Plyometrics used to be reserved primarily for athletes — an ordinary gal busting out box jumps in her local gym just for fun wasn’t exactly common place. Times have changed, in part thanks to organizations such as CrossFit, and now plyo exercises are a staple in any effective workout plan.
If you have yet to jump on the plyometric bandwagon, or simply have no idea what they even are, please, let me enlighten you: plyometric exercise include quick, powerful movements using a pre-stretch that involves the stretch-shortening cycle. Basically, this type of exercise treats your muscles and tendons as rubber bands, loading them through stretch and then using that elasticity to perform a movement. The purpose of plyometrics is to increase power of subsequent movements using this elasticity and stretch.
Sound complicated? It’s really not. Take jumping rope, for example. You use the elasticity in your calves and Achilles tendon to spring yourself upward after each landing – that’s the stretch-shortening cycle of plyometrics (in a nutshell). The key is to also apply that principle to the larger muscle groups throughout your body to get an efficient and effective workout.
The Benefits of Plyometrics
The goal of plyometrics is to train for maximum force production, which means this type of training will lead to improvements in power, strength and, ultimately, performance. Plyometrics are also an effective way to increase levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, agility, stability, mobility and flexibility. Basically, all facets of your performance will be enhanced with plyometric training. So, what are you waiting for?!
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
As mentioned before, plyometrics consist of quick explosive movements, which means your body has to work hard to complete every single rep. What happens when you work hard? You burn calories and fat, that’s what. The high-intensity nature of plyometric training places it in the highest tiers when it comes to fat loss. In fact, research has found this type of high-intensity exercise to be more effective at reducing abdominal and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat than other types of exercise.
You may find that the number on the scale drops after a few weeks of training with plyometrics. But, please, don’t freak out if it doesn’t. We all respond to exercise differently – you may be gaining muscle while simultaneously losing fat, so your weight won’t respond as expected. But your physique will definitely improve and your clothes will begin to fit better. Just make sure to give it time – I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy with the results.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
Plyometric training not only taxes your heart and lungs, it also runs your muscles through the gauntlet. When you’re using every ounce of power you possess to move your body as quickly as possible, your muscles are going to work — think of it almost as every rep being a max effort. This is exactly why we keep reps low in plyo training (but we’ll talk about that more later on).
Everyone thinks resistance training is the only way to build muscle, but this isn’t the case. Researchers have compared the results of plyometric versus resistance training and found that whole-muscle size increased equally with both types of training. Gains in maximal muscle strength were also similar but plyometric training was the only one to show an increase in muscular power.
Classes: What to expect; should I take them?
With their increase in popularity, plyometrics can now be found in many gyms across the country. Some gyms are plyo-specific with all training revolving around those explosive movements. Of course, CrossFit implements plyometric training into a substantial amount of its programming. Traditional gyms are beginning to offer plyometrics through specific classes offered throughout the week.
Plyometric training is mostly bodyweight, especially for beginners, so working out at home is totally doable. If you’re unsure of how to do the exercises or just prefer to be guided through a workout, then classes may be a good choice. During a plyo class, you can expect the instructor to guide you through a variety of plyo exercises that will likely kick your butt, but it’ll be worth it and you won’t get bored.
Instructional Plyometric Training Videos and Tips
Before you go plyo-crazy, take some time to watch a few videos and read up on our training tips – it’s very easy to go overboard and severe muscle soreness is a very real issue.
Most people automatically think of jumping when considering plyometrics. However, plyo training can also be performed using the upper body and trunk. So, in essence, you can get a full-body workout with just a few plyometric movements. Below are several training tips to take into consideration when planning your plyo workout.
- Prior to beginning your workout, perform a 10-minute warm-up consisting of low-intensity dynamic movements such as jogging, marching and skipping.
- Plyometric workouts should be performed one to three times per week with 48 to 72 hours between sessions to allow for adequate muscle recovery.
- Rest between sets is also important since you’re putting out maximal effort. Give yourself two to three minutes of recovery time between sets.
- Overdoing it with plyometrics is a good way to end up with severe muscle soreness and even injury. Start out conservatively and gradually increase your volume.
- Begin with three sets of five to 10 reps. Add a set every few weeks.
- To progress in intensity, you can: switch from double-leg movements to single leg; incorporate more lateral movements; increase the speed of the movement; increase the height of the movement (jumping on/off a taller box is more intense than a shorter box or the ground).
Clothes and Proper Attire
What does one wear for a plyo workout? You’ll want to opt for clothes you can move in – there will be a lot of squatting and deep movements. Plyometrics involve loads of jumping so you’ll want a solid sports bra and some supportive kicks. Tank top and shorts or t-shirt and leggings would be just fine. You may want to invest in some of those tall socks that the CrossFit girls wear if you’re planning on doing a lot of box jumps, they’ll totally save your shins from those nasty scrapes you’re bound to get.
Sample 12-Week Plyo Training Program
Results and Success Stories
“This month (January) has been a full year since I gave birth to my first baby. It’s been a long road but I’m so glad I stayed consistent this year because it has made a huge difference both mentally and physically.
I started working out 7 weeks post-partum and was ready to start killing it. I started with full body strength training (plyometrics included) and light cardio. However, once I started I realized I couldn’t start off as strong as I wanted. My body was not as strong, your body doesn’t feel the same, and I had diastasis. I was most looking forward to start getting back into plyometrics and because of being pregnant I hadn’t done them in a while.
I started eating very healthy and doing light strength work and modified plyometrics (the bouncing was hard at first). Then once my body healed a little more (about 4 months post-baby) I started doing a lot more plyometrics.
As a trainer, I’ve trained many people with this form of exercise and it is one of the most effective ways to burn body fat, improve cardiovascular health, and expose lean, toned muscles. I noticed improvements much quicker once I was able to really incorporate more high-intensity plyometric work into my workouts. I did them at least 3x a week and noticed my body start to shape up. They were also beneficial because it was a way to get my heart rate up without having to do as much cardio because at the beginning running was hard on my diastasis so I had a good alternative.
I love plyometrics! Especially for leg days and it was so helpful in strengthening my core, as I wasn’t able to do actual core work because of my diastasis. I now feel much stronger and healthier because of being consistent with eating healthy, working out on a regular basis, and my favorite- plyometrics!”
Ready to do some plyometrics?! Try our 30-Day Plyometric Challenge!