Plyometric Training | Everything You Need To Know


a man performing a plyometric double foot jump onto a plyometric box.

Article Contents

Introduction
Benefits of Plyometrics Training
How To Use Plyometric In Your Training
Think Before You Jump
Quick recap
Best Plyometric Equipment


Introduction

If you’re joining us from our other article – Plyometrics | Put The Jump Back Into Your Training – you now possess a respectable understanding of the many ways which ‘jump training’ can improve muscular power and enhance general physical fitness.


Those that have just joined us might firstly want to review the aforementioned article to learn of the benefits plyometric training can confer. However, if you’re in a rush to get jumping, a brief outline of the benefits can be found below.


Benefits of plyometric training


Improved agility and body coordination

Through practicing in plyometric drills, which involve a series of explosive jumps and rapid changes in direction, you will improve both your agility – defined as the ability to move quickly and easily – and coordination – defined as the ability to use multiple body parts smoothly and efficiently in synchronicity. That plyometric training does this accounts for why many sports have adopted it as part of their training programmes.


Developed proprioception

Because greater muscle contraction forces are generated when performing plyometric exercises, and because the exercises typically involve jumping onto or over solid platforms, heightened concentration is required to execute the movement correctly and safely. Basically, you’ve got to use your noggin much more when performing a box jump as opposed to a static squat.


Improves muscular responsivity

Due to the explosive nature of plyometric exercises muscles are required to contract and relax rapidly. This explosivity develops the stretch-shortening cycle which improves the stored elastic energy within the muscle. As well as increasing maximal muscle contraction the responsivity of the contraction is sharpened which translates to more explosive movements: think of the sprinter powering out of the blocks.


The impact can help strength bones and ligaments

Impact exercises have gotten a bad rep over the years and excessive impact is associated with the wearing of joints (cartilage), stress fractures and general injuries. However, emerging research is showing that impact is essential for strengthening bones and staving off the onset of osteoporosis. Studies show that people who regularly exercised early on in life were less likely to suffer with osteoporosis and brittle bone disorders in their advanced years. Plyometric exercises are typically high-impact and as long as they are used in moderation, they will help develop a robust skeletal system.


Adds diversity to a training regime

We’re all guilty of falling into the age-old bad habit of sticking to the same training routine, irrespective of the fact that we know it increases injury susceptibility and impedes physical progress. By emboldening ourselves to break out of this cycle and trying new training methodologies, we will improve our fitness in ways previously unimaginable. Plyometric training offers us that opportunity.


Offers novel exercise modification options

It’s not up for argument, the press-up is an excellent exercise. However, even an awesome exercise such as the press-up can be improved, hard though that is to believe. By bolting on a plyometric push during the eccentric contraction phase of the movement the press-up is imbued with an explosive element that develops powerful muscles.



In this article we will consider how to incorporate plyometrics into our training routine so that we can get our hands on some of those benefits. The training ideas outlined below are by no means exhaustive for, as Donald Chu points out, ‘Plyometric training can take on many forms, including jump training for the lower extremities and medicine ball exercises for the upper extremities.’ In addition to taking on many forms, and Chu really only pointed to the tip of iceberg, there are literally hundreds of different and innovative ways that plyometrics can be applied to your training regime.


in this text box it says: Two of the primary attributes of plyometrics are its razor sharp specificity and bewildering application: whatever your exercise preference or sporting discipline, plyometrics can be used to enhance performance.

What follows is more of a generic outline of how you might go about incorporating plyometrics into your training. Once you begin to explore the principals identified in this article, you will likely develop a taste for plyometrics and look to further adopt this highly beneficial yet underrated training methodology.


How To Use Plyometric In Your Training

To begin with, if you’ve never trained plyometrics before, it is wise to sprinkle it over your sessions lightly. The reason for this is that the demands placed on the muscles and joints when performing plyometric movements are significantly greater than those of your typical static exercises. Thus, an untrained individual might be at greater risk of suffering an injury.


However, do not be put off by that prospect. If you take your time and develop slowly, and ensure to conduct a thorough warm-up prior to training, the potential risks of plyometric training should be no more numerous than those of ‘normal’ training.


Initially, to test the waters, as it were, and prepare your body for more vigorous training, you could apply a plyometric suffix to some standard body weight exercises – such as air squats and press-ups.


Suppose as part of a general training programme you had decided to conclude your session with a calisthenics complex comprised of 3 sets of 10reps of air squats, set-ups and press-ups. Here you could convert either one full set or the final 3 repetitions of each exercise into a plyometric movement. What would this look like?


On conclusion of 2 sets of 10reps of air squats for each repetition of the final set you are going to explode from the base of the squat into either a jump or, for added dynamism, a tuck jump. Same with the step-ups, but instead of stepping onto the box you will execute a double foot jump. For the press-ups you could either explosively push way from the floor propelling your body as high as possible or, if you possess the requisite physicality (and confidence), complete a clap.


More advanced trainers could really go to town with plyometrics applying the methodology to complex movements or shaping entire training sessions around it. By way of example, as part of a strength training routine, say you were working through a squat complex, explosive plyometric jumps could be employed to enhance the intensity of the exercises.


Plyometric movements make for the perfect addition for a circuit training session. Picturing the classic circular circuit, which typically features a sprint station of some sort, you could organise a series of plyometric jumps out of which the trainer explodes into a short sprint. Alternatively, a number of the stations could be plyometric exercises, such as box jumps or medicine ball slams.


Truly, there is no end to the ways which plyometrics could be used to enhance your training sessions. Before you begin applying plyometrics consider the safety precautions below.


Think Before You Jump!

a woman performs a double foot plyometric jump onto a wooden box

Before engaging in plyometric training, you should always ensure to:


Warm-up!

It is important that you are thoroughly warmed up prior to plyo training. For a comprehensive overview of correct warm-up principals follow the link. Included within a general warm-up it is wise to perform a series of low-intensity plyo movements, raising the intensity as you progress through your session.


Use soft landing mats

If your plyo session involves impact exercises – such as jumps or clap-hand press-ups – it is recommendable to place a soft mat at the landing point. By doing so the shock will be significantly reduced which reduces post-training aches and pains and injury risk.


Avoid fixed solid objects

Plyometric platforms on which you are jumping should be cushioned (see the plyo boxes below). Also, at this is a point that the beginner should especially take note of, avoid using fixed, solid surfaces – such as walls – as plyo platforms. I only say this because jumping onto a wall (which I use to routinely do until I lost length of skin off my shin) presents a safety risk that could result in nasty injury.


Know your limitations

When the fitness benefits of plyometric training start pouring in you’ll naturally want to use this method more. This typically means increasing the number of training sessions and advancing on the intensity of movements – which translates to jumping higher. Though you should never, as Bruce Lee once said, place limitations on yourself, it would be unwise to attempt to advance too quickly. Plyometric training involves high-impact, explosive movements. Coupled with complacency or overconfidence the resulting outcome could be serious injury. Avoid this by ensuring to take your time and being content with marginal gains.



Quick recap

This article has attempted to provide you with a brief outline of the fitness benefits that plyometric training can confer. For a more detailed insight into how plyometrics promotes power and improved muscle responsivity see our other article Plyometrics | Put The Jump Back Into Your Training. Alternatively, click on the image below and grab yourself a copy of Donal Chu’s highly informative Jumping into Plyometrics.


In addition to a crash course on the benefits, this article has endeavoured to provide you with a general insight of how to use plyometrics in your training. If we’ve done our job properly you should leave here knowing how you plan to put some jump into your training.


But now you probably need a few exercises that you can begin sharpening your plyometric skills with. Follow the link below and discover the 5 best plyometric exercises.


The 5 Best Plyometric Exercises


Jumping into Plyometrics

First practiced by the dominant Eastern Bloc athletes of the 1970s, today plyometrics has become a mainstream form of training used by serious athletes around the world. The reason is that plyometrics offers athletes at all levels a proven, straightforward way to enhance their athletic abilities and to get an edge on the competition. This second edition of Jumping Into Plyometrics presents 100 illustrated plyometric exercises in seven categories: Jumps-in-place Standing jumps Multiple jumps Box drills Depth jumps Bounding Medicine ball exercises Excellent for both recreational and elite athletes, the exercises can be used to improve quickness, speed, and jumping ability while also helping to develop better coordination, body control, and balance. This edition includes the latest research on plyometric training, a new layout with a much-improved format for drills, and sidebars on star athletes who have benefited from plyometrics.

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Best Plyometric Equipment


Splay Agility Speed Training Hurdles (£18.75)

Product overview (click image for availability)

These speed training hurdles, typically used to develop sports performance, are just the job for a beginner’s home gym plyo kit. Made from high-grade Polyethylene material, the Splay Classic training hurdles are perfect for plyometrics training and agility drills. The varying heights will enable you to practice varying intensity jumps and because they are both lightweight and flexible they reduce injury risk. The sizes of the 5 hurdles range from 6- to 15-inches.



POWERSHOT Hurdle Training Kit (£74.99)

Product overview (click image for availability)

PowerShot’s hurdle kit is a step up from the previous product. These enable you to set some serious height jumps (see image above). And you’ll be able to jump with confidence thanks to the flexi-material and loose-fitting crossbar. Also, because there are multiple hurdles, you have the option of setting a plyometrics complex of ascending height jumps, which is a great way to develop explosive power.





BodyRip No-Bounce Slam Medicine Ball (£41.99)

Product overview (click image for availability)

Moving away from plyo boxes for a minute, BodyRip’s no-bounce slam balls make for a multipurpose plyometric training tool. Beyond the single slam ball exercise outlined above, there are numerous ways which you can apply this piece of kit in a plyometric capacity. For example, there are the wall toss, push-out and throw exercises, all of which are great for developing upper body strength, and then there’s the power squat, jump and lunge exercises, which are great for developing explosive strength in the legs. BodyRip’s slam balls are perfect for this type of training for not only are they super-durable, but, more importantly, unlike standard medicine balls they don’t bounce.



Yes4All 3 in 1 Wood Plyo Box with 4 Different Sizes (£58.85)

Product overview (click image for availability)

For the price Yes4All’s nest of plyo boxes is an absolute steal. Built from high-grade plywood these plyometric boxes will provide a solid platform on which to jump. The advanced internal bracing design guarantees superior strength and durability so you can jump with confidence. And because they come in three different size they will enable you to vary the intensity of your jump training. This product also comes with a nifty feature: the puzzle box design boasts 4 different sizes available - 16x14x12”, 20x18x16", 24x20x16", 30x24x20" – and because they are fully stackable they save on gym space. Making them perfect for a home set-up.



BuoQua Plyometric Box Jump Platform (£166.75)

Product overview (click image for availability)

BuoQua’s bomb-proof steel plyometric platform is a serious piece of kit for the person looking to really ramp up their training. For the price you get 4 boxes of varying sizes and they are fully stackable. Meaning, if you ever outgrow the tallest box, you can start stacking them together until you reach the moon – also it’s a great space-saving feature. The fact that they are constructed from steel means they’re going to be much heavier than the hurdles and wooden box (obviously). Consequently, they are NOT going to be as forgiving if you fail to surmount the platform. What am I trying to say here? If you don’t jump high enough, you’re going to face-plant – it’s as simple as that. But the solid rubber non-slip surface will ensure that, if you do safely clean the box, you won’t slip off the top when you fist punch a celebratory ascent.



Body Revolution Stackable Soft Plyo Box Set (£399.99)

Product overview (click image for availability)

The price is worth it just for the aesthetic appeal alone. I love colourful kit, especially when it’s well made and thoughtfully designed. Each plyometric box has a different jump height, allowing you to progressively develop your training performance over time. The heights range from 15cm (Green), 30cm (Blue), 45cm (Red) and 60cm (Black). In addition, the boxes are fully stackable which not only saves on space but also enables you to create even more customisation and variability. For added durability and stability the boxes can be lashed together with the fixed Velcro straps.


Body Revolution boast that their plyometric boxes are built from a high-density EVA foam, providing a solid and secure base that reduces impact injury for any mistimed jumps. Furthermore, the soft padded landing platform also reduces impact shock to help protect joints and reduce injury risk. And finally, the tapered design results in a slightly wider base which further increases stability.



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Blog Author

Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.