(Article by Hannah Groves with Kelly O’Regan)
Plyometrics can be a great form of exercise especially when wanting to add in power and speed into workouts. Hannah Groves asked Study Active assessor and Personal Trainer Kelly O’Regan to take us through some of the key questions someone might ask when wanting to know more about plyometric training and the benefits it can bring to your fitness goals.
IMPORTANT: The ideas in this article are purely for information only – please do not start an exercise programme until you have completed a PAR-Q and, if necessary, received medical clearance. Always warm up and cool down and never do any exercise that you are unsure of without the support of a qualified professional.
What are plyometrics exercises?
Plyometrics, also sometimes referred to as ‘plyo’, ‘jump training’ or ‘bounding’, is a type of exercise and training principle that utilises force and speed of movement i.e explosiveness. It is usually used by people/athletes to improve power and athletic performance for sports that require quick and strong movements. Examples of such would be running, jumping, throwing, those which require multiple changes of direction and balance. Therefore, this would be a fairly intense and specifically planned session for a targeted improvement. However, in more recent years this has become more popular as a general workout in the form of aerobic style HITT training, using more basic and repeatable plyometrics such as jumping i.e on boxes, throwing i.e repeated ball throws against a wall or floor, and skipping etc. Due to its multiple muscle activation and short but high intensity periods of activity, creating heartrate spikes which would furthermore improve the individual’s aerobic fitness.
For more information on workouts, specifically HIIT Training please visit our blog via: HIIT Workout : A HIIT Exercise Training Guide | Study Active
Is a plyometric workout suitable for anyone?
Well yes and no! Let me explain… With the very basics of plyometrics being - creating movement with explosive force to either move an object, or yourself quickly and explosively, an example of its simplest form is running. Almost everyone can run, if you progress from walking (which is a close chain exercise as one foot is always in contact with the floor), to jogging (which, momentarily you would be airborne and not in contact with the floor), you must have moved/contracted muscles explosively enough to create that jump/step/movement and therefore employed some form of plyometrics. To throw a ball/object you have to apply force to move the object quicker, then gravity pulls it down. So, if the object travels against gravity (up or away), you have used a plyometric movement. So as a child running, jumping and skipping, or as an adult playing team sports you can, and will, use plyometrics. These activities will help improve your overall fitness, but with the high intensity, greater force/strength of muscular contraction required to create the explosive movement, and higher impact (from landing and catching etc), plyometrics are usually used/reserved for those in better and stronger health and those looking for more directed and specific improvements in athletic performance. But either way, if you are a beginner using basic plyometrics, or more advanced using specific structured movement patterns, with the nature and increased intensity of this style of training, you should always consult your doctor and work with a qualified professional who knows what they are doing.
What kind of exercises are plyometric exercises & how would you incorporate plyometric exercises into an exercise routine?
We have already mentioned the basics…. Running, the repeated jumping on boxes or on the spot (bounding), jumping for distance or height. The throwing of balls at targets or the slamming on the floor. Skipping, side to side jumping i.e skaters, burpees and star jumps. All of these can be incorporated into circuit style classes or training easily. For example, you could jump onto a box as many times as you can for 30 seconds, rest and repeat (speed plyometrics). Or (a slower or more powerful implementation of plyometrics), jump as far as you can, turn around and repeat back to the start (board jumps).
For more advanced variations and sport specific variations these become a lot more complicated to implement, due to their sports specifics, and their intensity, advanced plyometrics should not be performed daily and needs planning into a training periodisation and workout properly (seek professional advice). But brief examples could include … single leg hurdle hops, depth jumping (the dropping from height and rebounding back up). Weighted or banded jumps, followed directly by none weighted jumps (for example – 3 tuck jumps holding dumbells, then releasing the dumbells and jump 3 times without, concentrating on height), or throw a weighted ball in one direction and then sprint in the other direction, to create a change of direction (acceleration/deceleration). These exercises and variations are endless, but all create high explosive, fast and powerful movements, being their primary goal.
What are the benefits of plyometric exercises?
Why are they “better”? The answer is they are not. They, being plyometrics are no better or no worse. They are just different. They are another type of training that have their own benefits and merits, just like any other, and should be incorporated ALONGSIDE other forms of training.
Plyometrics will massively increase heartrate due to its high intensity therefor good for aerobic training and improving cardiovascular fitness.
Due to the high force contractions required of the muscles, they will help develop power (not strength, this is another topic. Strength and power are not the same), and therefor improve movement and speed, and athletic performance.
They can improve balance and coordination as you generally have to control the forces created by explosive movements, the changes of direction, the acceleration and deceleration, and the stabilisation created through all of these and when landing. But remember, plyometrics are only another type of training, and while very beneficial should be included, at a level suitable for yourself, along with other more traditional training methods i.e resistance training and steady state aerobic endurance.
Can you provide an example of a full body plyometric workout.
So finally, to give an example of a plyometric session, what’s it look like….
- Progressive aerobic warm up 5 mins to increase blood flow.
- Air squats to prime the legs.
THE PLYOMETRIC SESSION…
- Board jumps concentrating on distance. (Power)
- 3 tuck jumps followed immediately by a small sprint. (Speed & change of direction)
- Rounds of 30 seconds skipping. (Aerobic)
- Followed by easy aerobic cool down 5 mins, and static stretching.
Conclusion of a guide to plyometric exercises
Thank you, Kelly for answering my questions and talking me through plyometric training. It is fantastic to know that there are a number of benefits to plyometric exercises including improving cardiovascular fitness.
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