Plyometrics are high-intensity exercises that tap into energy stores in muscles to encourage muscle developments, agility, stamina, and speed. When done in addition to a regular workout routines it can help boost performance.
Dan Southard PhD from Texas Christian University, Texas showed in his study that including plyometrics, in addition to strength training routine, improves strength and power. But what are they, what’s the purpose and should you be doing them?
What is plyometrics?
Plyometric also known as plyo or power exercises have long been called “jump” training but they are much more than that. A plyometric exercise is one that has an explosive concentric contraction (shortening of the muscle) preceded by an eccentric contraction (lengthening of muscle). So you elongate the muscle first then quickly power through the movement.
Why do we need to do plyometrics?
Plyometric workouts allow us to train for movements at a more functional speed than traditional training. This can provide better functional strengthening of muscles, tendons and ligaments to meet the demands of not only sports but everyday activities.
The goal of plyometric training is to reduce the reaction time and increase movement speed. Basically this means that eventually everybody should be doing some form of plyometric training, even grandma! Just modify the range of motion, and the intensity.
Plyometric exercises burn more calories than regular exercises
Let’s look at this logically taking for example the simple bodyweight squat vs jump squat. It seems pretty obvious that jumping in addition to the squat is going to burn more calories. However, let’s look at the BIG picture.
Whilst rep for rep yes you are going to burn more calories doing plyometric versions of the same exercise, however because of the explosive high intensity, high impact nature of plyometric movements you cannot sustain them for long.
Whereas a body-weight squat you may be able to perform 25 reps, with jump squats you may only be able to do five, making the exercise lower calorie burn overall. Bottom line you need to be doing BOTH to get the benefits of the calorie burn, metabolic increase, and performance boost.
How often should plyometric workouts be done?
The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that plyometric exercises can be done 3-4 times a week, however the participant should have adequate total body strength, core strength and balance to ensure the movements are performed safely. Choose up to three exercises, with a rep range of 5-12 and 1-3 sets.
12 Minute Plyometric Cardio Circuit
Examples of plyometric exercises:
Think of your traditional movements and make them explosive! So a squat becomes a jump squat, lunges become Chest press becomes a medicine ball chest throw, push-ups become plyo or “clap” push-ups. Even a simple exercise like jumping rope can be considered plyometric, albeit low level, due to the jumping and explosive action in the calves.
Beginner plyometric workout circuit:
- Jumping Jacks
- Running In Place
- Body-weight jump squat
- Low box lateral shuffle
- Medicine Ball Slam
Advance plyometric workout circuit:
- Box jump
- lateral Box Jump
- Hurdle Jump
- Split Jump