The effect of water-based plyometric training on vertical stiffness and athletic performance
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© 2018 Sporri et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Since higher vertical stiffness is related to superior athletic performance, training has traditionally been aimed at augmenting this variable to enhance neuromuscular output. However, research has linked elevated stiffness with increased injury risk, therefore, this study examined the effect of a novel training intervention on vertical stiffness and athletic performance. Vertical stiffness, jump performance and athletic performance were assessed in two randomly allocated groups, prior to, and following, an eight-week period. One group was exposed to a training intervention involving aqua-based plyometrics (n = 11) over the 8 weeks while the other acted as a control group (n = 9). The training intervention involved hopping, jumping and bounding in water at a depth of 1.2m whilst control participants performed their normal training. There were no significant changes in vertical stiffness in either group. Countermovement jump height and peak power significantly increased within the aqua plyometric group (p < 0.05). Athletic performance markers improved in the aqua plyometric group as measured using an agility and a 5-bound test exhibiting superior values at the post-test (p < 0.05). The results suggest that an aqua plyometric training program can enhance athletic performance without elevating stiffness. The increase in athletic performance is likely due to a reduction in ground reaction forces created by the buoyancy of the water, causing a shorter amortization phase and a more rapid application of concentric force. The findings from this study can inform exercise professionals and medical staff regarding the ability to enhance neuromuscular performance without elevating vertical stiffness. This has implications for improving athletic performance while concurrently minimising injury risk.
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