Plyometric exercises were invented to improve athlete power and explosiveness. Plyometrics comes with several benefits, but it’s arguably one of the most misunderstood and misused training methods out there.
Discovered by sport scientist and track coach, Yuri Verkhoshansky, plyometric training can be best described as a method that forces muscles to undergo significant tension as quickly as possible. The muscle is in a relaxed state before it undergoes this great muscle contraction, which means that a plyometric jump, for example, is not preceded by a running start, but from standing with two feet planted on the ground.
If you’re thinking ‘I’m no Olympian, so why would I need to do plyometric exercises?’, the answer is simple. If you’re looking to improve your running speed or just looking to get the most out of your gym session, then plyometric exercises are for you.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of plyometric exercises and some effective plyometric exercises you can try at home or anywhere.
Benefits of plyometric exercises
1. Plyometric workouts don’t take long
The foundation of the plyometric training method stems from the fact that the quality of each plyometric exercise should be high, but the volume must be low.
For example, plyometric box jumps should not be performed without end, or to the point of complete physical fatigue. Instead, they should be used as a way of stimulating the nervous system – enabling the body to jump as high and quickly as possible from a relaxed state.
‘What about the 3×30 box jumps that are in my workout’ you say?
Perform these with caution! This type of training will work your cardio fitness but it doesn’t qualify as plyometric training. The nervous and physical energy required to perform an exercise such as box jumps is high, which means that performing a large number of them can mean you become overly fatigued and injury is more likely.
2. Plyometric exercises improve your game – whatever it is
Using plyometrics to increase the power of your upper body is important if you have hit a plateau in your training and are looking to experience a different style of training.
If you’re a basketball player, baseball player, or football player, you can use plyometric exercises to improve the power of your throws and hits (as if having perfectly sculpted arms wasn’t reason enough!)
It is understandable that, for the majority of the population, the idea of performing a plyometric move, such as a clapping push-up, sounds scary and close to impossible. But rest assured, there are several less demanding plyometric moves you can do to work on your upper body (some great examples below).
3. Plyometrics make you a faster runner
Our body is composed of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers that can be fine-tuned and adapted to our lifestyle. A long distance runner utilizes mainly their slow-twitch muscle fibers that help them tackle endurance workouts.
Alternatively, sprinters, or any athlete requiring bursts in speed, will master their fast-twitch muscle fibers as these help them exert maximal force in a short span of time (the downside being that they fatigue quickly).
This is important to understand as plyometrics concentrates on your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which can improve power and keep you at the top of your game.
PLYOMETRICS EXERCISEs for Upper, lower and whole body
To get started with plyometric training have a go at some of these creative and challenging exercises.
Keep in mind that you can modify each exercise to suit your fitness level and that if an exercise seems too difficult at first, there are ways to build up your strength so that you’ll eventually be able to tackle it with ease.
It’s also recommended that you perform plyometrics when your muscles and nervous system are fresh, i.e. at the beginning of your workout, in order to prevent injury.
1. Upper Body Plyometric Exercises
Try 3 x 6–8 plyo pushups with resistance band
Try 3 x 8–10 plyo pushups on knees
Arguably, a plyometric push-up in itself is challenging, but the added resistance band takes this move to a whole new level.
The best way to build up the strength to accomplish this move, is to begin with regular pushups on your knees, then on your feet, then regular pushups with the resistance band, and finally plyometric push-ups with the band.
Try 3 x 4–5 push-ups to bench hop
Try 3 x 6–8 bench walks
This is another creative plyometric challenge that your upper body will thank you for.
It’s not essential you release from the box and into another push-up, you can always walk your hands back to the floor before you try again. To build the basic strength necessary to master this exercise, walk your hands onto and off the bench and finish with a push-up.
Alternatively, you can walk your hands onto the bench and release off the bench into a push-up.
2. Lower Body PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES
Try 5–6 mat jump-ups
Try 8–10 vertical jump squats
This exercise is designed to build up the power in your glutes, hamstrings and quads by having your body jump into a squat from a sitting position. The return can either be completed by coming back down on your knees one-by-one, or (as seen in the video) jumping back down to a seated position in one swift movement.
The return is just as important as the jump because if you are unable to control the return, and are unable to absorb the returning jump (i.e. land lightly on your shins). It is advised that you build up your glute strength by completing regular jump squats where you try to jump as high as possible with both feet beginning flat on the floor.
Once you have mastered this, then give 1x mat jump-ups a try when seated on a cushioned mat, and work your way up to 5.
3. FULL-BODY PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE
Try 6–8 burpee to box jump
6–8 box jumps (low box to start)
Box jumps are exciting, but burpee to box jumps are extra exciting. Be advised that this is a difficult move for your cardiovascular system and will have you out of breath.
The plyometric component of this exercise comes from the fact that your burpee ends with you standing with flat-feet (and your body in a relaxed state) and you then exert maximum force in a short span of time in order to jump onto the box.
If you are having trouble getting enough energy to make the box jump as powerful as possible because you are fatigued from the burpee, then concentrate on simply jumping onto the box with flat feet and drop the burpee.
To sum it up: Why Try Plyometric Exercises
In sum, plyometric training will improve your running, help you burn more calories, and will make you a more efficient exerciser – because it trains the body to produce more force for less energy expenditure.
It’s not just for athletes, but useful for anyone looking to take their training and fitness to new heights. So, go ahead and give it a try, prove to yourself that nothing, not even a high box, stands in your way.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.