The fitness dictionary reaches far and wide; even as a training expert, training protocols and modalities often overlap in principles and can become confusing. Plyometric exercises are powerful aerobic exercises that can help increase speed, endurance, and strength. They involve explosive jumping movements combined with standard functional training. Plyometrics involve stressing your joints, ligaments, and tendons and can be key in improving peak power and performance. We are going to discuss plyometrics and the best plyometric exercises in more detail.
Plyometrics are explosive exercises which exert maximal force and power in short time intervals. Most movements involve a vertical jump, such as box jumps, jump squats, or alternating jumping lunge.
Although the term plyometrics is relatively new, the basic concepts are quite old. Plyometric training can be traced back to Eastern Europe, where it was simply known as jump training. “Plyo” comes from the Greek word plythein, which means to increase, while Plio is the Greek word for “more,” and metric literally means “measure. Thus, the definition of plyometrics translates to a quick powerful movement involving a pre-stretching of the muscle.
Plyometric exercises are commonly used to advance performance, increase strength, and to develop muscular endurance and power.
There are three phases of plyometric exercises.
- Eccentric Phase: During this phase, the muscle fiber is stretched, (I.e. standing in squat), as you get into position for the movement. Depth, speed, and tempo will all affect your power and outcomes during plyometric training.
- Amortization Phase: this phase involves the time to rebound. Essentially this would be the loading or generating force production and accelerating the muscle contraction.
- Concentric Phase: The concentric phase can also be referred to as the resultant power production performance phase. This is when the body comes back and force is applied and the movement is performed.
Plyometric exercises engage several muscles simultaneously and can get your heart rate pumping in a hurry. Aerobic training, combined with body weight resistance training, will make your body work hard. And with volume, can improve cardiorespiratory performance and increase endurance capacity. Several studies have shown that plyometric exercises can help improve power, explosiveness, and endurance in competitive athletes, especially distance runners [R].
Cardioacceleration, another term for your fitness handbook, refers to doing intervals of cardio (usually 30-60 seconds) in between sets of resistance exercise. For example, on shoulder day, you would do one set of push press. Then instead of scrolling on your phone between sets, you perform 30-60 seconds of cardio. That cardio, could be a plyometric exercise, such as box jumps, jump squats, or jumping jacks.
Plyometric exercises combine bodyweight resistance with short-duration aerobic work. That type of movement will increase your heart rate and turn you into a calorie burning machine, thus helping you burn more body fat.
Research shows that plyometric exercises can help rehab injuries. Considering that plyometrics help develop power and performance. This is especially helpful for athletes who have high expected demands of power. Plyometric exercises can also develop greater body control and core stability. The use of muscle contraction in this type of movement, involving the acceleration in the concentric phase and deceleration in the eccentric phase, mimics movements and normal function in sport.
One of the greatest benefits of box jumps is increasing your body’s ability to cycle oxygen, and/or increasing VO2 max, which helps improve endurance. In lieu of increasing endurance, you’ll also increase your power and explosiveness or anaerobic capacity, which will help you gain a competitive advantage in other explosive movements and training modalities.
- Start by facing a plyometric box with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back in a hinge motion, almost as if you were going into a squat.
- This would be the eccentric phase, going into the amortization phase.
- Use your loaded power and force to propel yourself into a jump using the balls of your feet as your base, swinging your arms forward to launch yourself onto the top of the box.
- Stand up straight, then step back down.
Burpees are an effective aerobic bodyweight exercise, that combines a push up followed by a jump in the air. Adding this plyometric exercise into your training and programming can improve your endurance capacity and aerobic thresholds. Burpees are commonly programmed into circuit training, Tabata training, or intervals and can help you burn more calories.
- From a squat position, with your knees bent, back straight, core braced and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your hands to the floor and jump back into a push up position.
- Keeping your body straight, come down into a push up.
- Frog kick and jump your feet up to your hands back to starting position.
- Stand and jump into the air with arms overhead.
- Congratulations, you did your first burpee.
A jump squat is essentially an air squat accelerated into a jump. The rapid eccentric contraction before the explosive jump or concentric action, (stretch-shorten cycle) creates higher energy demand, improving functional strength and cardiorespiratory performance.
- From a standing position, bend your knees, hinge your hips back, with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Go into a squat position, legs parallel to the ground, and chest up.
- Load your legs like a spring, and from the bottom of the squat, explode yourself up, pushing through the floor.
- Land back on your feet and repeat.