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From the Coach's Bookshelf: Power Assessments

by: Jim Radcliffe and Robert Farentinos
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The popularity of plymometrics training for strength and conditioning coaches is gaining tremendous momentum. High-Powered Plyometrics (Human Kinetics, 2015), written by University of Oregon Strength and Conditioning Coach James Radcliffe and fitness professional Robert Farentinos includes a complete
training regimen and a total of 81 exercises for explosive training.

Any program dedicated to enhancing performance needs an ongoing method of evaluating its direction and participants’ fitness and accomplishments. To use the stretch–shortening cycle optimally, athletes and their coaches need to know whether athletes’ ages, fitness levels, and understanding of safe procedures are suitable for them to participate, whether they are properly equipped (appropriate attire and props), and whether good exercise progressions are in place.

Assessing Ability

Is serious plyometric training a good option? Before getting too far in planning the specifics of a program, the prudent approach is to look honestly and carefully at factors that could affect safe participation in such intense training.

Prior to starting a progressive 12-week program, participants must have a proper foundation. This includes adequate strength, good fundamental exercise techniques, and an understanding of the risks of injury and how to recuperate from workouts.

Trainers must know participants’ ages, genetics factors, and levels of experience, health, fitness, and strength. Those planning their own programs should treat assessment at least as seriously because they are their own trainers! They should look for any limitations that might inhibit progressive development in explosive power training.


Chronological age is an important consideration. Bosco and Komi (1981) demonstrated that the maturity of both the nervous system and the skeletal system affect people’s tolerance of plyometric training. Youngsters who have not yet reached puberty, for example, should not participate in plyometrics, especially at intense levels. The continual growth of the skeletal system, cartilage at the epiphyseal plates, joint surfaces, and apophyseal insertions make the extreme forces of some plyometric exercises inappropriate.

The inability of young people to tolerate the high loads of the stretch–shortening cycle can cause confusion because they are exposed to forces during play and sports that may equal or exceed the forces experienced in plyometric training with a proper progressive system. The fact is that kids are vulnerable to excessively hard play, yet not as vulnerable as they are to consistent repetitions of excessive overloads.

We contend that 12- to 14-year-old participants can use plyometric training to prepare for future strength training. This has been corroborated by researchers including Valik (1966) and McFarlane (1982). However, we suggest using moderate jump training with youths. Early progressions of low impact and small dosages, as the guidelines and the continuum in later chapters suggest, are best. Adolescents do not appear to experience any significant response to explosive strength training until after the onset of puberty; therefore, training programs should be prescribed cautiously. Planned progressions are particularly appropriate so that young people receive the many other benefits (e.g., good mechanics, coordination, structural integrity) until maturity and mastery develop.

As age increases, nervous system capability, muscle and joint pliability, and energy production decrease, which makes plyometric training less attractive for older athletes. On the other hand, evidence suggests that decreased explosiveness is only partly due to the natural aging process. Increases in endurance training, a lack of such training, and lifestyle also influence how much explosive power a person maintains at older ages. Continued use of stretch–shortening cycle training in proper progressions and using moderate intensities can be effective for aging athletes, as evidenced by the growing numbers of masters athletes in explosive sporting events (e.g., track and field, weightlifting). As addressed in further chapters, anyone’s capabilities can be evaluated and their training adjusted based on maturity.

Physical Capabilities and Health Limitations

Having a good level of overall fitness is helpful in all areas of exercise, and training for explosive power is no different. A doctor’s physical exam is helpful. Before undertaking such training, people should have good body weight control and body composition, enough cardiorespiratory fitness to exercise continuously for several minutes or more, the strength to handle their own body weight in movements in all planes, and the mobility to handle movement positions in several ranges of motion.

Several physical areas should be assessed not only when planning training but also to determine limitations. Flexibility is one, especially in the ankle joints and calf muscles, to ensure proper foot mechanics and proper hip set and segmental cushioning. Evaluators should examine posture, noticing especially the use of torso mechanics; pelvic tilt; and the positioning of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. They should check out balance, torso tilt, and each appendage’s joint alignment, as well as the stability of the foot in contact with the ground, stance firmness, joint tension, and coordinated control.

Past injuries may limit a person’s ability to perform plyometric exercises. Joint stability and balance should be examined to note any past knee, ankle, or shoulder injuries. Progressive exercises are useful in rehabilitation from injuries. Limitations on explosive training may arise from back or spine problems. Excessive trauma to these or any other areas that cause improper landing capabilities need to be addressed and planning adjusted.

Table 4.1 lists the capabilities and health conditions that indicate a readiness or lack of readiness to participate in plyometric training.

The updated second edition of “High-Powered Plyometrics” is now available at, at your local bookstore, or at major online bookstores. This excerpt is reprinted with the permission of Human Kinetics.


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