Thoughts on Plyometrics and Your Approach to the CrossFit Open

February 25, 2014

The CrossFit Open is coming around again, and that means we’re going to see a lot of burpees and a lot of box jumps. With the ever looming potential for achilles injuries, we’re going to see a lot of people lambasting the use of rebounding box jumps. Last year, everyone jumped on the programming of Open WOD 13.2:

10 mins, as many rounds as possible of:

- 5 shoulder to overhead, 115 lbs for men, 75 lbs for women

- 10 deadlifts, same weight

- 15 box jumps, 24 in for men, 20 in for women

I have to say, I was really proud watching how many people at the gym where I coach taking the initiative to step down from the boxes, rather than "buck up" and do ten minutes of bounding box jumps. Many even switched to stepping up and down for each rep. They were able to move at a steady pace through the workout, get a great cardiovascular punch, and save their achilles tendons.

So what's the deal with plyometrics and how should one use them in training?

Plyometrics is about training the stretch-shorten cycle (SSC), or stretch reflex, to strengthen muscles, increase agility, power, and supplement conditioning work. Notice I said supplement conditioning work. Plyometrics in and of themselves, even though they can get your heart pounding, aren't meant to be used as conditioning moves.

Jumping up on a box is the first, basic level of plyometrics. It starts with a quick drop into a partial squat, a countermovement of the arms, and explosion off the ground onto a platform. The training goal here is to get the athlete to turn their energy around quick, from the drop to lift off. You often see untrained individuals do a slow descent or even a pause at the bottom of the partial squat because this motor pathway and engagement of the SSC has never been trained or tapped into. It's like you can almost see their motor units turn on one by one at the bottom...

Depth Jumps

What you see in CrossFit, the bounding box jumps, is akin to depth jumps. There are a lot of progressions that coaches and trainers familiar with plyometrics take their clients through to prepare them for depth jumps, not the least of which is dropping from a lower platform and jumping onto a slowly increasing target platform.

The key to proper depth jump technique is watching the heels on the ground. Does the athlete's heel barely kiss the ground or not touch at all? Is the turn around quick? Then the athlete is well suited for the height of the depth jump.

But on the other hand, does the athlete take more than a split second to make the turn around? Are the heels coming in full, sustained contact with the ground? And even worse, does the athlete seem to land flat footed? The depth drop is too high.

Here's what I'd like to see for progressions in CrossFit boxes:

Obviously, start athletes out with stepping down until they demonstrate that they can proper engage and recruit power from through the SSC and countermovements in the jump.

Then, and I know this will slow people's WOD time down, but they should suck it up, have them drop from a lower box or even a stack of plates and jump up to their target box. Watch their heels and their turn around time. As they become more proficient at it, the initial depth drop height can be increased until they're ready for bounding from and jumping to the same box.

And of course, proper care of your achilles is going to go a long way!

This article is courtesy of of Kristin Newman. Kristin is a Strength and Conditioning coach based in California, who also competes nationally in Olympic Weightlifting, Power Lifting, and Strongman. She holds CrossFit certifications in Power Lifting as well as Movement and Mobility. Kristin uses her vast experiences as an athlete and coach, along with her infectious personality to create some of the most interesting and entertaining fitness/health blogs and social media posts. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Instagram.

Also in The Second Pull Blog

A New Look For A CrossFit Classic: The Reebok CrossFit Nano 9

May 23, 2019 0 Comments

The time of release isn't the only thing that's changed with the newest Nano; Reebok's trademark CrossFit shoe has received some major upgrades that you'll be super excited about.

Continue Reading

New Limited Edition Nike Metcon 4 Patches

April 26, 2019 0 Comments

Designed to mimic tactical weight vests worn during Murph, the Nike Metcon 4 XD Patch training shoes come with military inspired velcro patches. The Patches are available in Nike Special Field System Collection colors (tan, army green and triple black for men; dusty pink, lavender, and gray for women).

Continue Reading

The New Metcon Everyone's Talking About

April 05, 2019 0 Comments

Nike's Metcon line has grown into the #1 choice for functional training footwear by offering athletes options like the durable Metcon 4 XD, the versatile Free X Metcon 2, and the plush Metcon Flyknit 3. The all new Nike Metcon Sport is the latest addition to the Metcon family, and since it's recent release it's sent shock waves through the fitness and footwear world. 

Continue Reading