Plyometrics is generally used in sports training for pro sports competitors and athletes and has been used since the 1980s (although it has been around for longer) to enhance performance but it is now becoming popular with those seeking general fitness.
What is it?
Plyometrics are exercises designed to perform fast powerful movements. The exercises build speed, power, strength, balance and coordination and are a great addition to any work out programme. Once you have built a good foundation of strength and stability you can start to include plyometrics into your routine, it is important to have built that foundation as plyometric exercises will put extra pressure on muscles and joints. The moves usually involve your bodyweight as the resistance, so these exercises are great for doing at home or anywhere and nee little or no equipment.
Most jumping exercises can be considered as plyometrics.
How it will benefit you
If you are already working out regularly you should have a good foundation of strength and agility and you can look at improving on these and increasing your power. If you have hit a plateau and not done any plyometrics you can use these exercises to shock your body once more and break through the plateau. It can also make your workout more interesting and varied if you have been doing the same exercises over and over. Learning something new always adds a bit of excitement to your normal routine.
You should continue with your regular training routine but, depending on your goals, you can include plyometrics into your normal routine once a week. Due to the nature of plyometrics it is recommended you keep them to a minimum and only do 1 or two plyometrics exercises per session. If you are training specifically to improve your power and speed for a specific sport then you may need to do the exercises more frequently but you should seek advice from a professional.
You can either do a set amount of sets and reps or do as many as you can in a set amount of time, remembering though quality over quantity. Form is very important when doing exercises not only to get the most benefit out of the exercise but also to prevent injury.
Before doing plyometric exercises warm up with a jog for 5-8 minutes followed by dynamic stretching to mobilise your joints, once finished the plyometrics do a 5 minute cool down and some static stretching. The following are a few exercises and how to do them:
Push Ups with a clap of hands How to do it:
- Lie on the floor with your feet together and your palms on the floor approx shoulder width apart.
- Raise yourself up on to the balls of your feet and extending your arms so you are supported on your arms, there should be a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Lower your torso to the floor and then immediately push yourself up off the floor and as your hands leave the floor clap and replace them back to the floor in the same position.
If you are not able to do full push ups you can still do this exercise in the modified push up position, with knees on the floor.
Jump Squats (also known as explosive squats) How to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes can be angled out but should not be angled at more than 30 degrees.
- Slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor, as if you are sitting on a chair, your knees should aligned over your toes. Keep your back straight and your core tight.
- Now push down through the heels to bring yourself up and jump up
- As you land bend your knees and go straight into a squat and then as you push up jump and repeat.
Jumping lunges How to do it:
- Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart with toes pointing forwards, hand position is down to personal preference.
- Keeping your abs tight and back straight take a large step forward and sink down into a lunge by bending both your knees until your front thigh is parallel with the floor and the shin of your rear leg is parallel to the floor. Both knees should be bent at 90 degrees. Your front knee should be over your ankle.
- Now spring up and swap legs in mid-air, so you land on opposite legs than your starting lunge, when you land drop into the lunge, spring up again, swap legs – repeat.
Box Jump How to do it:
- Stand in front of a secure box or platform, this can be a step up bench, a park bench, anything that is secure and a height you are comfortable with.
- Jump onto the box with both feet and immediately jump off.
- As soon as you land on the floor immediately jump back on to the box, repeat.
Once you are comfortable with the height you can increase the difficulty, and improve your jump, by increasing the height of the box.
Lateral Box Jump How to do it:
- This is similar to the box jump but instead of jumping up and down on to a box in front of you it will be to the side of you.
- Stand with the box or platform to your side then jump sideways on to the box and step off the box, do not jump off, and repeat.
Bounding How to do it:
- An over exaggerated running motion, where you spend more time in the air than you would with normal jogging or running.
- Start by doing a slow jog and explosively push off from your rear leg and lift your front knee up high. Every time you land push off explosively with the rear leg and lift the front knee high in a continuous movement – repeat.
Tuck Jumps How to do it:
- Stand with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder width apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and push up from your feet into a vertical jump
- As you jump up bring your knees up to your chest
- On landing bend your knees slightly and immediately and explosively push up away from the floor into the jump again and repeat.
- Keep your head and chest up.
Lateral Hurdle Jumps How to do it:
- You will need an object that you can jump over sideways, choose something low to begin with until you become more familiar with the movement.
- Stand so that the object is at your side and bend your knees slightly and jump sideways over the object
- As soon as you land on the other side immediately jump back over the object. Repeat.
- You will be jumping both vertically and laterally over the object.
This can be made more difficult by using a longer object, such as a pole, and jumping over it laterally (sideways) and forwards in a zig zag motion.