Ever feel like your body has stopped responding to your usual workout? Or are you just ready to challenge yourself after a year of being stuck inside? Meet plyometrics, a type of exercise that builds strength, power, and speed through fast, explosive movements. While it may sound intimidating, these beginner plyometric workouts can help you nail the basics as you get acquainted with this heart-pumping training style.
Though they're quick, plyometric exercises require maximum force in short bursts — think jump squats, burpees, and tuck jumps, says Dr. Rick Richey, an Everlast trainer and founder of New York City's Independent Training Spot. And there are plenty of reasons to give it a try: Besides increasing your power, these rapid-fire workouts build endurance and strengthen your muscles and connective tissue with force since you're working super-hard to push through fast, challenging reps. The explosive movements quickly stretch and shorten your muscle fibers, which conditions your body for speed and agility. And, like all other forms of exercise, plyo is a great way to release stress and boost your mood — after all, you can't help but break a smile with all that jumping around (at least after it's over).
Another perk of the workouts? Regular plyometric training can help you move better in everyday life. "The ability to react and generate force quickly is crucial to overall function and safety," says Or Artzi, a group fitness instructor for Equinox+. It's functional fitness.
While plyo is often the workout of choice for athletes who want to get stronger and faster, the training style can be adapted to suit people of all fitness levels and backgrounds, says Richey. The key? Mastering how to land fast-paced jump movements safely. "Once landing mechanics are optimized, the focus on force production can begin," he says. So if you're ready to jump into plyo (literally), check out these trainer-approved, beginner-friendly workouts.
1. Your Fave Workout, Plus Plyo
If you're new to plyometrics, avoid going from zero to 100 in one workout, says Richey. Instead, start small by incorporating basic plyometric exercises into your usual sweat sesh so that your muscles and joints can adjust slowly without putting you at risk for an injury. And if you feel any pain while you try plyo exercises for the first time, he cautions to stop and rest.
Artzi suggests starting with basic squat jumps, which incorporate all the phases of a plyometric exercise: The loading phase (when you bend your knees before the jump), the force production phase (when you jump), and the unloading phase (when you land and bend your knees again). Build 3 sets of 10 reps each of squat jumps into your usual workout to start adjusting, no equipment necessary.
Other common exercises include jumping jacks, jump lunges, standing long jumps, and clap push-ups, which you can start adding to your regular fitness regimen. Just remember to warm up so your muscles are ready to support you through the challenging moves to come.
2. Squat Progression Workout
Jump squats are a fundamental plyo exercise, and Richey's progressive squat workout can help you master the move. Try the full sesh all at once if you're ready, or take it bit by bit if this is your first foray into jumps.
- Do 10 squat drops. From a standing position, simply drop quickly into a squat and hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
Think of this as a drill to practice landing squat jumps one day, says Richey. The squat hold trains your body to stabilize itself before moving into an explosive jump.
- Do 10 squat jumps with a hold. Drop into a squat, then jump up. Land in a squatting position and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat.
"Here, a jump takes place, but not explosively so that the focus is on safe landing mechanics and form," says Richey. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for squat jumps.
- Do 10 squat jumps without the hold. Drop into a squat, then jump up higher than before. Land in a squatting position and repeat.
If you notice that your form changes or you feel out of control when you land, stick with the squat jumps with a hold until you feel more stable, he says.
- Do 10 repeating squat jumps. Think rapid-fire style where you minimize the time your feet are touching the ground, says Richey. You'll be sure to sweat.
3. The Basics Workout
Ready to expand your plyo horizons beyond the jump squat? Artzi shares her favorite simple but challenging fundamentals workout that'll let you try your hand at everything from jumping jacks to box jumps. Seriously, though — get ready to do lots of jumping.
- Do 10 jumping jacks.
- Do 10 thrusters. Start in a squat position with your dumbbells at your shoulders. Press into your heels to lift up to standing. Press your weights above your shoulders at the top. If you don't have dumbbells handy, hold canned goods or do the movement without weights.
- Do 20 high knees (10 per side).
- Do 10 box jumps. Start in a squat position. Jump from the squat onto a sturdy platform, bench, or stair. Repeat.
- Rest for a few minutes, then repeat the entire sequence two more times.
4. Plyometric HIIT Workout
If intervals are your thing, why not make them plyo? Artzi suggests mixing and matching strength training, cardio, and plyometric exercises for 20 to 30 second intervals. Swap out the exercises below with your favorite moves to customize this 15-minute, equipment-free HIIT workout from the American Council on Exercise.
- Box jumps: Start in a squat position. Jump from the squat onto a sturdy platform, bench, or stair. Repeat as many times as you can for 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds.
- Push-up jacks: Start in a plank position. Lower into a push-up and jump your feet out to either side as you do. Then push back up to plank position and hop your feet back together. Repeat as many times as you can for 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds.
- Diamond jacks: Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders, with your toes pointed slightly outward. Sit down into a sumo squat. Then jump into the air and tap your heels together. Land back in the starting position. Repeat as many times as you can for 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds.
- Body hops: Start in a plank position with your feet together. Hop both feet up towards your left hand. Hop them back to plank position. Then hop to the other side. Repeat as many times as you can for 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds.
- Rest for two minutes, then repeat the entire sequence again.
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Davies, G. (2015). CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637913/
Ramirez-Campillo, R. (2016). Effects of plyometric training and creatine supplementation on maximal-intensity exercise and endurance in female soccer players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26778661/