Plyometrics, also called “jump training” or sometimes “plyos” refers to movements that stretch our muscles before we contract them, such as when you land during a squat jump, but quickly leap back again. It is also about having your muscles exert the most force in the shortest possible time. Plyometrics involves training muscles to go from extension to contraction in a very quick and explosive manner, such as in repeated jumping. High jumpers are particularly well-trained using a plyometric workout, as well as athletes that compete in tennis, volleyball, basketball or any other sport that requires explosive power. This exercise form is also part aerobic in nature, which is why a plyometric cardio workout happens with these routines, making it very efficient.
A plyometric workout program was believed developed during the Cold War by the Soviet Bloc. Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky is said to have created the principle which was initially called “shock training.” Soviet Bloc countries dominated the Olympics in the 1960’s and 70’s, largely due to Dr. Verkhoshansky’s exercises. Meanwhile, Fred Wilt, an American track and field coach got curious and began observing how Russians trained and what he saw was a lot of jumping from elevations, plus hopping and skipping. He brought these observations back home, called them Plyometrics, and began training athletes with these principles developing a plyometric workout routine.
A little caveat must be said that a plyometric workout is not for anybody. You should be injury free, can withstand high impact exercise and have prefect alignment especially in movements like the squat. Go slowly also, progressing patiently as you move up in difficulty. Typically give yourself a day or two of rest before moving on to more difficult versions of the movements. Here are 6 plyometric workouts that can add some spring to your step.
1. Squat Jumps (from Fitsugar.com)
“Regular squats are great, but Squat Jumps offer a new take on the old squat — one that you’re definitely going to feel in your quads:
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides.
2. Start by doing a regular squat and then jump up as explosively as you can when you rise up reaching for the ceiling.
3. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep.
4. Do two sets of 10 reps.
Fit’s Tips: Use your whole foot to jump, not just your toes. Try not to let your shoulders lean out beyond your knees as this can strain and injure your back.”
Use dumbbells and add a shrug at the top of the jump for added difficulty and weight. Make sure you use very conservative loads so you do not injure yourself.
2. Clap Push-up (from Exrx.net)
The push-up is a classic workout for the chest. This plyometric version will surely surprise your pectorals with the sudden push and clap you will incorporate into the movement. Exrx.net runs us thru the movement.
Lie on floor face down and position hands on floor. With toes on floor push body up with arms extended and body straight.
Lower body to floor and immediately push body up as fast as possible. As the hands leave ground rapidly clap hands together and place back to original position, catching body before it falls. Repeat.
Keep hips and waist straight. As with any plyometric, insure solid strength foundation is first achieved. Joints, particularly shoulders should be free of biomechanical deficiencies.
Begin with conditioning period of easier exercises. If exercise is too difficult, pivot off of knees instead of toes by flexing knees.
Increase number of repetitions or number of claps between push-ups as ability improves. Place toes on elevated platform to vary angle of exercise.”
3. Barrier Lateral Jump (from Exrx.net)
This exercise is great for lower body strength and agility. It is also particularly hard on the ankles. Many sport activities will benefit from the conditioning of the barrier lateral jump. Here are the specifics of the jump:
Stand with side to barrier.
Jump sideways to opposite side of barrier. Upon landing, immediately jump to other side.
Use both upper and lower body movements. Attempt to increase speed of jumps, keeping landings short. Perform multiple jumps in succession.”
4. Incline Chest Pass (from Brianmac.co.uk)
You will need a medicine ball for this exercise and a partner. While it conditions your chest and arms, it also is a great hand eye coordination exercise as well as a core tightener. Here is a guide to have perfect execution of this move.
“Athlete and assistant sit facing each other.
1. holds the medicine ball with both hands at chest level, elbows pointing out.
2. leans back at a 45 degree angle, keeping their abdominals tight.
3. passes the medicine ball to their assistant, pushing it off their chest and ending with your arms straight.
The assistant catches the medicine ball, allows the medicine ball to come to their chest before passing the medicine ball back to the athlete.
The athlete should try to anticipate the catch and return the medicine ball as quickly as they can keeping the catch time as short as possible.”
5. Power Drop (from Brianmac.co.uk)
Just like the incline chest pass, a partner and a medicine ball will be needed to perform this workout. You will also need a 40-100cm box or elevation. Here are concise instructions for this movement:
“Lie on the ground on your back with your arms outstretched upwards.
Assistant stands on the box holding the medicine ball at arm’s length so the medicine ball is directly above the athlete’s hands.
The assistant drops the medicine ball into the athlete’s hands.
– catches the medicine ball
– allows the medicine ball to come towards their chest
– then extends their arms to propel the medicine ball back to the assistant’s hands
The athlete should try to anticipate the catch and return the medicine ball as quickly as they can keeping the catch time as short as possible
3 sets of 10 repetitions/set
5 minute recovery between each set
Quality of the catch and pass is far more important than quantity.”
6. Weighted Power Straight (from Exrx.net)
This exercise is known to be the best plyometric workout because it uses your body weight and is a brutal workout that will tax your back muscles. It will also develop the strength in your arms as it is a vertical pulling exercise, as well as a triceps blaster. A step-by-step instruction and video is provided.
Why don’t you give plyometrics a try and see what gave the Soviet Bloc athletic dominance in the 60’s and 70’s. This would also be a great alternative to cycling your workout, in case you have reached certain plateaus.