SPORTS SCIENCE: Plyometic movements in MMA Performance Training – why it’s essential

By Adam Tindal, MMATorch contributor

Photo Credit Wade Keller © MMATorch

Plyometric movements are a crucial component to all sports performance training programs.  The transfer of force from the ground and through the kinetic chain – in other words, our bodies – is a major piece for any fighter wanting to maximize their power production. 

Not only can plyo training such as broad jumps, box jumps, single leg hops, and bounds all teach and train our bodies to quickly explode from a static position, but we can also progress and add a counter movement to then incorporate an eccentric loading phase.

An eccentric load is simply the lengthening of the muscle groups that are about to contract and fire.  In my field, we call this maximizing the stretch shortening cycle. Additionally, there is a stability factor that is present in all plyo exercises that is extremely beneficial as well.  There are a million different things to talk about when it comes to plyos. However, these will be the major points I elaborate on.

For fighters specifically, the transfer of force is major as we all know.  Plyometrics are some of the purest movements one can do to train absolute, total body power production.  We start in a fixed position or a stand still and then all at once force our bodies to blast off the ground and then stabilize the landing. 

Think about throwing a flying knee, having to quickly change levels and then drive right off the canvas and drill your knee into your opponent. In the stretch shortening cycle, the level change is the eccentric load and the explosion into the strike is the concentric movement. With the proper core strength, this teaches the neuromuscular system to recruit and fire instantly and transfer that force throughout the body.  It also translates directly to throwing a punch, or even better, a kick. 

There is so much that occurs throughout our bodies when throwing a kick, essentially creating a deadly amount of torque through our hips and whipping one leg off the ground and attempting to target a single point on our opponents body.  In order to accurately complete this attack we must stabilize or brace on our grounded leg and concentrate the momentum that was quickly generated.  A single leg rotational bound couldn’t be more specific when trying to mimic this aspect of a fight.  Basically, balancing low on one foot and then springing off into the air at a 90 degree angle, for example, and cushioning the landing on your opposite leg. The goal being height, distance, and a silent landing without letting our knee rotate inward.

I believe that in order to become a truly great athlete, we all must consistently train what we are not good at and progress accordingly.  One of the most underrated components of athleticism that most people are horribly inefficient at is eccentrically loading through our posterior chain (activating our glutes and hamstrings properly to decelerate our body). 

I am a big fan of using box jumps as well as progressing to the depth jump to train power production as well as deceleration.  By optimizing our ability to decelerate and eccentrically load the posterior chain, fighters will find it much easier to change levels and generate power.  Becoming stronger and more stable through our glutes and hamstrings will also allow us to perform with a more reduced risk for injury, through having more control over what our body is doing and how quickly we are going to do it, which ideally acts as the icing on the cake here.

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS SPORTS SCIENCE ARTICLE: The Value of Core Strength, Mobility and Stability for MMA Performance and Longevity

(Adam Tindal of Orlando, Fla. is new MMATorch Specialist columnist focused on the sports science of exercise. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Performance Enhancing Specialist, and has USA Weightlifting certification . He studied exercise science at UCF and current works for a sports performance company in Orlando. He has practiced Muay Thai for nearly ten years and is a passionate follower of MMA.)

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