Jump To It: Burn Calories and Get Fit with a Plyometric Workout
If your weight-loss results have hit a plateau or the daily workout is getting boring, then it may be time to change up your workout routine. Whatever your fitness goals are – strength training, general fitness, weight loss – plyometric exercises should be a part of the plan to achieve them.
Also known as “jump training”, plyometric exercises aim to increase muscle power by rapidly forcing the muscles to expand and contract in movements that also force the body to stabilize itself. These movements require bursts of energy that strengthen quick-release (or fast-twitch) muscle fibers. The goal is muscle strength and efficiency for the major muscles in your legs and upper body (specifically the chest and biceps).
Most professional athletes incorporate plyometric workouts into their training regimens. Though their plans are much more specific and their workouts more intense, the principles and benefits of plyometric exercises can apply to anyone.
Benefits of Plyometric Excercises
1. Build stronger and more responsive fast-twitch muscles. The faster and more efficient a muscle is able to expand and contract, the more strength it is able to exert. In the context of personal fitness, this means achieving certain strength or toning benchmarks faster than with typical strength work alone.
2. Increased agility and fewer injuries. Because plyometric workouts rely on linear and lateral jumping, the continual stabilization specifically targets and strengthens the ligaments, tendons and joints in the knees and ankles.
3. Increased stamina and power. Conditioning muscles to perform stronger, faster and consistently will prove more beneficial for long-term fitness training goals than consistent, slow repetition. Increase your muscles’ capacity for performance and you’ll see quickly that during exercise you can perform better and longer.
4. Complete workouts in 10 to 15 minutes. With higher intensity comes fewer repetitions. At most, plyometric workouts should feature three sets of 8 to 12 reps in order to reduce fatigue and maintain proper form during the skill.
The goal of plyometric exercises – whether it’s upper-body plyometric exercises or lower-body plyometric exercises – is to focus on form. It shouldn’t sound like you’re exercising in army boots. Stay as light on your feet as possible and get through the reps as quickly as possible in each set.
Here are some great plyometric exercises to get you started:
• Slalom Jump: Jump side to side in a straight line with your weight on the outside foot, finishing in the Heisman position before jumping back to the opposite side.
• Box/Bleacher Jump: Jump from the ground to an elevated step roughly 12-24 inches above the ground. Jump down and immediately jump back up.
• Power Skipping: Cover 20 yards in as few strides as possible. Raise your knees as high as possible between skips and use both your arms and legs to gain momentum.
• Plyometric Pushups: In the typical pushup position, lower yourself to the floor and push up hard enough to elevate yourself off the ground. If you are feeling confident, add in a clap while in the air, and then catch yourself with your hands as you come back down.
As a beginner, it is important to ease into any plyometric workout. Even plyometric pushups should be added gradually to workouts. As these movements require more explosive power and stabilization, focus on keeping your weight balanced so as not to damage any joints or crucial ligaments as you get used to the motions.
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