Plyometrics are any exercises that involve explosive bounding movements, such as jumps or hops. According to the American Council on Exercise, the main aim of plyometric training is to teach maximum power output and controlled impact. Plyometric training can be beneficial for athletes looking to improve power, speed and explosiveness. However, you must be careful, because plyometric exercises carry a high degree of risk. You must perform them to correctly to achieve the benefits. Introduce them into your routine with a plyometric cardio circuit.
The most common plyometrics are jumping variations, such as box jumps, squat jumps, broad jumps, single leg hops and hurdles. These all work your leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes, and develop lower body power. For your upper body, you can do clap pushups. These are the same as normal pushups, but you push up forcefully, lifting your hands off the floor momentarily to perform a clap, then land softly back on your hands. You can use this technique for pullups too. Medicine balls also lend themselves to plyometrics, with exercises such as slams, chest passes and overhead throws being staples in many plyometric routines. Plyometrics are a more advanced form of exercise, so you should have at least a year of training experience and a coach on hand before you perform them.
Repetitions and Sets
Unlike traditional weight training, the philosophy of plyometric training does not include constantly increasing the weight you are lifting and the number of sets and reps. According to UK Athletics coach Brian Mackenzie, you should always focus on quality, rather than quantity. As soon as your power starts decreasing, end your set. Mackenzie advises beginners to perform about 40 repetitions per session; experienced athletes should limit themselves to 150 to 200 reps.
Adding a cardio element to your plyometric circuits can be challenging, but it is possible. Cardiovascular activities tend to be of low to moderate intensity, but performed for a prolonged duration. If you're only doing about 40 total reps each session, you may struggle to increase your cardio fitness. However, by increasing your circuit intensity and reducing the rest times, you'll train your cardiovascular system more effectively. You could also add some light cardio activity between circuits, or perform hill sprints as one of your plyometric exercises.
You can perform a plyometric cardio circuit within one of your normal workouts as a stand-alone session. Strength coach Chad Wesley Smith, owner of the Juggernaut Training Facility, recommends doing plyometrics before a strength-training workout, as they activate your central nervous system and help you lift more. For each circuit, perform two lower-body exercises and one for your upper body. Do two to six reps of each exercise and repeat the circuit as many times as you can while staying in the appropriate total rep range, or until the quality of your performance decreases.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.