Plyometrics, (or Plyo for short) is a type of training that used to be restricted to the realms of athletes, mainly due to the general ignorance of gym goers who thought it wouldn’t do much for them.
Basically plyometric training involves exerting maximal concentric force through a muscle group in which immediately follows an eccentric contraction.
This is usually (although not exclusively) done by jumping actions:
Imagine a squat jump – when you jump and extend your legs the quads are in the concentric phase (when the muscle contracts and gets shorter) and when you land and bend your legs, this is when the quads are in the eccentric phase (when the muscle is still contracting but is getting longer).
Note: Plyometric workouts are HARD and potentially DANGEROUS. Because of the sheer amount of force you have to generate during these moves plyometric workouts are not supposed to be performed by beginners.
This is because there is increased pressure on all of the joints involved that need to be conditioned before attempting this workout, via structured resistance training at both the strength endurance and power ends of thestrength training spectrum.
The benefits, however, are staggering.
Conducting this workout two times a week (yep, only two) will improve yourcardio-vascular fitness, your jump height, your strength in the weights room, your strength in everyday life, your running strength and speed (plus potentially sprint speed), plus it will burn loads of calories, not just while you’re working out, but for up to 12 hours afterwards as well, due to the effect known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
Each of these exercises to be performed for 20 seconds with 10 seconds recovery 8 times (total work time of 4 minutes then on to the next exercise)
1. Squat Jumps
Start with your feet hip distance apart, and your knees slightly turned out, bend your legs whilst bringing your hips and butt back until your hips get to roughly the height of the top of your knee caps, then explosively push your hips forwards as you straighten your legs and leave the ground. As you land, make sure your knees don’t come inward towards the centre of the body.
2. Hopping Push-ups
All you need to do for this one is do a standard push up (on knees or toes) and instead push up from the bottom with a little more power and try and make your hands leave the ground.
On landing and take-off make sure your elbows are not locked. If you are on the knees for this one make sure your hips are forwards as you don’t want to use your hips for momentum.
This is like running, but in a more extreme jumpy type of way. Think of more of a one-leg push up and forward rather than a standard run.
4. Box Jumps
With two feet on the floor, do the same motion as the squat jump, but land on top of a box that has been put in front of you. Try and start with 24 inches if possible.
With your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and pull your bodyweight up until your chin comes above the bar, and then slowly go down. Try not to touch the floor in between.
6. Plyo Lunges
Start off in a standard lunge position (one leg in front of the other with both knees flexed at 90 degrees; your front thigh should be parallel with the ground ideally and your body should be bolt upright), put equal weight in both feet and power up from that position by slightly straightening the legs.
Whilst you are in the air, quickly change leg positions so that the opposite leg is now in front (you can use your arms to help with this). Try not to let your knees track in if you can.
Total Workout Time: 24 minutes
Although pull-ups aren’t strictly a plyometric exercise, they work the muscles of the back, which helps to balance out the work that has been done on the muscles on the front of the body during the clapping push-ups.
The Bottom Line
It’s OK to feel very out of breath and like this workout is ‘impossible’ the first few times you do it, that’s completely normal, even for athletes.
You can taper the workout as you wish by (for example) losing the jump on the push-ups, doing assisted pull ups, box jumping on something lower to the ground, etc.
The key to this sort of workout is to KEEP AT IT! For at least the first 6 weeks and see how you feel.