos and other DE exercises are going to help most with speed strength, or power. That SOUNDS to me like something you are trying to improve, so it could be a good fit for you...again, though, I would suspect that you should do DE work in conjunction with other strength work. Where the Westsiders focus on DE and ME, maybe you would focus on DE and strength-endurance.

    There is certainly no law against doing explosive work ONLY. I'm sure it can help all by itself, again, especially if there is a good deal of max strength already in that athlete. Just because somebody sees a benefit from plyos done by themselves, that doesn't mean that the athlete wouldn't see MORE benefit from a well-designed program that included training in various modalities. (And there will also be athletes that don't benefit much from JUST doing explosive exercises. I've seen that pretty frequently with basketball players.) OR maybe there is just something about cyclists that I don't understand where cycling itself provides all the stimulus one would need EXCEPT that DE and somehow cycling and plyos are a match made in heaven. Anything is possible. I'm certainly not aware of any studies one way or another.

    One other thing I'd mention, again, without any more knowledge, I would suspect that some of the exercises people might be thinking of as plyos...things like hill repeats, running stadium stairs...may be more along the lines of interval training than pure plyo training. I would imagine that interval type training would be GREAT for cycling. Depending on the distance/type of racing you were doing, you wouldn't want to eliminate steady state long distance work and focus ONLY on interval training, but it's a GREAT tool in your training belt.

    Ideally, an athlete should probably have a PERIODIZED program where they focus on different modalities at different times. They might not ignore other modalities at any time, but...well...off the top of my head, let's say your prime racing season is June through October. You might spend November and December doing what you're doing...an 8 week mesocycle of base building. You might spend January and February working largely on ME. In March and April, you scale down the ME and gradually scale up the DE. In May and June you work on strength-endurance and you taper down to get ready for peak performance in-season. During the season, you do maintenance work and you cut back on volume significantly.

    Or, maybe you could spend one entire offseason focusing SOLELY on DE and, say, strength-endurance.

    I have some friends in the training world that I will ask.

    My apologies for my long-windedness and also if it seems like I'm trying to act like I know everything there is to know. I definitely do not.

    One more thing I'll throw out there....for STARTING power, it might be worth looking at olympic weightlifting. In all honesty, there are no athletes more explosive than o-lifters. They say that o-lifters can outrun sprinters out of the blocks for 20-30 yards and they have phenomenal vertical leaps. I don't know that I've ever come across an athlete that couldn't benefit from doing power cleans from the hang position and also overhead squats. Hang PC improves explosive power and OHS teaches your body to work as a unit rather than as isolated groups of muscles.

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    Just a couple of points I would like to try to re-state in a more clear fashion than I did above:

    1) Maximum strength relates just to the amount of weight you can move. In weightlifting terms, when people refer to power...I don't know the exact equation, but maybe power equals weight times distance traveled divided by time. So if the time it takes to move a weight goes UP, the power measurement goes DOWN. When you are doing 30% of 1rm, again, bar SPEED is very important. You might be able to do 20 reps with 30% of your 1RM. But once you are past, say, 5 reps, the power you apply will drop markedly.

    2) There is almost always some benefit to training in modalities that you have not trained. Again, looking at interval training...it's great to do interval training for most athletes. If you're doing 80 mile road races, spending SOME time on interval training is going to pay dividends. You probably would not want to stop doing some longer, slower distance rides. Of course, if you are racing only in the velodrome and your races never lasted more than, say, ten minutes, the percentage of time you spend on intervals would be MUCH higher than for a road racer. The percentage of time you spent doing aerobic base-building work would be much lower.
    If you are training your muscles to be stronger, it would probably pay to do train in several different ways. There are no magic bullets. If you're training aerobic/anaerobic energy systems, the same holds true. The perfect training plan would probably include SOME combination of ME, DE, strength-endurance work AND also long, slow distance (steady state) and interval work for energy systems. That perfect plan would probably be periodized over a 12 month period with certain times of the year focusing on certain modalities.

    With regard to strength training, frequently, the BEST thing you can do is...whatever it is you are NOT doing right now. It's good to make changes in your set-rep scheme and movement patterns every 4 weeks. It's also not a bad idea to take an un-loading week every 4-6 weeks where you back way off on weight and/or volume.

    One friend I talked to this morning made a couple of suggestions that made some sense.

    1) Cyclists should do quite a bit of unilateral work in the weight room, especially lower body. Squats are great, of course, for developing strength, but he suggested single-leg squats, bulgarian split squats, and various types of lunges (reverse lunges, for example).

    2) Most people who lift weights get out of balance by doing more pushing movements than pulling. That could be horizontal pushing or vertical pushing. He suggests for cyclists who spend a lot of time pushing or locking out anyway that they should make sure to do pulling exercises such as bent rows, pullups, and such.

    3) He loved my idea of power cleans from the hang. He said that deadlifts are a great bang-for-the-buck exercise for a cyclist, as well. He also loved the thought of overhead squats.

    pcates, if you tell me exactly what off-bike training you are doing right now, I might be able to suggest a couple of minor tweaks. When it comes to on-bike training, I would have NO IDEA, I can promise you that.

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    Vudu! many thanks!

    now where do i mail the cheque to?

    On a side note....in regards to the mixing of DE and ME effort; i did come across this article that seems to be talking about that very thing, they referred to it as 'conjugate strength training' here is the link

    http://orgs.jmu.edu/strength/GW_arti...e_Training.htm


    As for what i'm doing right now.....Once a week i do a boxing training class which includes, lots of jump rope, resistance bands, plyo jumps, ab workouts etc.......I usually spend two other days doing some weights, never more than an hour's worth (i can't stand being in the gym that long)....i use a combination of machines but mostly focus on multiple muscle groups (ie squats) vs say an isolated leg exercise.....For the last few weeks i'm basically been doing the usual 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Now there are times where i only get to the gym for weights maybe once a week, so in that case i'll do some plyo at home, which include jumps, alternate leg jumps and depth jumps....with these i do 3 sets of say 5 or 6, once i start losing speed i stop doing them. And f course mixed into the week are cycling workouts....and again because of time constraints i usually do a few 1 hour intense spinning classes with a longer endurance ride on the weekend.

    Now having read your post plus the above link...i'm thinking of maybe switching the weights up where its one day of ME, and another day is DE (either doing plyometrics or the very quick weight lift as you mentioned)......the cycling workouts will become more specific as i move into the season
    Last edited by pcates; 12-07-07 at 10:57 AM.
    there will come a time when there will not come a time.

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    That article is outstanding, in my opinion.

    I'm not familiar with the author, but I am quite familiar with two of his references. I have the Zatsiorsky text and the Ziff and Verkhoshansky text in my library and I refer to them frequently. The author refers to "repetitive effort" where I had called it strength-endurance. I'm sure his term is more commonly used, but the concept was exactly what I tried to get at.

    The one thing that he did not really address was that different athletes have very different needs based on the type of performance they need for their sport. A 100m sprinter will train differently than an NFL football player and a cyclist has different needs, as well....different cyclists have different needs, even.

    Obviously, I don't know your personal needs. Also, I am really not all that confident that I understand the athletic demands of cycling. But I will say that I really like your weekly structure as it is set up. Your boxing class probably does a great job of training energy systems (interval type) and also exposes you to some explosive movement patterns. You are also getting in some more intense spinning classes and some longer distance work on the bike over the weekend.

    I would say that an hour of lifting weights is PLENTY...maybe even too much for many people. More sessions might even be better. If you could do three sessions of 40 minutes, it's the same 2 hours in the weight room, but easier to tolerate and also allows for more diversity. If you are only going to do two days, I'm not sure I would structure it as ME day and DE day, though. Especially if you are occasionally missing one of the two gym days and instead doing plyo jumps on that day. That only gives you one day in the weight room that week. I might try to structure each workout as 2/3 ME and 1/3 DE, but rotating the exercises a little bit.

    Your plan of sticking with compound exercises instead of isolation exercises is very good. If you've been doing the 3x10-12 for a few weeks, I would try some 5x5. I know that many cyclists might scoff at 5x5, but I think it is an incredibly versatile protocol. Keep in mind that you and I are very different folks with probably different needs and goals, but if I were going to train most specifically for cycling and I had two workouts per week, I'd do something like this:

    Eh...sorry...something came up and I've got to do some work....I'll try to come back and edit this post later today or this weekend. If you have time, you might list the exercises you're currently doing. Possibly quite a few if you are spending an hour in the gym!

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    Thanks again for the info vudu.....i really appreciate you taking the time to offer up some great advice!
    there will come a time when there will not come a time.

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    Wow, thanks for this thread guys. Lots of great info.

    I have a question about compound/isolation exercises. I know squats are a good compound excercise for the "push" muscles in the leg, but is there anything I can do for the "pull" muscles other than leg curls (they isolate the hamstring)? My hamstrings are the only thing that I can feel from doing these, and I don't really feel that it's helping me all that much.

  18. #18
    Splicer of Molecules Nickel's Avatar
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    Straight leg deadlifts

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    Slow'n'Aero DrWJODonnell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickel View Post
    Straight leg deadlifts
    you beat me to it

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    I would second...uh...THIRD....that recommendation.

    If you had the facilities for natural glute-ham raises, that might be another option.

    As for what I would do in two sessions in the gym per week...

    workout A:

    power clean (from hang position) 5x5
    pullup 5x5
    deadlift 5x5
    bulgarian split squat 5x5 (or reverse lunge)
    push press 3x5

    workout B:

    front squat (an athletic trainer I respect very much tells me this has THE MOST carryover to athletics) 5x5
    straight-leg deadlift 5x5
    dip 3x8
    overhead squat 5x5
    bent row 3x5

    I'd probably warm up jumping rope and cool down with some medicine ball tosses.3

    Another note about olympic-style weightlifting...I read somewhere that ex-MLB pitcher Steve Bedrosian started o-lifting when he was 36 years old...and soon after that, dunked a basketball for the first time in his life!

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    Thanks, these sound great.

    If I can find something at the gym to do those glute-ham raises on and try out the straight-leg dead lift, then I could probably knock out the back hyperextensions.

    My workout from yesterday went something like:
    3x12 back hyperexts
    20x2 hanging leg-hip raise
    4x8 squats
    30 minute easy spin
    10 minute microbursts
    25 pilates situps
    3x20 1-leg jump-ups onto a step, each leg

    On a side note, it's good to hear about the dunking, actually. A non-cycling athletic goal of mine is to be able to dunk, mostly because the Honors Program intramural team that I play for got beaten badly by the Physics team in football this year, and I'd really like to dunk in our basketball game with them. It's a little far-fetched seeing as games start in the end of January and I can barely get my fingers over the rim now, but I've got to have something to shoot for.

  22. #22
    Splicer of Molecules Nickel's Avatar
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    Those hanging leg-hip raises (assuming) are hard. I can do full extended legs on the Captain's chair, max 15 but I can only do, maybe 4 hanging and my form is not that terrific.

    I admit that I am scared to try power cleans.

  23. #23
    Senior Member ldesfor1@ithaca's Avatar
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    I too am a fan of SLDL's and of any compound hip extension movement (sq, clean, DL, jumping, etc.)
    Learning to jump properly really reqires good coordination and timing and decent muscular balance, these exercizes all require this. I would love to see a group of "random" bike racers do a vertical leap test; it would be very interesting to see how many of them tried to just do a knee extension (quad dominant) to jump and the resulting lack of jump height. Then i might wonder how much learming to perform a coordinated hip extension would help on the bike... or if there is no coorelation what so ever.
    To clarify, I am only talking about improvement in explosive power, not endurance.


    i guess another Question (for VUDU?) would be: would speed work with weights benefit a cyclists sprint/neuromuscular power more if the focus was on a hang clean (shorter range of motion, less quad, more posterior chain) or a speed SQ or jump SQ (deeper, more "cycling specific" ROM, more quad)?

    Just curious to hear what others think here.


    off to go work on my meager FTP.... maybe some cleans for fun...
    Teammates-on-Podium O'meter: 0/n (n=total # of teammates I get to race with)
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    Team/Training blogness:www.thresholdcycling.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickel View Post
    Those hanging leg-hip raises (assuming) are hard. I can do full extended legs on the Captain's chair, max 15 but I can only do, maybe 4 hanging and my form is not that terrific.

    I admit that I am scared to try power cleans.
    Yeah, what I do is the captain's chair thing. Whoops. Got 'em mixed up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickel View Post
    I admit that I am scared to try power cleans.
    Start really light! Use the empty bar if you have any questions. I'd start from the hang position, dip down a little, then EXPLODE up with your hips, stand up on your toes, and shrug your shoulders...keeping your arms straight. As the weight comes up, keep it close to your body. Snap your elbow around and forward and just catch the bar on the front of your shoulders. Piece o' cake.

    Seriously, though, it would be a good idea to have somebody who knows what they are doing spot you, maybe help you the first few times.

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