The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2007 issue 12




Speed and strength are integral components of fitness found in varying degrees in virtually all athletic movements. Simply put the combination of speed and strength is power. For many years coaches and athletes have sought to improve power in order to enhance performance. Throughout this century and no doubt long before, jumping, bounding and hopping exercises have been used in various ways to enhance athletic performance. In recent years this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics. Whatever the origins of the word the term is used to describe the method of training which seeks to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions as a result of rapid eccentric (negative) contractions.

Plyometric training is specific work for the enhancement of explosive power.  It is not a general fitness activity.  It is highly specialized.  It is a training method to be used in conjunction with other power-development methods.  Correct basic technique in executuion of the exercises, proper progression, and periodization must be emphasized for maximum effectiveness.  Otherwise there is a higher risk of injury and minimal training return.

When a concentric contraction occurs (muscle shortens) immediately following an eccentric contraction (muscle lengthens) then the force generated can be dramatically increased. If a muscle is stretched, much of the energy required to stretch it is lost as heat, but some of this energy can be stored by the elastic components of the muscle. This stored energy is available to the muscle only during a subsequent contraction. It is important to realize that this energy boost is lost if the eccentric contraction is not followed immediately by a concentric effort. To express this greater force the muscle must contract within the shortest time possible. This whole process is frequently called the stretch shortening cycle and is the underlying mechanism of plyometric training.

Plyometric type exercises have been used successfully by many athletes as a method of training to enhance power. In order to realize the potential benefits of plyometric training the stretch-shortening cycle must be invoked. This requires careful attention to the technique used during the drill or exercise. The rate of stretch rather than the magnitude of stretch is of primary importance in plyometric training. In addition, the coupling time or ground contact time must be as short as possible. The challenge to you as coach or athlete is to select or create an exercise that is specific to the event and involves the correct muscular action. As long as you remember specificity and to ensure there is a pre stretch first then the only limit is your imagination.

The golden rule of any conditioning program is specificity. This means that the movement you perform in training should match, as closely as possible, the movements encountered during competition. If you are rugby player practicing for the line-out or a volleyball player interested in increasing vertical jump height, then drop jumping or box jumping may be the right exercise. However if you are a javelin thrower aiming for a more explosive launch, then upper body plyometrics is far more appropriate.

There are plyometric exercises for both the lower and upper body.  Lower body plyometric exercises include drop jumping from a raised platform,  bounding or hurdling, in-place jumps, long jumps, broad jumps, vertical jumps and other variations.  Upper body plyometric exercises include "clap" push-ups, a variety of medicine ball throws and catches, and similar explosive movements using both arms and core muscles. 

It should still be understood that many plyometric exercises can be physically challenging and a strong base level of fitness should be established before incorporating plyometrics into any workout program.

Surviving Christmas

The Average American gains 7 - 12 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s and studies show that most will abandon their fitness programs.  Between the parties, high fat foods, alcohol and hectic schedules who has the time (or the inclination for that matter) to worry about exercise, never mind healthy eating?

Most people are busy putting off their healthy eating and exercise programs "until the 1st of the year." That is, until they try to get into their clothes or get a good look in the department store mirror.

There is still time to formulate a plan that will have you closer to the fitness goals on the first of the year instead of looking at an extra 7-12 pounds of ugly fat. These easy tips will help you get through the holidays with a minimum of stress and weight gain.

1. Don't try to "diet" during the holidays. Instead set a goal of trying to maintain your present weight. This way, you have a realistic goal. Since, as I have previously mentioned, the Average American gains 7-12 pounds, you will still be ahead of the game. You can allow yourself to indulge here and there, but you won't go over the edge.

2. Pay attention to how quickly you eat and exactly what you eat and drink. Chew your food slowly and focus on your companions and the social aspects of each event .

3. Remember that alcohol is packed with calories. Choose light beer and wine over mixed drinks. A holiday-sized mixed drink can have as many a 300- 500 calories or more.

4. Offer to bring a favorite low-calorie dish to holiday parties. This way you'll know there will be at least one "safe" item.

5. Make the effort to continue a regular exercise program. Find a buddy or consult with a professional to help you keep yourself on track. Aim for 2 to 3 thirty minute sessions per week (remember - a little bit is better than none).

6. Never go to a party or event on an empty stomach. Before going out, snack on protein, like chicken or cottage cheese. Protein satisfies and will help you eat less.

7. Keep an eye on your portion sizes. In the heat of celebration, portion sizes can be quite excessive.

8. Don't let a hectic holiday schedule force you to eat fast food. Prepare and freeze several quick, healthy meals. That way, you have an option other than high-fat, fast-food meals.

9. Avoid Tasting While Cooking. You will be appalled at how quickly the calories add up. Get a family member to taste the food for you.

Christmas Health, Fitness and Weight Loss Survival Tips
By Dianne Villano


Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Plyo Lateral Hop

Keeping with the plyometric theme of the first article, I thought I'd highlight a simple yet effective plyometric exercise.  This plyometric  lateral hop exercise is one that we did on a regular basis when I was wrestling at U of D.  "Moonies" as we called them 20 years ago were performed on a regular basis, at the end of practice, by repeatedly jumping over our partner who was on all fours.  Obviously, the higher and wider the barrier that you jump over, the more difficult the exercise becomes.  Due to the rapid successions when performing this exercise, it also challenges your cardio system in addition to the great explosive leg workout.


Target:  legs and butt (quadriceps, gluteals)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Start in standing position next to the barrier that you will be jumping over.  Squat down and jump to the side over the barrier, using good form with your arms as well as your legs.  Upon hitting the ground on the other side, immediate jump back over the barrier, limiting your amount of ground contact time.  Repeat for repetitions or a timed period.

This Just In:  Small Bursts of Exercise OK

If you don't exercise because you think you don't have the time or energy, here's a news flash: Those excuses no longer work.

That's because "any movement helps," according to Gregory Florez, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise and chief executive of the FitAdvisor health coaching site.

Exercising at moderate intensity, even in short bursts of 10 minutes several times a day, or doing daily activities such as running errands can improve your health and probably lengthen your life, recent research suggests.

"Small bouts of activity, even 10 minutes at a time, will have the same impact as 30 minutes or so of continuous exercise," Florez said, if those small bouts are repeated three times a day.

Two recent studies indicate that you don't have to be a marathoner in training to reap the health benefits of exercise or even to get a little fitter.

In one study, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, relatively modest amounts of activity by older people, ages 70 to 82, paid off in longevity.

The research team, led by Todd Manini of the National Institute on Aging, followed 302 older adults for six years. The researchers found that death rates went down as daily energy output - sometimes doing things as simple as vacuuming or running errands - went up.

Those people in the highest third of daily energy output had a 69 percent lower risk of dying during the follow-up than those in the lowest third, the researchers found. Those in the highest third also burned about 600 more calories a day than those in the lowest third. Even short bursts of physical activity made a difference in the calorie-burning group: The people were more likely to walk up two flights of stairs a day, for instance.

The extra reduction in 600 calories per day translates, the study authors said, to about two hours of activity. But it could be any activity: traditional exercise, washing dishes, vacuuming, running errands.

In a study published in the May 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers said as little as 72 minutes of moderate exercise a week could improve aerobic fitness. The investigators looked at 464 sedentary, overweight women, average age 57.

One group worked out on a stationary bike or treadmill at moderate intensity for an average of 72 minutes a week. Another group did the workout for 136 minutes a week, on average. A third group worked out for 192 minutes a week. A fourth group did no exercise and served as the control group.

A fitness test at the end of the six-month study found that women who exercised for 72 minutes improved fitness by 4 percent. The 136-minute group improved fitness by 6 percent while the 192-minute group improved by 8 percent.

ref. HealthDay Jul. 9, 2007

The moral of the story is one that I've stated several times before, "something is better than nothing!"  If you don't have 30 minutes to workout, or you are not yet up to that level of fitness, several 10 or 15 minute workouts will still provide significant health benefits.  Oh yeah... and don't spend so much time driving around looking for the closest space when you're shopping for presents... some of you workout every day, but complain about walking 10 more yards... so what's that all about anyway?


It's Go Time!

December already?  The year's almost over!  Are you getting ready to make a new year's resolution or two?  Well here's my philosophy... new year's resolutions are for procrastinators!  (Hey... that's a better term that I was going to use!)  Why are you waiting for a whole month to make a beneficial promise to yourself?  If you think you need the whole month of December to be bad, before you start being good, then it's going to be difficult to stick to your resolution anyway.

Whether it's a new exercise plan, or a better nutritional program, your resolution (goals) should start TODAY and go for the rest of your life!  When New Year's rolls around, you can just vow to stick to it!  Notice that I said nutritional program and not diet.  Let me remind you that a diet signifies a temporary change in eating habits, which will quickly become unproductive once the diet is over!  The changes you make, whether nutrition or exercise are habits that you should continue from now on in order to receive the lasting benefits.

So there's my pep talk for the end of the year.  As I finish up year 2 of my eNewsletter, I'd like to thank those of you that have contributed various articles and ideas here and there over the months.  Keep 'em coming!  Let me know if there's anything that you would like to see in future issues, if you have any exercise or fitness questions, or any general comments that you have regarding the eNewsletter.  Have an outstanding holiday season and I'll see ya in 2008!

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


"You Can" - Team Hoyt
(must see youtube video) | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




Get Toned!   Get Fit!   Lose Weight!   Feel Great!


© 2007 TODAY! Fitness, LLC. , Bear, Delaware