The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of an aquatic- and land based plyometric programme upon selected, sport-specific performance variables in adolescent male, rugby union players. A group of 52 rugby players (age: 16.3 ± 0.8 years, height: 176 ± 6.9 cm and body mass: 76.1 ± 11.9 kg) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: aquatic-group (n=18), land-group (n=17), and a control-group (n=17). Prior to and after the seven weeks of training, the power, agility and speed of participants were assessed by means of Fitrodyne repeated countermovement jumps, the Sergeant vertical jump,
the Illinois agility test, a standing broad jump, and a 10- and 40- metre sprint. All three groups maintained their summer extra-curricular sport commitments during the intervention period.
When the three groups were analysed, no significant differences were found between the groups with regard to all tested performance variables. With regard to within group changes, the aquatic-group improved significantly (p<0.05) in the Illinois agility test, performed to the right. The land-group showed significant (p<0.05) improvements in peak concentric power during Fitrodyne repeated countermovement jumps. All groups reflected highly significant (p<0.01) improvements in the Sergeant vertical jump. None of the groups displayed any improvements in sprint speed. The control was the only group to improve significantly in the standing broad jump (p<0.05).
Land-based plyometric training might be a functionally superior training modality for athletes, although aquatic plyometrics could also offer an effective training modality for performance enhancement in power-based sports such as rugby union football. Aquatic-based plyometrics should not completely replace land-based plyometrics, as it might not adequately develop the specific neuromuscular patterns or functional needs of explosive sports.
Keywords: water, plyometric training, power, vertical jump, rugby union