What do soccer players, Olympic track and field stars, and US Marines have in common?
They all use plyometric workouts to increase their explosiveness and keep their bodies in peak condition.
Plyometric exercises are meant to make your muscles as hard as they can for short durations. A training program that includes plyometric exercises builds tons of power in the body over time, which can then be tailored to suit particular sports or activities. Not only are they a great way to keep your heart rate up, but they’re often more entertaining than sprinting or running long distances.
Imagine a baseball player throwing a pitch or a football player throwing a hail-mary. Both are great examples of plyometrics on the field, but how can you build up the same power at home?
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We’ve put together the best plyometrics that you can do in your bedroom, the gym, or anywhere else there’s room. Many of these workouts are going to look familiar if you’ve been working out for a while. You can make any exercise plyometric by adding a lateral jump or a vertical jump in at the right moment, as you’ll see from this list of exercises.
Here’s what we’re about to cover:
- What makes an Exercise Plyometric?
- Benefits of Plyometric Exercise
- 7 Best Plyometric Exercises Explained
- How Often Should I Be Doing Plyometric Workouts?
- Is There a Risk of Injury with Plyometric Exercises?
What Makes an Exercise Plyometric?
An exercise has to be explosive in order for it to qualify as a plyometric workout. The word plyometric is constructed of two Greek roots, ‘plio-’ meaning ‘more’ and ‘metric’ meaning length. These exercises were first introduced in the 1980s when the depth jump, a very fast landing and takeoff, was the exhibitive plyometric exercise. Nowadays, any kind of jump added into an exercise is enough for it to be considered plyometric.
Plyometric workouts are interesting physiologically because they involve switching muscles rapidly from an extended position to a contracted one. Many plyometric exercises such as the depth jump cause your leg muscles to go through what’s called an eccentric contraction, which is a unique muscle contraction where your muscle expands as it contracts.
That may seem confusing, but imagine picking up a barbell. Your bicep contracts as you raise the barbell and it also contracts as you lower it. That’s the perfect example of an eccentric contraction because your muscle stretches out as the barbell lowers but it contracts as a response to the weight.
Anytime your muscles have to fight gravity they go through an eccentric contraction. When you walk uphill or downhill or hit a tennis ball, various muscles contract as they shorten. These are the most common muscles to experience soreness after a workout and they’re just what plyometric exercises work out, which is why plyometric workouts are so important.
Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
The best thing about plyometric workouts is that everybody except the most seasoned professional athletes will see results in a fairly short time. In some cases, people see improved speed, agility, and power in as little as four weeks. If you combing plyometric exercise with strength training for a longer period of time, you can significantly increase the power in both your upper body and lower body. You can also increase your jump height with plyometric exercises.
Plyometrics are also useful in rehabilitation for athletes who have suffered an injury. Just about every sport has some kind of plyometric component and athletes need to have this power-building aspect included in their recovery programs so that they can get back to the field, court, or gym with the same athletic performance they were able to give pre-injury.
If you can add plyometric exercises to one of our more generalized Fitplans, such as the Cerny Strong Fitplan that already helps you build muscle and shed fat, you’ll start to see huge improvements in your speed, agility, jumping, sprinting, and your overall athletic performance. Try adding some of the following plyometric exercises to your workout routine and you’ll see what we mean.
7 Best Plyometric Exercises Explained
These are the basic exercises that make up a plyometric workout. There are variations on just about all of them, just find out which one you can do where you work out without over-stressing your body. Also bear in mind that you shouldn’t be doing these plyometric exercises every day. 2-3 times a week will do the trick, just make sure you’re letting your muscles recover and rebuild between plyometrics. These are meant to be high intensity, not necessarily high frequency, so don’t overdo it.
1. Depth Jump
This is the original plyometric exercise and it does a great job increasing your jump height. All you need to properly execute a depth jump is a raised platform and enough room for a landing. What you should be doing is jumping off the raised platform backward and landing softly, creating what’s referred to as a ‘shock landing’ by plyometric experts. Once you’ve landed, reverse the movement by jumping back up onto the platform.
Things to Know About a Depth Jump:
- Make sure you aren’t jumping straight up in the air. That doesn’t involve the same explosive movement as jumping forward, which is what you should be doing to return to the platform.
- If you’re trying to focus on improving your speed, try to reduce the amount of time your feet are on the ground as much as possible.
- If increasing your jump height is what’s important, increase the power you’re using to jump. You can even raise the height of the platform, just don’t raise it too high or you could injure yourself
2. Tuck Jump
Tuck jumps are great for adding power to your lower body. If you’re focused on sculpting your legs and lower body, try out our 10 Pack Hamstrings Fitplan and use the tuck jump as a warm-up.
Begin the tuck jump with your legs a bit less than shoulder-width apart. Get down about ¼ of the way into a squat position and then do a vertical jump. Remember, explosiveness is the key to a successful tuck jump. When you reach the top of your jump, tuck your knees into your chest as much as possible. Land as softly as possible and then you can either pause or go right back into the second tuck jump.
Things to Know About a Tuck Jump:
- Don’t lean into your knees; make sure your back stays straight throughout the exercise to make sure you’re bringing your knees in and not bringing your chest to meet them.
- If you’re really adventurous, you can do a full squat before executing the tuck jump, but we’d advise moving up to that after you’re used to doing the tuck jump with a ¼ squat.
- Try to focus on either increasing the jump height or get your knees closer into your chest as you become more acquainted with the tuck jump.
3. Box Jump
This is kind of a blending of the tuck jump and the depth jump. In a box jump, you don’t start from the top of the raised platform like you would in a depth jump. Instead, you start on the floor and jump onto the raised platform and then repeat. This is a great exercise for increasing your jump height. Increase the height of the platform each week as your body starts to be able to jump higher.
This is also a good exercise to add variations to. You can go down into the squat position for more explosiveness or you can try a split squat jump, wherein you start standing upright with your legs together, make a vertical jump, and then land in the squat position with your right leg forward and bent at the right knee and your left leg back supported by the toes. Jump up again and switch the positions of your legs.
Things to Know About a Box Jump:
- Studies like this one have shown that ten reps of box jumps didn’t lead to fatigue in professional volleyball players, but that doesn’t mean you should be doing ten box jumps right out of the gate.
- If you’re attempting the split squat jump, you should make sure to get the correct form down before you start increasing the frequency or the explosiveness with which you’re executing this plyometric exercise.
4. Jump Squat
These jump squats will work both your lower and upper body strength, explosiveness, and help you burn more calories than standard squats, which can help you get rid of fat or that pesky water weight. If you feel you have unwanted weakness in your ankles, adding jump squats to your routine can help build up their strength.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and do a regular squat, then do a vertical jump. Remember to jump with explosiveness for the best results. When you land, go back into the squat position. That’s one rep. When you’ve become an expert at the jump squat, you can even try it with a medicine ball in your hands to make it a real challenge.
Things to Know About a Jump Squat:
- Make sure you’re landing quietly. If you aren’t you’re not using your muscles to control your landing enough, which means you’re losing out on part of the exercise.
- Get ready to feel some pain in your lower body and leg muscles the day after you start doing jump squats for the first time. As with all the jumping plyometric exercises, slowly increasing your jump height will add an extra challenge to the jump squat.
5. Plyometric Lateral Jumps
If your goal is to increase your agility as well as your explosiveness, lateral jumps are the perfect plyometric exercise for you. They’re also a great thing to throw into your training program because they’re one of the only ways to practice side-to-side movement, which will improve your coordination.
To do lateral jumps, find a line on the floor or make one out of plastic cones. Put your feet apart no more than hip-width. Push through your ankles and jump to the side so that you cross the line on the floor. Land quietly by going into the squat position. Repeat this process, jumping over the line each time, for 30- or 60-second intervals. You can vary this exercise by landing on just your right foot.
Things to Know About a Lateral Jumps:
- Keep your hips and shoulders square the entire time. It might not sound like it, but lateral jumps are actually a rather advanced plyometric training exercise.
- Make sure you do a thorough warm-up before attempting lateral jumps and land with your feet square to avoid twisting an ankle.
6. Plyo Push-Ups
Classic plyometric experts might say push-ups aren’t real plyometrics, but these plyo push-ups are a great mixture of an upper-body workout and the explosiveness of plyometrics. If you’re interested in more upper-body workouts, try out Zero to Hero Fitplan for some real strength training.
To do plyo push-ups, you should already have some upper-body strength built-up. If you’re not quite there yet, focus on perfecting your regular push-ups before adding the jump to make them plyo push-ups.
Begin a plyo push-up at the top of a normal push-up position, with your arms shoulder-width apart and fully extended. Make sure your core is engaged and there’s a straight line running from your ankle to the back of your head. Lower yourself to the ground as if you’re doing a normal push-up. When your chest is almost touching the floor, push up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.
Land quietly back on the ground. When you get used to this process, you can add a clap at the top of the push-up for added difficulty.
Things to Know About Plyo Push-Ups:
- After several reps of plyo push-ups, you’ll want to take a couple of days to let your muscles rest before doing plyo push-ups again.
- Focus on your hips when you first try these push-ups; they should stay at the same level throughout the whole exercise.
- You can also try to make a diamond to make the plyo push-ups more difficult if you’re feeling adventurous.
7. Broad Jump
The broad jump is yet another jumping plyometric exercise that seems really simple but actually requires a lot of technical skill to properly execute. Stand with your feet a little bit less than shoulder-width apart. Your arms should go up in the air behind you so that you can swing your arms forward before the broad jump and use the momentum to complete the movement. As you swing your arms backward, you should also bend your knees and push your hips backward. Then, swing your arms forward while pushing off with your feet, push your hips forward, and leap outward.
You should land quietly on your feet and then return to the starting position. Repeat this process a few times.
Things to Know About a Broad Jump:
- This plyometric exercise really works your lower body, especially your quads, hamstrings, and calves. But the tricky thing about properly executing a broad jump is that you have to have the form just right to get the full benefit.
- Work up to speed with this exercise, and don’t worry about not getting it right for the first week or so.
How Often Should I Be Doing Plyometric Workouts?
As we mentioned throughout or review of the 7 best plyometric exercises, these aren’t meant to be done every day. The explosiveness of plyometric exercises really takes a toll on your muscles, so give yourself a 24- or even 48-hour break from them to let your muscles heal. You can still do less intense workouts as part of a larger training program, but you shouldn’t be trying to do broad jumps or plyo push-ups every day of the week.
You should start to see benefits like increased jump height and more power in your muscles within about four weeks, but that’s provided you’re executing all these plyometric exercises the correct way. Hopefully, our instructions helped in that regard.
Is There a Risk of Injury With Plyometric Workouts?
Just like with any intense physical exercise, plyometric workouts do have a slight risk of injury. But that’s why you should take as much care as possible to learn how to do them the right way, with the right form. You’ll also get a better workout overall that way.
While plyometric workouts are used in rehabilitation for professional athletes, they are generally used in the end stages because they are so intensive.
Plyometric workouts are a great way to work your way up to better athletic performance. Many of these exercises work on the lower body more than the upper body, so you should consider matching them with our Full Body Build & Burn Fitplan to make sure your entire body gets a workout. If you do both, you can work your glutes and hamstrings as well as your biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
(Note: Want our elite trainers to build your plyometric workout for you? Start your Fitplan free trial today!)
Explosiveness is the main aim of plyometric exercises. They’re some of the best jump training and lead to quick increases in athleticism. The stretch-shortening cycle that involves eccentric contractions leads to the release of explosive power and over comparatively short times you can feel your body becoming more capable of higher vertical jumps and longer long jumps. Athletes already use plyometric workouts to increase their power output, and now you can too.