In the past, plyometrics (jumping and other explosive movements) has been associated mainly with professional or Olympic athletes. It originated from Soviet athlete training known as the “shock method” where the athletes would actually jump from a high place and land explosively. The term plyometrics has taken on a new form for recreational athletes since then, and although the word “plyometrics” may sound intimidating, incorporating some of these moves into your workouts can deliver great results.
Plyometric exercises we use today involve jumps or rebounding movements. The rapid stretch/shortening cycle of the muscles increases strength and speed in the muscle. For example, in a typical box jump, the quadriceps are in the eccentric phase (stretch) at the beginning of the movement (on the floor) and at the end of the jump (landing on the box) the quads are in the concentric phase (contraction). This change in phases is very quick and applies maximum force in a short amount of time.
The benefit of these exercises is that they increase muscle power, agility, and balance. It also helps increase bone density and is a great way to keep your muscles guessing. It is also great if you are limited in space or want to add cardio intervals to a workout. The key is to know how to safely add these jumps.
As with any exercise, safety is of utmost importance and a person must learn how jump and land properly. Landing toe to heel is the safest way to avoid injury. Proper warm-ups and stretches are also a must before engaging in explosive movements. Obviously if oyu have foot, ankle or knee problems this may be a workout to avoid.It is wise to take a class or talk to a trainer about how to add these moves to your workouts.
In addition to plyometric classes, you will probably see plyo boxes of different heights on the gym floor for general use as well. These boxes are special made for withstanding jumps and can be used for two-legged jumps, box to box jumps, etc… Hurdles, hops, broad jumps, jumping lunges and even sprints are other great plyometric moves because of the quick muscle contractions they involve. Plyometrics isn’t just a lower body movement though. Pushups with a clap in between also classify as a plyometric move.
Don’t let plyometrics be intimidating. Done safely, it can be a great tool in your workout arsenal and can give you great results.