When's the last time that your strength workout made you want to jump for joy? Has it kept you continually improving by leaps and bounds? Okay, enough jumping puns. Let's get to the point. Plyometrics, or “jump training,” is the hottest trend to replace your monotonous strength training and make working on your fitness fun again.
Think about how much fun you had as a kid on the playground, goofing off with your friends. Well, this kind of workout riffs off the movements of childhood games like hopscotch, skipping rope, and jumping jacks. It's a great break from the tedium of the same ol', same ol' lifting procedures or hamster-like cardio routines. The best thing about plyometrics is that it's actually fun. But it's actually also a killer workout: plyometrics is a high intensity, high energy, high payoff workout to help you train for sports that use explosive movements like basketball, volleyball, and tennis. It targets your legs and glutes most, and you can bring in some arm workouts by adding upper-body moves like medicine-ball throws.
There are tons of benefits to incorporating this kind of training into your workouts. It's free and requires little to no equipment. You can take the show on the road and hit the park; if you're feeling shy, you can get your jump on inside your home. "Plyometrics burns the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time while toning the body from head to toe," says trainer Roya Siroospour, who created a new Miami plyometrics class.
It was developed in Soviet countries during the Cold War. The leading researcher was a Russian scientist called Yuri Yerkhoshansky. Dr. Yerkhoshansky published on the workout in 1964, but it didn't take off in America until we saw Russia kicking butt at the Olympics. Americans took notes, revised the exercises, named them plyometrics, and the rest was history. There are three phases: the eccentric phase involves rapid muscle lengthening movements; the amortization, which is a short amount of resting; and the concentric phase, where muscles are rapidly shortened. The three are repeated as fast as possible, and the goal is to decrease the time between the eccentric and concentric phases as much as you can. For the best workout, you should be focusing not on quantity of jumps, but quality of form.
It's important to always warm up before exercising, and jump training is no exception. Prep your body by marching in place, jogging in place, stretching, and a few squats. Here are a few basic plyometric exercises.
- Squat jumps: stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump as high as possible. Repeat rapidly.
- Lateral jumps: place an object next to you that you can jump over. Jump sideways across it and then back again.
- Power skipping: Just like as a kid, but with way more power—jump and lift your knees as high as possible and go again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-LcT_-2cNk
- Box jumps: This is basically the quintessential plyo workout. Stand in front of a box or park bench. Jump onto the object and immediately back down. Repeat the jumps as fast as you can.
Follow the workouts with a cooldown, stretching, and a healthy dose of protein to recover. We recommend a Promax LS bar to regain energy without adding a lot of sugar to your diet.
There are a few points of caution if you're going to give this workout a shot. It's not going to strengthen your core at all, so be aware of your goals before changing your fitness routine. If you have any kind of nerve damage or arthritis, unfortunately jump training is a big no-no. It's an awesome workout for both men and women, but if you're pregnant, consider it verboten. Your growing belly will throw you off balance, stress your knees and ankles, and make injury very likely.