Introduction to Plyometrics
A basic guide to plyometric exercises.
Remember the fun you had as a kid, hopping, skipping, and jumping around the playground? The exercises you do with plyometrics mimic those dynamic moves.
Plyometrics (“plyo,” for short) used to be called “jump training.” It’s a technique that you can use in many different ways. For instance, you can do plyometrics to help train for basketball, volleyball, tennis, or any other activity that uses explosive movements.
The physical demands of an athlete differ greatly from a ‘normal gym guy’ looking to build huge muscles. Explosiveness – a combination of muscle power and strength – is what an athlete needs to work on rather than ‘slow-rep’ bodybuilding exercises like bench press or bicep curls.
This is where plyometric exercises come in handy. Plyometric exercises are moves associated with a power component – so, if you were to do a ‘clap press-up’ that would be a plyometric move as opposed to a traditional press-up. Likewise, jump squats are plyometric compared to normal squats.
The three key benefits of plyometric training are: increased muscular power, prevent injuries, and boost high end abilities like sprinting or jumping.
- Power is vastly different from strength. Power relates to one’s ability to apply force quickly (such as jumping) as opposed to strength which refers to one’s ability to simply displace weight. A real world example of this would be to take a bodybuilder who can leg press 800lbs and a kick boxer who can only leg press 400lbs. If we had each individual kick a training bag, the trained kick boxer will exhibit greater power and apply more force to the bag than the bodybuilder. This demonstration exemplifies how the bodybuilder may have more strength but the kick boxer has more power.
- For many professional athletes, their careers depend upon how quickly their bodies can react and operate. Unfortunately, the demand for these quick responses places the body under a great deal of stress. By performing plyometric exercises in addition to regular strength training exercises and regularly stretching, athletes can build up all forms of muscular fibers which leads them to be less susceptible to injury.
- Plyometrics target the fast-twitch muscle fibers. An activity like jogging targets the slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are exercised by executing movements quickly, therefore requiring the muscles to rapidly contract. Activities like long distance running allows the muscles to contract slowly (and sometimes not even fully contract as the stride does not require it)
Boost high end abilities
- For an athlete looking to gain an edge in a particular sport, plyometrics is a great way to bring their skills to the next level. With proper training, plyometrics will increase an athlete’s vertical jump, enhance their ability to make quick lateral movements, allow for greater punching/kicking force, and of course, it allows for one to increase their top running speed.
Depth Jumps: This exercise uses gravity and an athlete’s weight to increase exercise intensity. Assume a standing position on a box, step or hop off, land, and immediately jump vertically, horizontally, or on to another box. Depth jumps can be performed with one or both legs. The height of the box is dependent on the athlete and his or her goals. Furthermore, one should ensure that the surface they are landing on is suitable for absorbing impact so as not to risk any shock injuries
Squat Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump as high as possible. Upon landing, squat and immediately jump up again.
Tuck Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Explode and jump as high as you can, bringing your knees into your chest. As you descend, straighten your legs and land softly on the balls of your feet. As soon as your feet touch the ground, repeat the sequence.
- Long jumps– loading the lower body by squatting down a bit and using arm swings, explode forwards to complete a series of long jumps – increase the intensity by increasing the distance, the number of jumps or the speed at which you jump.
- Vertical jumps– complete a series of vertical jumps reaching a pre-decided target hung up from the ceiling or marked on the wall.
- Stair jumps– using the principle of pre-loading, jump with both feet and try to cover as many stairs as possible.
- Plyometric Push-Up: Assume a normal push-up position. Lower yourself to the floor. With explosive force, push off the floor so that your hands leave the floor. Repeat.
- Burpee – Stand straight, go down to push up then get up to do a tuck jump.
- Lateral Jumps – From a standing position, jump side to side.
There are countless other exercises and specific plyometric exercises that you can implement into your training routine, and given that most of them don’t require any equipment, you can perform them at any time (as long as you have a suitable landing surface—tarmac is not great for shock absorption).
Areas It Targets
Core: No. This workout doesn’t specifically target your core.
Arms: No. Most plyometric workouts don’t target your arms. But if you want to work them, you can add upper-body moves like medicine-ball throws and plyometric push-ups.
Legs: Yes. Expect your legs to get in great shape from all the jumping and hopping.
Glutes: Yes. Moves like jump squats fire up your glutes to make them stronger.
Back: No. Though the workout involves your whole body, it’s not focused on your back muscles.
Plyometrics have been shown to have benefits for reducing lower extremity injuries in team sports while combined with other neuromuscular training (i.e. strength training, balance training, and stretching).
Plyometric exercises involve an increased risk of injury due to the large force generated during training and performance, and should only be performed by well conditioned individuals under supervision. Good levels of physical strength, flexibility, and proprioception should be achieved before commencement of plyometric training.
Source: Introduction to Plyometrics