Composing a training programme that is right for your needs and fitness goals can be difficult. With so many different types of exercises and training routines out there, gym-goers may not know which exercises are right for them.
Plyometric exercises make up one type of training that can benefit athletes wanting to develop explosive power – but they also offer other benefits.
Learn what plyometric exercises are and the benefits of plyometric exercises here.
Plyometric training is also known as plyos and is a type of training that is used to build power (speed + strength).
Plyometric exercises force the target muscles to stretch followed by an immediate contraction of the same muscle. This stretch and contraction motion is why plyometric exercises may also be called jump training. Many of the exercises within plyometric training involve jumping movements.
These exercises are different from strength training because the latter aims to adapt the muscles and the nervous system, while plyometric exercises focus on improving explosiveness of movements. Specifically, they develop the maximum amount of force produced in the quickest possible time.
Some examples of polymetric exercises include skipping with a jump rope, box jumps, clapping push-ups and frog hops. Each of these exercises extends the performer’s target muscles before quickly contracting again, thus promoting explosive power.
Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
The most popular reason why people choose to undertake a plyometrics routine is because these exercises are some of the best for developing power.
Yet, there are many other benefits of plyometric exercises, including:
Unlike some workout routines, plyometric training requires limited equipment and some of the exercises require no equipment at all.
This means plyometric exercises are accessible to all and can be followed without an expensive gym membership.
Most people start to lose some bone density by the time they are in their 30s. Plyometric exercises will apply a small degree of stress on the bones. By adding stress, these exercises encourage the natural process of rebuilding bones, which helps them stay stronger for longer.
Plyometric routines can also contribute to increasing the performer’s metabolism, which means the individual will burn more calories during resting periods and between sessions. This is why people trying to lose weight will include some plyometric exercises into their fitness programme.
Plyometric exercise has become an integral component of exercise programmes that improve health, wellbeing and sporting performance.
There is a wide range of available exercises, which is why plyometric movements promote the development of power, a foundation from which an individual can refine the skills and performance of the body.
Beginner Plyometric Exercises
A simple yet very effective way to build strength, balance and coordination in the legs, developing a stable platform for more difficult movements.
How to Perform
Stand with your feet 6 inches apart, slightly bend at the knees and hop forward, immediately followed by hopping back to your starting position as soon as you land. That’s one rep.
Start the exercise slowly to make sure that you use appropriate form and utilise the proper mechanics and muscle recruitment.
As each rep becomes easier and comfortable try to increase the speed by hopping forward and backwards without a break for a set period of time, for example, 20 seconds continual hoping.
Uses the muscles in your lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. It also recruits the muscles in your shoulders, arms and core for stability.
This classic plyometric exercise is perfect for beginners to utilise plyometric as a workout. This staple exercise can develop core strength and endurance to give you the basic fitness requirements for harder exercise later on.
A regular jump rope routine will help you develop your fitness, coordination and agility.
How to Perform
If you stand in the middle of the rope, each rope handle should come up to your chest area, the rope is then good to go.
Hold the rope handles, one in each hand at waist height with the rope behind you. Gently toss the rope over your head and jump over it as it swings underneath you.
Do continue the movement so you are jumping in the same spot as the rope moves round, try skipping 5 jumps in a row, then 10 until you can skip for the 30 seconds nonstop.
Use the strength in your shoulders to keep the rope handles at your side at waist height as the rope moves over and under you. Jumping rope is one of the best forms of plyometric aerobic exercise.
Recruits muscles both in the lower and upper body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Also improves shoulder and core performance.
Intermediate Plyometric Exercises
The squat is a staple exercise in all workout regimes, the jump adds the plyometric element which helps to develop, power, strength, balance and coordination in the lower body predominately.
How to Perform
As you lower into the squat, with your thighs parallel to the floor ‘explode’ out of this movement into a vertical jump.
To help with this movement press your heels into the floor and push off the balls of your feet and jump. Use your arms to swing and build momentum so you are fully extending your legs and leaving the floor.
Land softly both feet at a time with ‘soft’ slightly bent knees, lower back down into the squat position, that’s one rep.
The jump squat exercise is one of the key exercises to develop explosive lower body strength and used during a number of training programmes as a well-researched and effective movement.
This exercise works numerous muscles in the lower body, core, and even the upper body. The major muscles used are the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the gluteal, the lower back and the abdominals.
Plank Jumping Jack
This exercise may look easy, but do try it before you judge. By ‘jacking’ your feet out and back in while trying to hold a steady plank, you are training all the muscles of the core to engage effectively and stabilise you.
How to Perform
Start in the high plank position with arms straight, hands flat on the floor underneath the same line of your shoulders.
Keep your abdominals tight, hips stable and your back straight, jump your feet out wider than your shoulders and then immediately back together, that’s one rep.
Landing softly on your toes, complete up to 12 reps in a row before a rest.
Upper body and core strength exercise that works the chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominal muscles as well as lower back and stabiliser muscles in the hips.
Push Up Pop Up
The all-round exercise is a great way to develop a strong core whilst working out the pecs and shoulders.
This total body exercise is very efficient as it works a number of large muscle groups as well as stabiliser muscles, together with burning lots of calories.
How to Perform
Start in a classic push up position on the floor, hands beneath the line of your shoulders. Slowly lower your body down to the ground so your chest lightly touches the floor, then push back up to the start position.
At the top of your push up, with your hands still on the floor jump your feet forward towards your chest until they are just behind your hands.
Using your strength to keep balance immediately jump your feet back to the starting position, that’s one rep.
Builds strength and power in the chest and shoulder muscles, as well as placing stress on the abdominal, glutes and quads
Advanced Plyometric Exercises
Plyo Push Up
Plyo push ups activate fast-twitch muscle fibres in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Developing these fast-twitch muscle fibres helps to build strength and muscle mass, you can utilise this development to perform ‘explosive’ exercises quicker and more effectively.
How to Perform
Start in the top of the classic push up position on the floor, with your hand’s shoulder-width apart, abs tight and back straight, slowly lower your chest to the floor.
Immediately push back up with enough force that your hands leave the floor and land back in the starting position. Land lightly on to the ground, that’s one rep, so move into the second rep straight away.
As your hands leave the ground during the ‘explosion’ phase you can even clap your hands quickly before landing in the starting position. This adds additional difficulty to the exercise, do fewer reps in a row, such as 3 to 5 before resting if you are new to this exercising.
If you can do up to ten plyo push up then it may be time to add the clap element and build your ego as well as your muscle mass.
This exercise strengthens many of the muscle groups in your upper body, including the chest, abdominals, triceps and shoulders.
Depth Drop Jump
This advanced plyometric exercise will improve athletic performance, the drop jump increases explosive power so your muscles can produce as much force in as little time as possible.
Study shows plyometric exercises and training significantly improves movements like the vertical jump, making this training favourable for sports that require acceleration, sprinting, jumping and so forth.
How to Perform
At the gym stand on top of a box, step off the box with both feet landing softly at the same time shoulder-width apart.
As you land immediately jump straight back up into a vertical jump as high as you can, landing softly once more, that’s one rep.
As you become more skilful with the exercise you can increase the height of the box you are dropping from or increase the height of your jump by jumping back up on to a different box or surface.
With this exercise focus is placed on the glutes, quads, abductors, hamstrings, core and calves.
Plyometric Exercises for runners
There are two main types of lunges, namely, the forward lunge and the reverse lunge. These lunges are generally performed to strengthen the quadriceps in your thighs and gluteus maximus in your hips and buttocks.
While doing the lunges several other leg and core muscles are also targeted.
These muscles include the gluteus medius and minimus which are found in the buttocks and the hamstrings in the back of the thigh, the gastrocnemius which is the large muscle in the calf, and the tibialis anterior which is found in the front of the calf.
Two other muscles – the oblique and the quadratus lumborum in the core also act as stabilisers during the lunges to maintain posture and stabilise joints.
When dynamic lunges are done from different angles, they become a functional movement.
Functional movements help you to work muscles that will benefit your everyday activities. For instance, when you do a side lunge it helps to strengthen the muscles that your body uses to move and change direction.
How to perform dynamic lunges
- Stand tall.
- Place one foot forward until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle.
- Jump up and switch your legs.
- Land in a soft position.
- Return to your starting position.
- Repeat at least 10 times on one leg before switching to the other leg.
The ankle hop is another plyometric exercise for runners that involves explosive jumps via ankle flexion.
The exercise focuses mainly on the calves but also targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. In addition, it improves factors linked to cardiovascular health and increases aerobic fitness.
How to perform ankle hops
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and raise up on your toes.
- Keep your arms at your side.
- Jump quickly 3-6 inches off the ground and as soon as you land on your feet repeat the jump.
- Make sure that your feet and your back are straight when you jump and do not let your heels touch the ground.
- Repeat the jumps as desired.
It may feel a bit awkward to jump with your legs straight and your arms by your side but in time it will get comfortable.
The knee tucks polymetric exercise for runners focuses on the lower part of the abs and strengthens the rectus femoris muscles (one of the four quadriceps muscles in the body) and hip flexors.
How to perform Knee Tucks
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart and place your arms by your side.
- Get into a squat position and keep your back flat for proper alignment. Lower yourself until you feel like your heels are about to lift off the floor.
- Balance with your arms and jump up.
- Bring both knees as high as possible into the tuck position when landing.
- Land back down softly without pressuring your knees. Let your hips absorb the impact.
- Stay lowered for a while then repeat the entire movement as quickly as possible.
Plyometrics exercises for runners train the muscles and force them to lengthen and contract at maximum speed.
Whether if its knee tucks, dynamic lunges, ankle hops, depth jumps, or other forms, runners can achieve their athletic endeavours from these exercises.
In fact, the research found that runners who participated in a six-week polymetric training improved their 2400m race times four percent.
Plyometric Exercises for Basketball
Bunny Hop Basketball Exercise
The bunny hop basketball plyometric exercise works the traps, lower bicep, upper forearm, and delts and pecs.
It is a vertical jump that increases strength and explosiveness in the lower half of the legs and is designed to help basketball players jump higher and faster.
The bunny hop is also a great exercise for the heart and lungs.
How to perform Bunny Hops
- Keep your feet together and place your hands firmly in front of a step box.
- Jump up and place your feet over the step.
- When you land on your toes, jump back over the box.
The aim is for you to focus on jumping over the step box without hitting the step.
Experienced Basketball players can benefit from the depth jump plyometric exercise as it increases vertical power and jumps height.
The depth jump training involves stepping off an elevated box, landing on the ground and quickly exploding into a jump.
This jump will work the quadriceps (thigh), hamstrings, glutes (buttocks), and calf muscles while still targeting several joints motion such as the ankle extension, knee extension, and hip extension.
How to perform Depth Jumps
- Stand with your feet on a 12-inch box (you can change the height of the box as you improve).
- Do not hop off the box. Step off the box with one foot first followed by the other.
- Land softly with both your feet on the ground and your knees and hips bent.
- Explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles.
- Jump up as high as you can.
- Land softly and both feet then repeat.
Lateral Cone Hops
Lateral cone hop is a plyometric exercise for basketball players that target the calves, ankles, hamstrings, quads, and shins.
How to perform Lateral Cone Hops
- Position the cones 2-3 feet from each other in a straight line.
- Stand in a position at the end of the line. You can choose to stand either on the right or the left.
- Jump and land sideways with both feet over the first cone. Continue jumping and landing over one cone at a time until you have covered all the cones.
- Switch position and repeat the jumping and landing.
Plyometric exercises for basketball players focus on the strength and power of the arms and legs to help basketball players improve their overall vertical jump and ball handling technique.
Plyometric Exercises for Football
Box jumps will allow you to jump with force while limiting your impact on the ground. This plyometric exercise targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It also helps to improve collagen and bone mineral content.
How to perform Box Jumps
- Choose a box of a suitable height. This can range from 18 – 50 inches.
- Position yourself 2 feet away from the box with your feet spaced shoulder-width apart.
- Do a short squat with your arms swinging behind you to prepare for the jump.
- Jump as high as you can and land with your knees bent so that the legs absorb the impact.
- Return to your original position and repeat as necessary.
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
The medicine ball chest pass is a polymetric total body exercise for footballers and targets the chest, the abs, biceps, forearms, lats, and quads.
How to perform Medicine Ball Chest Pass
- Stand straight facing a wall or a partner 5 feet apart.
- Hold the medicine ball with your hands to chest level.
- Focusing the tension in your chest, explosively toss the ball straight ad forward against the wall or to your partner.
- Catch the ball as it bounces back or when your partner tosses it back to you.
Repeat this movement in rapid succession.
Lateral Bounds plyometric exercise also increases speed and jumping height.
This exercise, although it’s a full-body workout, primarily targets the muscles that work during a squat, namely, the quads, core, hamstrings, calf muscles, and glutes.
How to perform Lateral Bounds
- Position your feet apart as if you are about to do a squat.
- Jump from side to side as far as you can while maintaining your balance.
- Get your hamstring to engage by stooping down to half squat.
- From the starting position, your aim is to propel yourself to the opposite foot in an upwards-sideward arching motion.
- Beginning to your left, push from your right foot, taking the weight on the outside of your leg.
- This is not a single movement with a defined endpoint, but rather a continual fluid movement, with each landing forming the basis for the other legs’ platform.
- When you land, push off as soon as you land, again leaping upwards and outwards, preparing to bound back to the other foot.
Football uses very powerful movements. Footballers who are more explosive will have an advantage on the field.
Plyometric exercises for footballers will challenge their muscles and with constant training football players will increase their speed and power.
Plyometric exercises are performed at a high intensity which means these exercises offer a greater risk of injury. Performers need to ensure their technique is correct and the equipment they use – such as boxes used for box jumps – is not damaged.
If it is your first time following a plyometric routine, you may wish to seek guidance from a fitness professional to make sure you perform each exercise correctly and avoid injury.