No more sitting and doing countless reps of circuit training on machines to build muscles -- get your bottom off the seat. You can jump and leap your way to a leaner and stronger body with plyometric training. This kind of workout involves using your lower body muscles to perform repetitive and powerful contractions in the shortest time possible for higher jumps in your beach volleyball game or faster sprints so you can catch your 4-year-old runaway. Adding plyometrics can complement your existing workout with weights and calisthenics to sculpt your body.
Plyometric training relies on your body weight to perform, and requires little equipment, which means it can be performed almost anywhere -- at home, a gym or a park. In a 2010 review in "Sports Medicine," plyometric training was shown to increase muscle mass, promote faster and more powerful muscle contractions, and improve muscle and neural coordination. Because of plyometric training's high-intensity nature, your metabolism can spike for many hours after your workout, burning fat and sugar for energy while your body heals itself and replenishes nutrients to your cells. With proper training, plyometrics can even reduce your risk of injury in your legs. A study published in "The American Journal of Sports Medicine" showed that female athletes who finished a jump-training program had a 22-percent reduction in landing impact while increasing vertical jump height by 10 percent. Researchers concluded that plyometrics training can prevent serious knee injuries among female athletes.
Sprint Fast and Hard
Sprinting is one form of plyometrics that works on speed, acceleration and deceleration while gaining size in your thighs and calves. Sprint training should be performed on an even surface that helps to absorb shock, such as turf or a running track, to reduce impact on your legs. Start with linear sprints by placing two orange cones about 20 yards apart. Sprint as fast as you can from one cone to the next, keeping your trunk tall and straight while pumping your arms back and forth with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your fingers relaxed. Slow down only after you have sprinted past the second cone. Rest for a minute before repeating the drill. Gradually increase the distance by five yards in each training session until you can sprint for 50 yards. You may further increase the distance to give yourself an extra challenge. Other sprinting drills include shuttle runs, T-drill and triangle drill.
Jumping for Size and Power
Jumping exercises can both increase muscle size in your legs and improve jumping height while improving your hips' ability to stabilize your body. A study by the University of Aarhus in Denmark showed that men who performed 12 weeks of plyometric training had similar muscle growth -- between 7 and 10 percent -- in their legs as conventional strength training. Some jumping exercises require no equipment, such as the vertical jump. Some require a stable platform for you to either hop off or land on, such as depth jumps or power step-ups. Other exercises include box jumps, stair bounding, lateral hops, linear bounding and power skipping.
The variables -- sets, reps, time, rest periods -- for plyometric training can vary among individuals. It depends on your experience with plyometrics, age, body weight health history, fitness status and goals, according to NSCA fitness professional Mike Barnes. Beginners may be able to handle one to two sets of four to six reps of box jumps at a height of 6 inches, while elite athletes can do a higher number of sets, reps and box height. Work with a qualified exercise professional for a month or two before doing plyometrics on your own. Always warm up thoroughly for five to 10 minutes before doing plyometrics such as hip swings, running butt kicks, jumping rope and mountain climbers.
- NSCA’s Performance Training Journal: Introduction to Plyometrics
- Jumping Into Plyometrics; Donald A. Chu
- Journal of Athletic Training: Effects of Plyometric Training on Muscle-Activation Strategies and Performance in Female Athletes
- Sports Medicine: Neuro-Musculoskeletal and Performance Adaptations to Lower-Extremity Plyometric Training
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Muscle Adaptations to Plyometric Vs. Resistance Training in Untrained Young Men
- The American Journal of Sports Medicine: Plyometric Training in Female Athletes Decreased Impact Forces and Increased Hamstring Torques
- University of New Mexico: Exercise Afterburn
- RonJones.org: Speed, Agility, & Quickness Drills
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of Sprint and Plyometric Training on Muscle Function and Athletic Performance
- Cardio Strength Training; Robert dos Remedios
- ExRx.net: Box Jumps
- ExRx.net: Box Lateral Jumps
- ExRx.net: Platform Depth Jumps
- ExRx.net: Double Under
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: Basics of Strength and Conditioning
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
- Exercise Equipment That Helps Speed & Jumping
- Easy Workouts to Get Bigger Calves
- Plyometric Exercises for Swimming
- Jump Rope Exercises to Improve Agility
- Plyometric Arm Exercises Done Using Body Weight as Resistance
- Pole Vaulting Workouts
- Good Track Shoes for Both Sprinting & Jumping
- Plyometrics Exercises for Boxing