If this is your first time hearing the term “plyometrics,” you might think you’re in for an advanced math or statistics class. And while those course types may be on the schedules of students starting new school years, plyometrics is actually something that can advance your fat-burning and lean muscle development goals.
Plyometrics, often shortened to just “plyo” (pronounced ply-oh), is an exercise type that incorporates explosive compound movements–think jumping, bounding, hopping, and skipping–using just your bodyweight or very low weight loads. Track and field athletes have long been using plyo exercises to increase speed, develop power, improve rhythm, and build better overall strength and endurance. Plyo does this by combining the stretching and contraction of muscles to boost the body’s power and strength.
Not a high jumper or hurdler? That’s OK. Every person–be it an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or someone completely new to working out–can benefit from adding plyo-based training to her routine. That’s because in a relatively short amount of time (got 15-20 minutes?), explosive compound movements can get your heart rate up and burn fat and calories more efficiently. For a standard fitness regimen, plyo isn’t something you should do as everyday training; your muscles will need a break! However, when combined with strength training, cardio bursts, and rest days, plyo can help you sculpt the body of your dreams.
Ready to jump in? Below are some plyo exercises to get you started. Note: It’s important to remember that with any jumping exercise, you should always land soft or add a little bounce in between each of your bigger jumps. Think of it like sprinting: When you come to the finish line, you don’t just stop, you instead slow your pace as you run past the line. The same should be done with jumping to avoid injuries from landing hard after explosive movements.
Lateral Obstacle Jumps: Place a small object on the floor, such as foam yoga block, small running cone, or dumbbell. Stand to the side of the object and jump up and over the object, focusing on trying to touch your heels to your butt in the air. Land soft and immediately jump back to where you started.
Tuck Jumps: Stand tall with your legs in line with your shoulders. Start with a couple slow bounces to build momentum, and then execute the tuck jump by explosively jumping straight up while bringing your knees up and toward your chest. Use your arms to both help you get more power and to maintain balance. Keep a steady pace from one jump to the next, but remember to land with one to two small bounces in between each.
Depth Jumps: For this exercise, you’ll need a box or sturdy surface that is about knee-height. With your right leg, step up onto the box. With the left leg step off the other side of the box and land in a low squat on both feet. Stand up, turn around and complete the same movements with the opposite legs. What’s happening when you jump off the box is that your muscles are experiencing forces up to seven times your bodyweight when you land. As a result, your muscles have no choice but to increase in strength in order to adapt, which means a better conditioned and better looking lower body.
Switch Lunge Jumps: Start in a lunge position, with your right knee bent and in line with your right ankle and your left back. Sink into the lunge and push off with both feet to jump straight up. As you jump, bring the left leg forward and right leg back to softly land in a lunge on the opposite side. This is one rep.
SAMPLE PLYO WORKOUT
Warm Up: Jump rope spins. Complete 5 minutes of intervals made up of 30 seconds spins, followed by 30 seconds rest.
Circuit: Complete three rounds of the following exercises and rests. Remember to be fast and explosive with these exercises to really earn your rest time.
- Lateral Obstacle Jumps, 10 reps each round
- 45-second rest
- Tuck Jumps, 10 reps each round
- 45-second rest
- Depth Jumps, 10 reps each round
- 45-second rest
- Switch Lunge Jumps, 10 reps each round
- 2-minute rest