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Every personal trainer knows that a client’s exercise plan must be changed from time to time. This helps keep their fitness progressing. It also allows more opportunities to work different muscle groups. (Or, at a minimum, you can work each muscle in a different way.)
One form of exercise to consider swapping in is plyometrics. This type of workout can be beneficial for both athlete and non-athlete clients.
Learn what plyometrics is and the many benefits it provides. We also share several plyometric exercises, both with and without jumps. And if you decide it’s worth a try, we even provide a sample workout to get you started.
Plyometrics is a form of exercise with short bursts of explosive movement. Many of these movements involve a vertical jump. The box jump and jump squat are two examples. Jumps are such a critical part of this type of training that some refer to plyometrics as “jump training.”
Plyometrics utilizes the stretch shortening cycle. This is a cycle in which muscle lengthening is followed by muscle shortening.
There are three phases of a plyometric exercise:
Eccentric phase – During this phase, the muscle fiber is stretched as you get into position for the movement. The depth of the stretch, how fast you stretch, and how long you hold the stretch can all affect your power during plyometric movements.
Amortization phase – This is also referred to as the time to rebound. It occurs between the eccentric contraction and concentric contraction of the muscle. The shorter this phase, the more powerful your movements.
Concentric shortening phase – It is during this phase that the plyometric movement is performed.
There are many benefits to this type of training. One is that plyometrics help build strength in the lower body. The movements target muscle groups in the hips, legs, and glutes.
Plyometrics also aids in power development. This is helpful for an athlete who participates in a sport that relies on power movements. Football, basketball, and hockey are all examples. More power means better performance.
Increasing your power also means faster reaction times. When someone throws you the ball, for instance, you can respond quicker. This can be the difference between making the game-winning catch or being faced with an incomplete pass (or a ball that goes out of bounds).
For runners, plyometric training can improve speed. If you want to complete a marathon in less time, this training can help you achieve that goal. Or maybe you want to do faster sprints. It can help with that too.
Because plyometrics are more intense, they can cause you to burn more fat. They are like aerobic exercise on steroids. Your body is forced to work harder to do explosive movements. Doing plyometrics can also improve your flexibility.
Research adds that plyometric training is helpful during rehabilitation. So, if you’re recovering from an injury, your therapist may recommend that you do plyometrics.
Plyo exercises can be split into two types: those with a jump and those without.
Many plyometric exercise options involve a jump movement. In most cases, a vertical jump is used. Among them are:
Jump squat – jumping vertically from a squat position
Split squat jump – jumping up with the right foot positioned in front of the left foot or vice versa
Jump lunge – jumping up from a lunge position
Tuck jump – jumping up while “tucking” the knees to the chest
Box jump – jumping from the floor up onto a box
Broad Jump – jumping horizontally for distance
Other forms of plyometric movement use explosive power without a jump. Examples include:
Like with any form of exercise, doing plyometrics safely requires using the proper form. This helps prevent injury. It also makes it easier to harness more power and strength. Here’s what proper form looks like for a plyometrics jump.
Place your feet hip-width apart. Each foot is planted firmly on the floor. Lift the heels slightly and hold. Drop into a squat position without allowing the toes to extend beyond the knees.
Hold your arms out in front of you. This aids in balance while also helping to power the move. Pull your arms back as you use your lower body to push into a vertical jump. Try to go as high in the air as you can. Upon landing, lower back into a squat position. Again, make sure your knees don’t go beyond the toes.
Only do the movement as fast as you can without sacrificing control. You can also practice in front of a mirror to keep a better eye on your form.
Ready to try a plyometric workout? Great! Let’s get started.
For this workout, you will need a plyometric box. If you’re new to exercise in general, choose a box with a short jump height. Depending on your fitness, this could range from 6 to 20 inches. More advanced exercisers might choose a higher box.
This workout enables you to select the exercises that you enjoy most. Each section offers a variety of movements from which to choose. Start with the ones that you feel most comfortable with. As you become more familiar with plyometrics, switch them up for a different workout.
Here’s a sample plyometric training plan for beginners:
Warm-Up (3 minutes)
Start with a light-intensity exercise such as walking in place. For the final minute of the warm-up, boost the intensity a little. One option is to lift the knees higher when walking. Another option is to end the warm-up with jumping jacks.
Muscle Activation Movements (1 set of 12-15 reps)
Get your muscles ready for the workout with a few strength training movements. Choose three of the following, doing one set of up to 15 reps each.
Single leg glute bridge
Plyometric Workout (3 sets of 5 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets)
Now that your body is warmed up, it’s ready for plyometric movements. Select two jump exercises and two non-jump exercises. Do three sets of 5 reps for each, resting one minute between sets.
Jump exercises (2 each):
Split squat jump
Non-jump exercises (2 each):
Cool Down (5 minutes)
End the workout with 5 minutes of light-intensity exercise. For the first 3 minutes, walk in place. For the last 2 minutes, cool down by stretching the muscles you’ve worked. Select two lower body stretches and two upper body stretches. Hold each stretch for up 30 seconds.
Lower body stretches
Standing hamstring stretch
Standing quadriceps stretch
Standing forward bend
Three-way leg stretch
Upper body stretches
Cross-body shoulder stretch
Overhead reach stretch
Forward reach stretch
Shoulder blade squeeze stretch
Triceps pull stretch
Plyometrics can be hard on the body. So, limit this workout to no more than two times per week.
Ready for more? Try this 20-minute plyometric workout.
Over time, plyometric drills will become easier. You’ll notice that your strength and power improve. Therefore, you’ll need to boost the intensity of the workout if you want to continue to progress. You can do this by using the shock method.
The shock method involves incorporating jumps with drops. This increases the power of the movements. It also helps you continue to build your strength.
Two jumps to consider are the depth jump and drop jump:
Depth jump: Jump off a box, landing on the floor. Allow your knees to do a deep bend, then do a vertical jump. Try to jump as high in the air as you can.
Drop jump: This jump uses the same movements as a depth jump. The only difference is that you don’t allow your knees to bend as much. This allows for a faster rebound time.
Because these moves are more intense, plan for more rest time between each rep and set. This helps you reduce your fatigue. It also contributes to greater explosive strength.
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Davies, G., Riemann, B. L., & Manske, R. (2015). CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 10(6), 760–786.
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