Published: Jul 25, 2014 9:13 AM EDT

Unlike typical strength training exercises that involve long, slow movements to increase muscle strength and mass, Plyometric exercises involve quick, explosive movements designed to increase speed and power. Plyos not only improve your speed and agility, but thanks to the energy needed to do them, they burn a lot of calories too! So whether you want to boost your skills on the field or are looking for a boredom-busting workout, Wink News Fitness Expert Mike Drumm says you will get more out of every workout by addingplyometric exercises to your routine.

If you’ve seen people at the gym doing a series of pretty intense jumps, skips, or hops, chances are you were probably witnessing plyometrics in action. This type of high-intensity training taps into energy stored in muscles to encourage muscle development, agility, stamina, and speed. Because plyometric exercises mimic the motions used in sports like skiing, football, basketball, and boxing, plyometric training often is used to condition professional and amateur adult athletes. But children and adolescents also can benefit from a properly designed and supervised plyometric routine. Plyometrics are for everyone. 

 

What Are Plyometrics?

Plyometric training conditions the body through dynamic resistance exercises that rapidly stretch a muscle (eccentric phase) and then rapidly shorten it (concentric phase). Hopping and jumping exercises, for example, subject the quadriceps to a stretch-shortening cycle that can strengthen these muscles, increase vertical jump, and reduce the force of impact on the joints. The goal of plyometric exercises is to decrease the amount of time in-between the eccentric and concentric movements which makes you become faster and more powerful. Lets demonstrate the basics! 

  • Step Ups - A great starter exercise. Build up leg strength here, before moving onto the box jump. Keep your knees behind your toes, feel your glutes powering the exercise. 
  • Box Squat- perfect to learn squat depth and box squats. 

The Benefits of Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises can help you improve your pick-up basketball game or prepare your body for when you have to move in a hurry. Plyometric training refers to explosive compound movements, commonly done with bodyweight or very light loads such as plyo pushups and box jumps. The goal is to train for maximum force production in the smallest period of time, so reps are kept low and the intensity and effort is high. To train explosiveness, you have to perform each movement as explosively as you possibly can. That means leaving the ground. 

  • Plyometric Pushups. Assume a normal push-up position. Lower yourself to the floor. Explosively push off the floor with enough force that your hands leave the floor. Repeat. 
  • Box Jumps. The height of the box may vary, this one is 18 inches. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Quickly drop down into a squatting position and immediately jump onto the box, landing softly on the balls of your feet in a squat position. Jump off the box onto the ground, landing softly on the balls of your feet in a squat position. Repeat. 

Safety First. Plyometrics are by their nature intense. You’ll be putting a lot of load on your joints and tendons. If you haven’t worked out in awhile, I recommend holding off on adding plyometric exercises to your routine until you’ve built up your strength and flexibility with regular cardio, weight training, and stretching. When you first start off, take it slow and focus on performing the exercises in a controlled manner. Form is everything! 

 

How to Incorporate Plyometrics in Your Training

There are several ways to use plyometric training in your routine. Here are three:

1. At the beginning or end of workouts, add a “plyos” section by making a miniature workout that comprises of only plyometrics. Remember to keep the rep ranges low and focus on form.

2. Using contrast sets. You can trick your muscles into overfiring by doing a weighted regular lifting set in the gym, and immediately following it up with the same movement, plyometric style and unloaded, for the same number or reps. For example, barbell back squats for 10 reps followed by unloaded jump squats for 10 jumps. During the jump squats, the muscles of the legs will still fire as though they have your 10 rep max on your back!

3. Make them their own workout. Substitute your own cardio or sprint day with a plyometrics workout. The intense effort will yield plenty of metabolic stress and aid in the pursuit of fat loss. To keep your heart rate up, focus on less than 90 seconds rest between sets of work.

 

**ADDITIONAL EXERCISES**

Scissor Jumps (Alternating legs) Starting Position: Stand in a split squat position with your left foot forward, right foot back, and your right arm forward and left arm back. Keep your chest up.

1. Jump and scissor so that the opposite arm comes forward with the opposite leg.

2. Upon landing, reverse by jumping and scissoring your legs back to your original position.

Depth Jumps. Stand on a box. Contract your ab muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine.

1. Step—don't jump—off of the bench with your left foot.

2. As soon as you land, explode vertically as high as you can. Try to minimize ground-contact time--don't sink down into a deep squat before jumping up. Repeat, alternating legs.