Plyometric exercises are huge in sports and fitness training. It's not hard to understand why, either. Plyometrics involve using explosive, intense movements to enhance your speed, power and muscle tone.
These massive gains are the result of the stretch-shortening cycle that’s the basis of plyos, wherein you stretch the muscle, then contract it (i.e. shorten) with intensity. A muscle that's been stretched before an explosive contraction will produce more power. As a result, you're performing each rep with max force, and the more force you use, the more muscle you build and energy you burn.
Take a jump squat: You squat down (i.e. stretch your muscle) and then power up (i.e. contract it), and presto, you’ve just done a plyometric exercise.
Where to Start
Chances are, you've done some sort of plyometric exercise in your life. Jumping jacks are a plyometric exercise. Skipping is a plyometric exercise. Hop-scotch is a plyometric exercise. So, if you had a typical childhood with fun and games, you've already pounded out a few hundred reps of plyos.
This said, you’re not a child anymore, and it may have been years since the last time you double-dutched it with your BFF. While plyometrics are insanely effective, they can also cause injury if you push too hard, too fast.
Avoid the common pitfalls that beginner’s face when jumping into plyometric training. Read on this guide to help keep you safe and injury free.
1) Begin with Basics
If you are new to exercising all together, you are going to want to master the basics. We’re talking squats,lunges, planks and push ups. These four exercises are the foundations of most plyometric exercises, so learn how to do them properly before you start adding the explosive plyo jumps, skips and hops.
Once you have this core strength developed and the essential form nailed, you can move on.
*Note: It’s always a good a idea to check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new type of exercise — especially if you have pre-existing health issues or injuries.
2) Bodyweight, First
You’re ready to foray into plyometric training. Before you start using any equipment, work with your own bodyweight. Trust us, even for advanced fitness junkies, bodyweight can be challenging.
Here are the best plyometric exercises for beginners.
- Jump Squats
*Beginner modification: Walk your feet forward instead of jumping forward.
- Reverse Lunge with Knee Pop
Here are a few points to keep in mind when you’re completing these basic plyos:
- Focus on keeping your knees behind your toes and inline with your hips. Don’t let them fall in or out of alignment.
- Make sure your core is engaged throughout the movement.
- Sink deep into your heels before you power up, and then absorb the force as you sink back down into the movement. This will keep the movement fluid. The stress should be in your muscles, not your joints!
- Work at your own pace.
3) Level Up!
Once you’ve mastered the basics, your next course of action is to level up. Try some more advanced plyometrics, like the ones you’ll find in our Two Minute No Limit Challenge or our series of PLYO HIIT.
You can also add resistance to your plyo moves. Don’t load up too heavy at first. Opt for small increases in load and specialised equipment, like the weighted vest. Because the vest is firmly attached to you, you don’t have to focus on maneuvering it while you power through your plyos. Strap it on, and then just perform your plyometric exercises as always.
Another safety tip: Unless you are a trained athlete who has been given special instruction, do not perform a plyometric jump while holding heavy weight above your head. Not only could the force and load-bearing angle of this movement injure your back, but you the exertion of plyos means you could risk dropping the weight on your skull.
Keep it safe, use this guide, and you’ll be reaping the real, measurable results of plyos workout after workout.
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