Strength: Plyometrics on the Sand - Are They Effective?

Strength: Plyometrics on the Sand -
Are They Effective?

Some athletes perform plyometrics on sand, believing the soft surface speeds strength development while reducing impact stress on the joints.

But are sand-plyos really effective? A recent study indicates that they provide no advantage over traditional grass-surface plyos, and in some elements of strength, are less effective.

The Study
The study, conducted at the Mapei Sport Research Center in Italy, involved 37 soccer players who performed plyometric training on either a sand or grass surface, over a four week period.

To measure the effects of the training, they participated in 10m and 20m sprints, squat jumps and countermovement jumps both before and after the four-week period.

Plyometrics in the sand were found to be only as effective as plyometrics from a grass surface in improving squat jumps and the ability to sprint over 10 or 20 metres.

However, they were less effective in developing countermovement jumping ability. Examples of this skill include jumping from a run - such as when long jumping or immediately after a previous jump, such as when making a second jump for the ball in basketball rebounding. Running speed is also affected by this skill, since it involves the ability to generate "bounce" from the feet and ankles when running at top speed.

The development of countermovement strength (usually called reactive or elastic strength) depends on the ability of the muscles to pre-stretch then immediately snap back. This "stretch reflex" is the ability that plyometrics are traditionally used to develop. However, the feet need a solid base from which to push in order to produce this elastic response and sand does not provide such a surface.

On the other hand, squat jumps and accelerations from a standstill are dependent upon starting, explosive and maximal strength, which sand plyos develop as effectively as - but no better than - grass-surface plyometrics.

Is there a reason to perform sand plyometrics? Generally speaking, not really. They don't improve reactive strength and, in developing starting, explosive and maximal strength, are no more effective than plyos performed on a grass surface.

Possible Benefits
Where sand plyometrics probably are useful, is in sports such as beach volleyball, where jumps from a shifting, sandy surface are part of game conditions.

They may also provide some benefits in terms of reducing impact stress, or ?developing general foot strength, but the softer the sand, the less the reactive strength development.

Reference: F.E. Impellizzeri , C. Castagna, E. Rampinini, F. Martino, S. Fiorini, & U. Wisloff, "Effect of plyometric training on sand versus grass on muscle soreness, jumping and sprinting ability in soccer players." British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2007.

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