We know that plyometrics are the most effective way to improve vertical jump — we’ve seen that over and over again. But what about agility? It stands to reason that since plyometrics improve the explosive power needed to increase vertical jump, that it would have a positive effect on improving agility. But is it true? Do plyometrics increase agility and how much training volume do you need to see the effect?
Not surprisingly, it is in fact true. Research has shown that plyometrics is highly effective in improving agility. A research team divided 28 participants into groups of 14. None of them were currently incorporating plyometrics in their training. Group one agreed to continue training as before. Group two added in six weeks of plyometric training. At the end of the six weeks, the control group showed no increase in agility, but the plyometric group showed improvements in all three agility tests. Tests included things like timed running along a T that was ten meters on each leg, with some legs being done as straight runs and others as side shuffles. So the results were fairly conclusive that including plyometrics had a strong effect.
So the question is, how much plyometric training is necessary to see improvements in agility? Remember, one of the keys to plyometric training is to keep the volume low. The idea is to have a few really good reps, but not to work to the point of fatigue as athletes do with weight training or endurance training. That’s true whether building power or agility.
In the 2006 study on plyometrics and agility, the participants performed a maximum of 140 “foot contacts” per week (not per day or per workout, but per week spread out over two workout sessions each week). Many of these foot contacts took place during the low or medium intensity exercises from early in a workout session. And the study only ran six weeks because research has shown that four to six weeks is the optimal length of time to stress and stimulate the central nervous system, without placing undo stress and fatigue on the athlete. Furthermore, the workouts were held to two per week to give time for adequate recovery – never forget that plyometrics, like all power work, is about quality, not quantity.
So in short, if you want to improve agility, which will certainly improve sports performance in general and vertical jump in particular, add in plyometrics, but don’t overdo it.
Source: Michael G. Miller, Jeremy J. Herniman, Mark D. Ricard, Christopher C. Cheatham and Timothy J. Michael, “The effects of a 6-week plyometric training program on agility,” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 5, 459-465.