Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or a fitness newbie, at some point or another, you’ve probably been introduced to plyometric exercises. You’ve probably also had some questions about them.
What is the point of the exercises? Do they provide benefits that make them superior to other types of movements? How can you minimize injury risk while doing them?
Read on for answers to all of these common questions (and more) about plyometric exercises.
What are Plyometric Exercises?
Plyometric exercises are explosive, high-intensity exercises — they used to be referred to as “jump training exercises”.
A plyometric exercise begins with an eccentric action (muscle-lengthening), which is followed immediately by a concentric action (muscle-shortening). Examples include box jumps, burpees, and broad jumps.
Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
If you’ve ever done a burpee before, you’ve almost definitely wondered what the point of it was, besides making you wish you’d stayed home and skipped that particular workout.
There are a number of benefits that come with performing burpees and other plyometric exercises, including the following:
- Fast-twitch muscle fibers are strengthened: This helps athletes increase their physical power and convert strength into speed.
- Increased tendon strength and elasticity: This helps minimize injury risk by improving tendons’ ability to withstand the stress placed on them during workouts.
- Increases neuromuscular system efficiency: This helps increase speed by strengthening and the signal sent from your brain to your muscles.
- Improved athletic performance: Athletes typically see the greatest benefit from plyometric training. Plyometrics have specifically been shown to increase athletes’ endurance and vertical jumping abilities.
Risks of Plyometric Exercises
At the same time that plyometric exercises provide a lot of benefits, they also come with a few risks, such as those listed below:
- Plyometric training can increase one’s injury risk, especially for knee and foot injuries
- Plyometric exercises require a higher level of skill and are not ideal for beginners or those with previous injuries/ailments
- Plyometric exercises can be hard on the joints
Plyometric exercises might not be for you right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid them forever. With some practice and time spent mastering the basics, you’ll soon be on your way to performing these exercises safely in your regular workouts.
How to Do Plyometric Exercises Safely
If you think you’re in a place to add plyometric exercises into your workouts, it’s important to make sure you’re doing it in a safe way. Listed below are some tips that will help you do these exercises safely and effectively.
Warm Up Properly
Don’t just dive straight into plyometric exercises. Make sure your body is warmed up properly and primed for intense exercise. To do this, start by increasing your heart rate slightly with some mild cardiovascular activity, then do some dynamic stretching to loosen up the joints a bit more and improve your mobility.
Learn How to Land
Most plyometric exercises involve jumping. Before you start doing these exercises, it’s important that you know how to land properly. To avoid injuries when landing, make sure you land with your whole foot and weight distributed evenly (don’t land on the heels or balls of the feet only). Keep your knees slightly bent when you land, too.
Keep the Volume Low
As you move into moderate and advanced plyometric exercises, it’s important to keep your training volume low. Plyometrics, by themselves, should not make up your entire workout.
Generally, it’s not advised to do plyometrics more than 2-3 times per week. During those workouts, you shouldn’t do more than 3-5 sets of 5 reps of each exercise.
Switch Up Your Workouts
Make sure you’re also varying the plyometric exercises that you do during each workout. Don’t limit yourself to just box jumps or burpees — this will help you avoid overuse injuries and ensure you see the greatest benefits from your workouts.
Finally, remember to give yourself time to progress. If you’ve never done plyometrics before, don’t start with box jumps. Start just working on a vertical jump in place. Over time, you’ll be able to jump onto a low step and, later, you’ll be able to progress to a higher box. Take your time and enjoy the process.