Have you ever wanted to run faster, jump higher or shave seconds off your 500 meter sprint? Need to break through that next plateau to get to your next level of intense training? Instead of hitting the weight room or pounding the pavement on a long run, consider incorporating plyometric exercises into your next workout to build explosive power and endurance.
Plyometric exercises involve incorporating explosive movements, designed to generate the maximum force of exertion from your muscles in a short amount of time. Plyometrics are often used by professional athletes to improve overall performance as the basic movements often mimic that of what is needed or used in sports such as tennis, football or basketball. Repeated performance of these movements is also thought to help prevent injury as it conditions the joints to become accustomed to impact. Most exercises rely on dynamic movements designed to stretch the muscles during use then quickly contract them, and usually incorporate a lot of jumping or hopping, and may or may not require the use of additional equipment. By focusing on rapid muscle extension and retraction, this method of exercise helps increase explosive power and can help improve overall endurance. This method is often used to increase agility and strength over a short period of time.
Plyometric training differs from regular weight training or extended cardio sessions such as endurance runs as they tend to be on the shorter side and usually require no additional equipment. Plyometric exercises rely on the weight and strength of your own body, and any additional equipment needed is usually simple, such as boxes or sandbags. Typical exercises include things such as burpees, jump squats or clapping push ups. These movements stimulate more than one muscle group at a time, leading to the maximum amount of calories burned, therefore aiding in overall fat loss and weight loss from throughout the body while also rapidly increasing heart rate. Plyometric exercises have the added benefit of being able to do almost anywhere there is available space, making them ideal for a quick workout when you’re short on time, or for a convenient hotel or office workout while traveling or at work.
Plyometric exercises make up the bulk of movements required for Tabata training. Developed by a Japanese scientist, Tabata training aims to maximize the body’s caloric consumption both during a workout as well as prolong the lasting effects of increased metabolic rate that occurs during recovery after a workout to maximize overall fat and weight loss – what we have come to know as the afterburn effect. This method involves an interval of exertion followed by a short period of recovery, repeated twice, over the course of usually four to eight different exercises. A typical plyometric training session can consist of the following:
Round 1: 30 seconds Burpees, 10 seconds recovery.
Round 2: 30 seconds high knees, 10 seconds recovery.
Round 3: 30 seconds Alternating Jump Squats, 10 Seconds recovery.
Round 4: 30 seconds Clapping Push Ups, 10 Seconds recovery.
Round 5: 30 seconds Burpees, 10 seconds recovery.
Round 6: 30 seconds high knees, 10 seconds recovery.
Round 7: 30 seconds Alternating Jump Squats, 10 Seconds recovery.
Round 8: 30 seconds Clapping Push Ups, 10 seconds recovery.
Total time required: 5 minutes, 20 seconds.
While most people can benefit from incorporating plyometric exercises into their workout routines, it is not necessarily for everyone. Plyometrics should only be attempted by those who consider themselves at an intermediate or advanced intermediate fitness level. Since the movements typically require an explosive force, proper warm up and stretching should be practiced before attempting in order to prevent injury. Individuals with joint discomfort or previous severe injuries may not be suitable candidates for this type of exercise due to the potential high impact nature.
When performing plyometric exercises, proper form is essential to safety and effectiveness. Beginners should practice on padded gym mats or grass to lessen the impact and become accustomed to the movements. When landing from a vertical jump, it is important to land on the ball of your foot to the heel, and use the length of your foot as a mechanism to evenly distribute the force of the landing from front to back. Proper recovery time between sessions is also important to ensure that you maximize your muscular gains. In general, take between 24 and 48 hours rest between sessions.