Plyometrics: 3 Mistakes that Increase your Risk of Injury

author - melissa witmer strength and conditioning

Mistake number 1:  Skipping the prerequisites

Plyometric training shouldn’t be done in isolation, but as part of a complete training program that includes strength training.  You don’t need to be able to squat a certain amount, but you do need to have a basic level of strength.     Athletes will be better prepared by focusing on functional single-leg strength rather than over-emphasizing their maximum squat strength.

Also, before doing medium and high-intensity plyometrics, the athlete must have proper landing mechanics.  If the knees cave inward when landing, more strength is needed.

Any athlete can begin with low-intensity plyometric exercises but medium and high-intensity plyometrics should not be done until the pre-requisites are satisfied. 

Mistake number 2:  Too much volume

The volume of plyometric exercises that should be done first depends on the intensity of the exercise.  Low-intensity plyos such as jumping rope, and warm-up type plyos (like butt kicks and high knees) can be done in high volume.  The volume of moderate and high-intensity plyometrics, however, must be monitored carefully to avoid too much stress on the joints and ligaments.

The general way to measure volume in a plyometric program is by ground contacts (how many times you land).  Even elite athletes do not exceed 120 ground contacts of high-intensity plyos per week.

The exact volume of ground contacts will depend on your training age (how often, how much, and how recently you’ve done plyometric work in the past) and the intensity of the plyometric exercises.

A very general guideline is to choose 3 appropriate exercises and perform 3-5 sets of 5 reps as a plyometric module that can be done 2-3 times per week.  Vary the exercises so that you are not doing the same exercise more than once per week.

Mistake number 3:  Improper progression

Doing high-intensity plyometrics before adapting to low and medium level plyometrics increases your risk of injury. Though a program may prescribe doing certain exercises for a certain number of weeks, the athlete should not progress to more complicated or intense exercises until the basics have been mastered.   Any other strategy is asking for injury. Athletes should be able to perform every exercise and reps with maximum intensity, good form, and body control.

Guidelines for Progression:

  •  Adapt to the landing before doing multiple response jumping drills
  •  Double leg landings are less intense than single-leg landings
  •  Single response drills (one jump and one landing) are less intense than multiple responses (several jumps with minimal ground contact time) drills

 Examples of low-intensity plyos:

  • Jumping rope
  • Common warm-up exercises (high knees, butt kicks, etc)
  • Some that may be new:  prancing (looks funny, but it works on “popping” the hips), galloping

 Examples of medium intensity plyos:

Examples of high-intensity plyos:

Final Thoughts

Many players don’t do any plyometrics because they fear injury. But because ultimate does involve jumping, plyometric training is an important part of a training program to decrease injury risk. You have to train your body to adapt to the jumping and landing demands the sport entails before the season begins. If you are hesitant to add plyometrics to your training, start by adding low-intensity plyometrics to your warm-up routine. Progress to a low volume of a few medium intensity plyometric exercises.