The results you get from plyometrics come with a price. Although they don’t look particularly taxing, these exercises present an all-out challenge to your muscles, joints, connective tissues, and central nervous system. Before you even consider adding them to your workouts, heed these guidelines.
1. Make Sure You’re In Decent Shape
The standard advice is to forget lower-body jumps until you can squat 1½ times your body weight; and to avoid upper-body plyos until you can bench-press your weight. To us, that advice seems like a Catch-22—you must be strong before you’re allowed to develop power. Look at kids: They don’t need training to skip and jump. They do it all day, every day. It’s an important part of their development. Could the average 20-kilo kindergartner squat 30 kilos or bench 20? We doubt it. Let’s modify the standard advice and say you should build a base of strength and fitness before you turn to plyometrics. We think a solid year of strength training should do it.
2. Respect Pre-existing Injuries
Make sure your injuries have healed before you do plyometrics that affect those areas. With some chronic knee and lower-back injuries, you may not be able to do plyometrics at all without risking further damage. (Same with wrist injuries, in the case of plyometric pushups.)
3. Do Plyometrics First In Your Workouts
That means after warmups and stretching, but before strength or aerobic exercises. In an ideal situation, strength and aerobics should be done on one day, plyometrics on another, warmup and stretching every time you workout. If that’s not an option, do plyometrics before strength and/or aerobics work.
4. Rest 2 to 3 days Between Plyometric Workouts
Beginners and those over age 40 may want to budget even more time for recovery. You want your muscles and connective tissues to grow stronger between workouts, and that requires full recovery from one workout to the next.
5. Keep Reps Relatively Low
Try for 6 to 10 per set.
6. Rest 2 to 3 minutes Between Sets
But stay on your feet. Stretch or walk around in between sets. Don’t sit and allow your muscles to stiffen.
7. Keep Volume Low
Plyometric volume is usually measured in foot contacts, rather than in reps. The term means exactly what you think it means, although one foot landing counts as 1 contact, while two feet landing at the same time also counts as 1 contact. That’s because your body—particularly your lower back—feels contact no matter how many Nikes hit the turf. Beginners should limit themselves to 60 to 80 foot contacts per workout. Advanced guys can go as high as 150 to 200, with intermediates in between.
8. Get Off The Ground
Minimize ground time and maximize air time. As soon as you land from one jump, immediately explode into the next one. Height isn’t as important as speed.
9. Use Ground That Gives
Your backyard or a nearby field is an ideal place to do plyometrics. A carpeted floor can also work in a pinch.
10. Progress From Easiest to Hardest
Just as you started strength lifting with the simplest exercises—crunches, pushups, biceps curls—and then progressed to the challenging stuff, you should also start plyos with simple standing jumps before moving onward and upward.