Plyometrics is widely accepted and practiced as an effective training for building strength and power among athletes, and fitness aficionados. It basically entails pushing your muscles to extremity using explosive movements such as jumps, leaps, hops, bounds as well as throwing.
The benefits of plyometrics have seen it being adopted by athletes and to some extent by fitness aficionados. This guide takes you through the basics of plyometrics including its benefits, common plyometric techniques, safety, and so on.
Related: Best Shoes for Plyometrics
What is Plyometrics?
Plyometrics are basically jumping exercises but may also entail hopping and skipping. Such exercises yield optimal strain in your muscle within short periods of time and are meant to improve your strength, endurance, acceleration and power.
This in turn enhances your fitness while contributing to your overall performance.
Plyometrics began in the Soviet where athletes would participate in explosive exercises the main method being dropping from a height. As such, the lead scientist, Yuri Verkhoshansky named the method ‘Jump Training’ or the ‘Shock Method’. Yuri’s exercises lead to the domination of the 1960s and 1970s Olympics by the Soviet countries.
Later, ‘Jump Training’ was embraced by the Americans, with Fred Wilt coining the term ‘plyometrics’. Since then, plyometrics comes in various forms and it’s practiced all over the world as means of preparing athletes for upcoming events. Some fitness aficionados also incorporate plyometrics into the programs to improve their performance.
Why you Need Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises are beneficial to athletes and individuals who want to incorporate more challenging tasks into their fitness. It’s especially helpful to individuals who participate in sporting activities including volleyball, basketball, tennis, squash and badminton.
Below are some of the benefits of plyometrics.
1. Burns Calories
High-intensity workouts like plyometrics result in increased cardiovascular activity which aids in burning body calories. Having low calories in your body reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
2. Tones and Strengthens Your Muscles
Plyometrics engage your muscles in repeated extension and contraction movements which result in increased muscle fibers and strength. This increases your muscle power which allows to perform better in other workouts or competitions such as sprinting.
3. Strengthens Your Tendons
Plyometrics training results in stronger tendons while making them more flexible. This helps in minimizing tendon injuries during strenuous physical activities like when playing basketball or soccer.
Soccer or basketball players usually engage in muscle strengthening and stretching drills to enhance their performance and avoid injuries. Thus, plyometrics can also make excellent options for maintaining strong and pliable tendons.
4. Improves Coordination and Balance
Good coordination and balance is not only important during most cross training activities but also in our daily undertakings. It also affects how we walk and stand. Jumping accompanied by swift movements during plyometric helps in building your coordination, balance and focus.
5. Enhances Bone and Joint Health
Like weight-bearing workouts, strength training like plyometrics helps in increasing bone density especially during bone growth. Thus plyometrics can help prevent problems such as weak bones or less bone density when as you grow old.
6. Improves Performance
By incorporating plyometrics is athletic training, the soviet countries were able to dominate the 1960s and 1970s Olympics. This concept has since been adopted all over the world and it’s usually incorporated in athletic training to boast performance.
7. Boosts Heart Health
Doing more activity in a short time is what makes your heart to pump at a faster rate. A high heart rate keeps your heart healthy which in turn results in a healthier cardiovascular system due to efficient blood and oxygen flow.
Common Plyometrics Techniques
The most basic forms of plyometrics include the hop, skip and jump exercises you did when you were young. So, the most commonly performed plyometrics are an advancement of these traditional exercises.
Below are some of the most popular plyometrics you can include in your training.
1. Box Jumps
As the name suggests, job jumps entail jumping onto a box with your feet taking off and landing on the box at the same time. The process is repeated by stepping back and jumping on the box again.
The speed for each successive jump depends on you experience and the height of the box. It’s advisable to proceed at a comfortable speed to avoid injures as a result tripping. You can increase the speed as you gain experience since your coordination gets better.
The recommended box height is at least 18 inches. It’s advisable not to use boxes that are way too high because they not only reduce the power output of the jump but also increase the risk injury. Remember, the focus is on the height of the jump and no the height of the box.
Related: Best Shoes for Box Jumps
2. Plyo or Plyometric Push-up
Often known as plyo push-ups, plyometric push-ups are an advanced level of push-ups which incorporate styled jumps during the jump. The most basic plyo push-ups entail clapping your hands as you jump off the floor during normal push-ups. You can leverage on a wide range of plyo push-up styles depending on your experience or expertise.
Simply speaking plyo push-ups are more challenging variations of the normal push-ups which result in greater strength, speed and endurance. These exercises are geared towards building stronger abs, shoulders, chest and triceps.
3. Squat Jumps
Squats jumps are more effective than regular jumps because they add the element of explosiveness. While regular jumps target your legs, core and glutes, squat jumps result in stronger upper and lower body. This enhances your speed especially during take-off.
Squat jumps also help you burn more calories compared to normal jumps.
4. Standing Long Jump
Standing long jump is a common plyometric exercise used athletic training and competition. It’s an important exercise for strengthening your lower body. It results in greater leg power while improving your balance and acceleration.
When performing a standing long jump, you stand with your feet apart along a marked line. Then you jump as much as you can and land on your two feet. During the take-off, you normally bend your knees and swing your hands in order to get the forward propulsion.
5. Power Skipping
Power skipping is a more explosive version of the regular skipping you did when you were a kid. In power skipping, you are supposed to attain the highest knee height possible and swing your hands to a maximum.
Power skipping mainly targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, calves and hip flexors.
Safety Guidelines to Consider During Plyometrics Training
Many fitness enthusiasts tend to avoid plyometrics exercises because of the associated risk of injuries. Whilst the risk of injury is high during plyometrics training, you can actually train safely if you stick to what researchers call ‘‘safe zone’’.
When done the correct way, plyometrics provide an absolutely safely method for building on your speed and power. Contrary to misconceptions, research indicates that plyometrics are also safe for younger athletes including those that are covering from injuries.
Below is a summary of some important safety guidelines to remember during your plyometrics training.
Plyometrics workouts range from basic to advanced level. So, if you’re a beginner, you should start with the most basic and progress to the more advanced plyometrics as you gain experience.