Plyometrics and Wushu

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Plyometric is a set of exercise ultimately used to enhance athletic performance. Wushu as a modern sport requires the expression of great physical abilities for a great performance.  We will review plyometrics in 2 separate parts, in the first part we will cover: (1) the theory behind plyometrics, and (2) general plyometrics. In the second part of this article we will cover Wushu specific plyometric exercises.


The theory of Plyometrics

Since there are a lot of physiological and biomechanical components behind these type of movements I will try to keep this as simple as possible while still presenting the most important concepts of plyometrics. For this article we will use the ¨Depth Jump¨ as our reference movement to explain the theory behind plyometrics. Plyometrics can be used to enhance maximal strength, speed, muscular reactivity, and explosive power (Verkhoshansky, 2009). In Wushu, plyometrics can be used to enhance and increase jumping ability and explosiveness, which allow the athletes to perform higher difficulty movements.  Plyometrics were born in the 1980s  by Dr. Verkshoansky who was a Russian Olympic coach and researcher.  He used the term ¨Shock method¨ and later on were known as plyometric, a term coined by track coach Fred Wilt.

Plyometrics enhance jumping ability through the short shortening cycle. A muscular contraction has 3 phases; Eccentric (Lengthening of the muscles), Isometric (no change in length), and Concentric (shortening of the muscles).


Eccentric phase. Upon contact (figure 02), the quadriceps in front of the leg are stretched due to the gravity and weight (mass) of the person. This shock, stretches the muscle and tendons and produces the production of ATP (energy) from elastic components within the muscle, which will be released during the concentric phase of the jump.

Isometric phase. This happens at the end of the eccentric phase, in which there is no movement but still tension in the tendons and muscular fibers. All the energy stored during the Eccentric phase in the elastic components of the muscle will be released during this phase. If the energy stored during the eccentric phase is not released through a muscular contraction (movement) fast enough (NSCA, 2008), this energy will be dissipated as heat. Therefore, the faster we move through this phase the more efficient we will be become to utilize this kinetic energy.

Concentric phase. In this phase is where the quadriceps start to contract to create movement (figure 04). If steps 2 and 3 (eccentric and isometric phase) are done correctly with great speed, the kinetic energy stored in the tendons and elastic components of the muscle will create a greater muscular contraction, thus enhancing muscular power output.

The Optimum box height. As previously stated, gravity and the body in motion (your mass) will create and impact in the muscle tendons which generate activation of the Short shortening cycle. In order to maximize the SSC we must utilize an optimum box height. A research by Dr. Verkhoshansky , has found that optimal height to increase reactive strength is .96cm (figure 04). Reactive strength is very useful for jumps with a running approach, one legged jumps, and sprints. Maximal strength however, is maximized with a box height of 1.15cm. Lastly, max power is generated at . This is important to keep in mind, since the periodization ( training plan) is different throughout the year and different motor abilities must be trained at different times.

Rest, Repetitions, and Sets for depth jumps. There are different ways to set this up, however each athlete can modify this depending on his preference. However, Dr. Verkhoshansky has recommended 4 sets of 10 with 3 minute rests in between sets for depth jumps. Other coaches such as Joe Defranco recommend 5 sets of 4 repetitions with long periods of rests in between. Due to taxing nature of this exercise on the nervous and muscular system no more than 40 repetitions at day are recommended. There should also be a 48-72 hour rest between plyometric days.

General Plyometrics

Different exercises have been used to increase jumping ability. In this section we will summarize some of the most common used plyometric exercises (table 1.) and their intensity type. The general guidelines for the set and exercises used can be found in table 2. A general guideline in rest interval between sets can be between 1 -4 minutes, depending on the level of the athlete and the type of plyometric exercise. Another general outline is to not perform more than 10 repetitions of any movement in one set because this will create more muscular endurance rather than muscular power.


[tabs tab1=”Box Jumps” tab2=”Depth jumps” tab3=”Frog Jumps” ]

[tab id=1][youtube id=”u_2PMvcH0Yk” width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]
[tab id=2][youtube id=”TfCnN-dwdZE” width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]
[tab id=3][youtube id=”b6kNFB3kjFE” width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]

[tabs tab1=”Standing jumps” tab2=”Barbell Jumps” tab3=”Single leg jumps” ]

[tab id=1][youtube id=”N_gKdTzcb5A” width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]
[tab id=2][youtube id=”WRI-05MYrY8″ width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]
[tab id=3][youtube id=”NQ0qb31bjgQ” width=”600″ height=”375″][/tab]

Table 1. Summary of plyometric jumps


Table 2. Guidelines for plyometric activity. Adapted from the NASCA guidelines (2010).


Safety guidelines.

  • If plyometric exercises are used with young children (<15yrs old), only those exercises that are categorized as medium and low intensity levels should be employed.
  • The use of barbell squat jumps and depth jumps are not recommended for anyone under 15 years old.
  •  Rest 48 to 72 hours in between plyometric sessions to allow the nervous and muscular system to regenerate.
  • As a general guideline, only perform high intensity level exercise if you can Squat 1 ½ times your bodyweight. If not, perform only low and medium intensity exercise.
  • When combining low intensity and medium can be combined, but the number of ground contacts should be reduced light.
  • Do not mix high intensity exercise with low-medium in the same session, usually performing few high intensity exercise is enough to stimulate the nervous and muscular systems.

Sample Beginner- Intermediate Plyometric program


Notice that the total number of contacts is 79. Since we mixed low and medium intensity exercises the highest number of contacts per session cannot be more than 80.

Sample Advance program


Since we are utilizing high level exercises, we should not exceed 100 ground contacts per session. These programs can be used 2 or 3 times per week. The number of exercise and repetitions can be reduced according to the athlete’s level.

In part 2 of this article we will explore different specific Wushu plyometric exercise. Any questions please feel free to email me or facebook me.


  • Kike Rojas

    Thank you Samuel for this very detailed article. I’ll be eagerly waiting for the second part! I’m just a little confused with something you wrote and I don’t fully understand. Up there you said that “Due to taxing nature of this exercise on the nervous system no more than 40 repetitions at day are recommended” but neither one of the examples comply with that maximum number of reps/jumps. Does that reps/jumps limit apply for each individual exercises or to the whole session?

    • Samuel Montalvo

      Hi Kike,

      Yes you are right, however this is per training session. The sample Plan I provided can be done in two parts: Barbell jumps in the morning and depth jumps in the afternoon. I hope this helps to clarify your question!

      • Kike Rojas

        But then again if we do the plan in two parts we’re still doing more than those 40 reps/jumps recommended a day (25 barbell jumps in the morning + 40 depth jumps in the afternoon), don’t we?
        I’m really looking forward to implement this techniques in my regular training but I don’t want to over stress any muscle or anything.

        • Samuel Montalvo

          Yes and no, as I pointed out before it is a sample plan for advance or international athletes. If sessions are divided into two daily workouts then the first exercise can be used as a potentiation effect, meaning that it the nervous system is pre-stimulated before the depth jumps in the afternoon. So, in this case it can be used like that as long as the first exercise is not that strenuous. But again, if you are not a high level athlete yet, I suggest you staying within the boundaries of the guidelines! I hope that helps