Plyometrics: The Key To Making Your Workouts More Effective
Plyometric or “shock training” exercises are a highly effective way to build strength, speed, power, and agility. I love incorporating plyometrics into my training because it is so efficient — just minutes of plyo training can burn calories to build muscle, and even give you a great cardio workout!
Including plyometric exercises into your workouts can help you to achieve your fitness goals with short workouts!
Here’s an explanation of what plyometric training involves and why you should definitely include plyo in your workouts!
What is plyometrics?
Plyometrics or “plyo” is basically “jump training”. During a plyometric move, the muscle is stretched, has a brief rest and then contracts rapidly on impact with the ground.
During these rapid, cyclical movements your hands or feet leave and hit the ground with the force of impact correlating to the height of the next jump. Plyo movements use the ‘stretch-shortening cycle’ or stretch reflex to produce this explosive movement.
As you leave the ground, the muscle eccentrically contracts. During the transitional or “amortization” phase, the muscle has completed the work of the eccentric pre-stretch phase and the force production phase where the muscle contracts at recoil to complete the plyometric movement. This can also be called “reversible action” of muscles.
his explosive movement builds strength, speed and endurance — the goal is to decrease the time between stretching and contraction of the muscle as you build muscle power.
Plyometric exercises usually mean that you push off the ground and land — usually with your feet, but you can also do plyometric exercises for your arms.
Why do plyometric training?
Plyometric training can be done anywhere, using minimal equipment! This makes plyometric exercises perfect for at-home workouts. It can give you a really effective workout in just 15 minutes, which is perfect when you don’t have a lot of time!
Are plyometric exercises good for you?
Plyometric exercises help to maintain bone and joint health and increase muscle fibre strength. They are a great way to get your heart rate up AND build lean muscle at the same time!
However, some of these exercises can be jarring on the body. If you have an injury or are new to exercise, other forms of exercise may be more appropriate — ask your health professional for a recommendation. Once you’ve established a base level of fitness and are cleared to do jumping exercises, you can add in plyometrics.
Benefits of plyometric training
Plyometric exercises increase the speed with which the muscle contracts, targeting the fast-twitch muscle fibres. Fast twitch muscle fibres are larger, denser and more powerful than the slow twitch muscle fibres. You need to use them, or they can be converted to slow twitch or hybrid muscle fibres which produced less force and burn less energy.
Doing plyometric exercises loads your nervous system and encourages the growth of high-output fast twitch muscle fibres. Here are just some of the benefits:
- Increase athletic performance: Plyometric exercises can increase muscular power and explosiveness. This is important in many sports — from gymnastics to dancing, running, cycling or basketball.
- Improve power: Power is a combination of strength plus speed. Plyometric exercises help to increase the speed with which fast-twitch muscle fibres contract, recruiting more muscle fibres than stand-alone strength exercises.
- Better agility: The ability to change direction quickly depends on fast recruitment of muscle fibres. This is important for many team sports. Plyometric exercises can improve performance and reduce risk of injury during exercise.
- Improve speed: Plyometric exercises recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibres in your muscles, improving the speed of muscle response.
- Improve balance: Jumping exercises challenge your balance and help to strengthen the stabilising muscles, ligaments and tendons around the joints.
- Increase stamina: Plyometric exercises challenge your muscles, heart and lungs and can help increase your stamina for other activities.
- Better neuromuscular control: The nervous system carries communication from your brain to the muscles, and plyometric exercises can help to increase the speed and strength of these signals.
- Boost your metabolism: After exercise, your body continues to burn energy above your resting metabolic rate. This increase in EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) means more calories are burned even after you complete the workout.
- Increase cardiovascular fitness: Plyometric exercises will get your heart pumping! The intensity of these exercises means they help to improve your heart health and stamina.
Need-to-know tips for doing plyometrics
This form of exercise is VERY high-intensity, and requires a significant amount of strength and flexibility. This means that you shouldn’t attempt plyometrics unless you’ve been doing regular cardio, strength training and stretching for at least a month or two.
To do plyometrics safely, you need strong ligaments and tendons. It can pay to start with some lower impact plyometric exercises like bench hops or star jumps, and then build up to higher impact exercises like box jumps and tuck jumps. If you find plyometrics too intense, try a different form of exercise like low-intensity cardio to build fitness.
Warm up and cool down
As with any type of resistance training, you should always start your workout with some warm up exercises to get the blood flowing to your muscles. Dynamic stretching can help to increase the range of motion of your muscles and joints in preparation for jumping exercises.
Once you’ve completed the workout, take time to cool down and do static stretches to improve flexibility and range of motion for the muscles you’ve used whilst they are still warm.
Use proper form
When you do plyo exercises, it’s essential that you execute the movement with correct form to avoid potential injury. For example, I recommend mastering the basic movements that make up a complex exercise, like a plyometric box jump, before you attempt the full exercise.
Proper form is so important for plyometric exercises! Ensure that you can complete every single rep with good form. As a guide, you shouldn’t try to complete your maximum number of repetitions of a plyometric exercise — do as many reps as you can, without compromising your technique!
Once you’ve nailed the correct technique, you can include plyometric training two to three times per week, allowing 24-48 hours between sessions for recovery. Remember to listen to your body and be careful not to increase the intensity too quickly. I would recommend that you increase the repetitions of a plyometric exercise by no more than five reps at a time!
Finally, if something hurts during a workout, stop immediately! If it doesn’t resolve quickly, see a health professional.
What if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, you should only exercise when you have clearance from your health professional. Once you have been cleared to exercise, modify your workouts to suit the stage your body is at.
When will I notice the benefits of plyometric exercises?
When you consistently incorporate plyometric training into your workouts, you should notice improvements in your performance within around four to six weeks. Of course, to maintain these gains you’ll have to keep continually challenging your body with plyometric exercises!
Is plyometric training aerobic or anaerobic?
Plyometric training can stimulate both the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic systems. Aerobic exercise relies on the availability of oxygen to burn energy, and it’s usually less intense than aerobic exercises.
As the intensity of any exercise increases, your lungs and bloodstream can’t keep up with the demand for oxygen in the muscles. This means that your body starts to break down energy-storing molecules ‘anaerobically’, or without oxygen.
Plyometric exercises that are executed with a quick burst of energy, at maximum effort and for a short time are anaerobic.
When should you do plyometric training?
Plyometrics are often used by athletes to improve their performance in sports, but they are a great training tool for anyone who wants to build lean muscle and reap the other benefits of exercise using short workouts.
As mentioned above, you should do plyometrics once you’ve been exercising consistently for a few weeks, you are cleared by a health professional and you are free from injury.
Plyometric training can be done one to three times each week — leaving enough time for recovery between workouts.