The benefits of plyometrics are not exclusive to athletes. By including plyometric exercises in your routine, you can improve your power and explosiveness, decrease impact forces on the joints and reduce the risk of injury. A plyometric routine involves quick, rapid movements, such as jumps, and can easily be incorporated into your workout routine.
A plyometric exercise is one in which you stretch the muscles before quickly contracting them, according to ACE Fitness. This does not mean standard stretching for flexibility; plyometrics involve a quick stretch of the muscle, which activates the body’s central nervous system, preparing the fast-twitch muscle fibers for a quick and powerful contraction. As opposed to standard strength training, plyometrics involve moving through a motion as quickly as possible but still with control. A simple example would be a squat jump: squat down to stretch the leg muscles, and then quickly jump up into the air. The pre-jump squat maximizes the muscles’ ability to generate force quickly.
Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
The main benefit of plyometrics, which most athletes are looking to utilize, is the ability to generate more force quickly. This is beneficial in power sports, such as basketball and football. Plyometrics can help a basketball player jump higher and a football player accelerate faster. Other benefits of plyometrics include the ability to reduce force more efficiently, or in other words, the ability to slow down force, such as when landing from a jump. This can reduce the risk of injury and soreness. Plyometrics also enhance overall strength, even when movements are done slower.
Plyometrics can be done for the upper and lower body, although the emphasis is usually on the legs. One of the most common plyometrics exercises is a box jump. Find a short exercise step, stand on it, and then jump down onto the floor. Immediately squat down and use your legs like springs then jump straight back up into the air. Do eight repetitions, and then try the same exercise but jump as far forward as you can after you land. For the arms, try doing eight clapper pushups, in which you clap your hands together once you push up in the motion.
Since plyometrics do increase the risk of injury in the body, it is important to control how many repetitions you do. Aim for just six to eight repetitions of each exercise. A general rule for plyometrics is to always focus on quality over quantity. Choose four to six exercises, and stick to the six to eight repetitions. Start slowly, with one to two plyometrics workouts per week. Do your best to jump on softer surfaces such as rubber flooring.
- Core Performance; Mark Verstegen
- High-Performance Sports Conditioning; Bill Foran
- American College of Sports Medicine: Plyometric Training for Children and Adolescents
- ACE Fitness: Plyometrics: Controlled Impact/Maximum Power
Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.