Traditional aerobic classes and exercise programs are all fine and good for building fitness and controlling weight, but there's nothing like plyometrics to make you feel strong and lean. Plyometric exercises involve jumping or leaping moves, such as jump squats. It's high-intensity exertion that gives you the fat-burning boost of interval training. Further, it builds muscle, power and speed to help you in other exercise programs or sports. For weight loss, perform plyometric exercises two or three nonconsecutive days of the week, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Plyometrics requires a great deal of energy and as a result, can only be done in short bursts. However, you can combine sets of plyometric exercises with short rest periods to create an interval workout. Interval training burns more fat in less time than sustained aerobic activity. Further, it can increase fitness and heart-lung efficiency faster.
Plyometric exercise can take a toll on the joints and muscles, so you should ease into your workout with a 10- to 15-minute warm-up such as a brisk walk or a few minutes on an elliptical machine. When you move into the plyometric phase, start slow and build your intensity as you go through the routine, consisting of squat jumps, tuck jumps and bounding. Rest for 30 seconds between each set. At the end of your workout, cool down with a five-minute walk or elliptical session to bring your heart rate down. Finish the workout with stretching to assist in muscle recovery.
Squat jumps not only burn fat, but also strengthen the muscles of the thighs, glutes and abs. They don't require any equipment or much space, making them an ideal plyometric exercise. Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Perform a basic squat by bending the knees and shifting the hips back as if you were sitting down. Straighten the arms and hold them down by your sides. Simultaneously jump and swing your arms up. Land on both feet and repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds before doing a new set or moving to another plyometric exercise.
Double Leg Tuck Jump
Tuck jumps are deceptively challenging, yet very effective at burning fat and building leg and glute muscles. It's similar to a squat jump, except you lift the knees up during the jump phase. Start with your legs hip-width apart. Bend the knees, hinging the hips back, then jump straight up while pulling the knees up toward the chest. Land softly and repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds before repeating a new set or moving to another plyometric exercise.
Bounding is useful to help increase speed in other sports, such as running. It's fun, high energy and an effective fat burner. Because it requires space, bounding should be done outside. Begin with a low-intensity jog to warm up. From the jog, start bounding by pushing off hard with your left leg to leap into the air, lifting your right knee up and forward. Land on your right foot and immediately push off, lifting the left knee. Perform bounding drills for 50 to 100 meters, rest for a minute, then repeat.
Box Lateral Shuffle
The box lateral shuffle burns fat and improves agility, especially for exercises or sports that require lateral movement such as soccer. Unlike the other plyometric exercises, box lateral shuffle requires a piece of equipment: a step bench. Start by standing with the narrow side of a step bench to your right. Put your right foot on the bench while keeping your left foot on the floor. Jump up and to the right, switching positions so that the bench is on your left with your left foot on the bench and your right foot on the floor. Repeat, moving back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds.
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.