Making Plyometrics Specific in Martial Art Training |

One of the most misunderstood variables of strength training is specifics. To really make an exercise specific to a skill, standard off the shelf exercises just won’t cut it. For example, when training to improve punching power often instructors will suggest improving arm strength and to make it more specific to the punch in question will recommend using a dumbell over a barbell. While not universal this approach is common.The application of plyometric exercises to the martial arts is an area where some careful thought should be applied to get the best out of your training time. It would be all too easy to take well established protocols and use these, particularly those that appear to have similar movements to strikes or kicks.A plyometric contraction involves eccentric loading followed by concentric contraction. Also known as the stretch-shortening cycle, this involves a muscle being stretched under tension before it contracts. If the time frame for this cycle is kept as short as possible the more explosive the contraction will be.One excellent drill involves rapidly repeating a striking action thereby exploiting this phenomenon. This repetition has the advantage of increasing the neural drive with a resultant increase in force being the outcome. The full drill involves following the rapid repetition is with a full power performance of the strike being repeated.In order to produce rapid striking actions often only the latter section of the action is involved. Trying to rapidly repeat a long or big technique is problematic as by definition it takes a long time to perform. So when executing a round kick, using this method, it looks more like a thai boxing kick than a karate roundhouse from a long stance. The earlier section of the movement can be trained separately.This approach to including plyometric style training in martial arts is far more specific to the explosive movements required than standard plyometric exercises such as bounding or box jumps or even clapping push ups. These exercises provide the correct contraction type which is an improvement on regular squats or press ups.Another important consideration is the state of the muscle as it is stretched. It is not slack, it is stretched under tension. One useful analogy is of a double stretched elastic band with the slack removed. That is the band is stretched and taut rather than slack before it is stretched at both ends! Meaning the front and back of the band is streched.This double stretch, under tension, applied to plyometric training will dramatically improve the force applied from whatever strike is trained in this way. This is a huge improvement on simply performing standard but non-specific exercises from a book on plyometrics, which is probably aimed at track and field athletes.