The 5 Best Plyometric Exercises


a man performing a plyometric jump over plyometric hurdles.

Article Contents

Introduction
Think Before You Jump
5 Best Plyometric Exercises
Plyometric Exercise #1: Box Jump
Plyometric Exercise #2: Clap-hand Press-up
Plyometric Exercise #3: Squat jump
Plyometric Exercise #4: Medicine ball squat jump ‘power’ slam
Plyometric Exercise #5: Handstand Depth Jump
To Conclude
Best Plyometric Equipment

Introduction

Below is range of basic plyometric exercises that you can incorporate into your training regime. The exercises require little technical expertise making them perfect for the beginner. Also, minimal space and equipment is needed which makes them accessible to wider audience.


Before you rush off and start jumping, ensure that you consider the following plyometrics safety precautions.


Think Before You Jump

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.



5 Plyometric Exercises


Plyometric Exercise #1: Box Jump

an exercise class preforming the plyometric exercise box jumps.

Muscles Worked: box jumps primary stimulate the muscles of the lower body – the quadriceps, gluteus maximus and gastrocnemius. To a lesser extent they also work the hip flexors (the muscles that help raise your legs into your chest so that you can clear the box) and lower abdominals. However, if you decide to have a go at the modification ideas, box jumps quickly transform into a whole-body exercise.


Though arguably one of the least colourful exercises amongst the grand spectrum of alternatives, box jumps are brilliant for developing explosive ‘plyometric’ power in the legs.


In addition to augmented explosive strength in the quadriceps box humps, if completed in multitudes, are a great cardiovascular antagonist. And when combined with press-ups they make for one of the best all-round fitness developers.


Teaching points

  1. Firstly you need to procure or locate a stable object with a flat surface of between 2 to 3 feet tall to jump on. Such an object may include a plyometric box (if you happen to have one kicking about) or, alternatively, a wall or bench or sofa or ottoman or . . .

  2. If possible place a soft mat (such as a Yoga mat) below the object on which you plan to jump.

  3. After a good warm and a number of practices jumps at a lower height (you can perform ‘air’ jumps or squat jumps as primers), adopt a shoulder width stance about a foot away from the object.

  4. Using your arms to generate a bit upward ‘umph!’ explosively power though the quads and perform a double footed jump onto the object. Both feet should be on the object – not just your toes – and planted firmly, your knees bent and arms out for balance.

  5. Now stand up.

  6. From here you can either step down off the box in a controlled manner – ensuring to alternate legs with each new repetition – or hop back down.


Methods of modification

The box jump is one modifiable exercise. You have the option of holding weights to increase the resistance. (Never use a barbell – always dumbbells. Why? If you trip when jumping with dumbbells in your hands they can be easily ditched. But if you trip when jumping with a barbell racked on your back you could find yourself going the way of Sir Walter Raleigh.)


Another method of modifying the box jump is by bolting a bastod onto the end of each rep. There’s two ways of doing this. Way 1: perform a bastod (a burpee with a press-up) after hopping down off the box. Way 2: bound over the box, spin round on impact, then pop out a you-know-what. If you do decide to try these modifications make sure that cushioned mats are placed either side of the box and that you clear the box before dropping into the bastod.


Dos

  • Ensure that you maintain ‘soft’ knees throughout all phases of the exercise

  • Step down off the box under control – you can always hop back off the box of course

  • Apply the double foot jump

  • Place the entire foot on the box (object)


Don’ts

  • Don’t land with a thud – if you are then it is an indication that you are not adequately bending the knees on impact

  • Don’t attempt to jump on tall object first – build up to it

  • Don’t perform this exercise in inappropriate footwear: cushioned trainers only!



Plyometric Exercise #2: Clap-hand Press-up

Muscles worked: pectoralis major (chest), anterior deltoideus (shoulder – the front bit), triceps brachii (the curtain rail from which bingo wings flap) and transverse abdmoinus (the six pack).

By bolting a power push into a clap, the humble press-up is instantly transformed into a true plyometrics exercise. This simple modification can turn a relatively easy exercise into that’ll have you gasping for breath after 10 repetitions.


Teaching points

  1. Firstly, adopt the pre-press-up position: hands placed on the floor spaced slightly over shoulder width and in-line with the shoulders, knees down.

  2. When you are ready to start your set raise your knees so that you are in the ‘high plank’ position.

  3. Under control lower your body until there is a 90°angel at the elbow joint (you can, of course, go lower if you wish).

  4. Explode out through the eccentric contraction phase propelling your body as far from the floor as physically possible.

  5. Clap!

  6. As you return your hands to the floor absorb the impact by immediately initiating the next repetition.


Method of modification

I once watched a boxing partner take this exercise to next level. Instead of clapping at his front he clapped behind his back! Which is some next level Zohan trick. Another method of modifying the plyo press-up is by jumping the hands onto a raised platform, like a step-up box or medicine ball. This is an easier version of the handstand depth jump (see below).


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the movement.

  • Fix your eyes on a point about 1 to 2 feet from your fingertips.


Don’ts

  • Do not land with a thud – sink smoothly back into the next repetition.

  • Do not hold your breath – this is a very common mistake and one to be avoided.

  • Do not allow your back to sag in the middle: it should remain perfectly flat like a piece of wood.



Plyometric Exercise #3: Squat jump

Muscles worked: primarily those of the quadriceps, gluteus maximum (buttocks) and gastrocnemius (calf). But by including the jump many more muscles are recruited both to execute the exercise and stabilise the body on impact. And, because the jump requires greater muscular engagement, the heart (cardiac muscle) must work harder to both supply energy and recirculate metabolic waste.


Much like the press-up the squat jump is a deceptively simple exercise yet it packs a serious fitness punch. It’s perhaps for this reason why it has remained in favour amongst the fitness community for so long. For the squat jump is not only comparatively easy to master but it requires no equipment and very little room to perform.


Also, the range of possible adaptations and modifications makes it a phenomenally versatile exercise. You want examples? See below:


Squat variations

Squat Kickback
Frog Squat
3-Way Jump Squat
Burpee Squat Hold
Squat with Side Leg Lift
Side Step Squat
Squat to press-up (aka bastod!)
Squat to jump toe touches
Squat into bunny hop
Hindu squats
Pistol (single leg squat)

Teaching points

  1. Get yourself into position: stand with your feet a little over shoulder width apart, knees soft, arms folded across your chest.

  2. Bend at the knee.

  3. When there is a 90°angel between the hamstring and calf fire through the quads propelling your mass a foot or so above the floor.

  4. On landing ensure to: a) roll from the front to the back of the foot and b) bend the knee on impact. Applying these techniques will absorb/dissipate the shock.

  5. Whilst still remaining control of the exercise exploit the potential energy that you have just generated by sinking immediately into the next repetition.


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the movement.

  • Fix your eyes on an indefinite point to your front as this helps maintain posture alignment.

  • Breathe steadily during the exercise.


Don’ts

  • Do not at any point lock-out at the knees.

  • Do not land with a THUD! You should land softly and almost silently.

  • Do not bend at the hips – the back must remain perfectly straight throughout the exercise.



Plyometric Exercise #4: Medicine ball squat jump ‘power’ slam

Muscles worked: all of them!


This is my all-time favourite plyometric exercise. Why? Well, besides that fact it’s just such a beast, and works every muscle in existence, it stimulates the whole body including your cardiovascular system. Seriously, few exercises can do as much for your physicality as this one.


Also, it’s really a panoply of plyometric movements. The first plyo instalment comes when you hoist the MB high above your head while simultaneously performing a squat jump. The second plyo movement follows hot on the heels: while riding the wave of gravity transfer all that energy into a Thor-almighty power slam.


Teaching points

  1. Stand over a medicine ball: your feet should be shoulder width apart and the MB in-line with your toes – or thereabouts.

  2. Bending at the knee grasp the MB and in one smooth, clean movement hoist it above your head.

  3. Now before executing the final phase of this exercise – the slam bit – you must leap up and, as you land, transfer that energy into the slamming of the MB. Of course points 2 and 3 should be one seamless movement.

  4. As the MB bounces back up catch it and immediately complete the next rep.


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the movement.

  • Keep your eye on the MB as you slam it. I have had the pleasure of witnessing trainers catching it up in the kisser when taking their eye off the ball.

  • Slam the ball with all your might – like Thor bringing down his huge hammer!

  • Make sure that the surface on which you are slamming is solid.


Don’ts

  • Do not fold at the waist when picking up the MB. Yes your back will round a little as you squat down to pick it up but the movement must remain one that resembles a deep squat.



Plyometric Exercise #5: Handstand Depth Jump

Muscles worked: when performing the handstand depth jump the muscles primarily stimulated include the deltoids, triceps, rhomboids, abdominals and erector spinae.


By performing this exercise, which is by far the hardest of the five, you will develop multiple components of fitness such as muscular strength, muscular endurance, balance and coordination.


The handstand depth jump is a great way to improve upper-body physicality. This exercise is a quintessential functional strength builder, but it also helps to forge rock-solid musculature while carving a lean defined physique. Truly, depth jumping is one way to get the body of a gymnast.


Teaching points

The best way to perform this exercise is by using a wall as a balancing aid and employing a partner to assist the movement – the partner can support you by grasping your ankles and physically pulling you up. However, if you possess the requisite strength to depth jump, you’ll need only the wall.


  1. Start in the handstand position: hands directly under your shoulders, toes against a wall. The best way to get into the correct position is by walking the feet up the wall from a semi push-up. If all else fails, ask a mate to help manoeuvre you into a handstand.

  2. Once in position – and it’s important to place mats either side of your hands as they will act as ‘landing pads’ – push off the floor and land on the mats. As you power out of the start position you must splay your arms slightly wider so that the hands make contact with the mats as you arrest your downward flight.

  3. You have two options at this point. Option 1: You can perform the movement in reverse, pushing up off the mats landing on the floor. Option 2: walk the hands back to the start position and repeat.


Methods of modification

The simplest method of modifying or advancing the handstand depth jump is by trying to perform a ‘clap’ after each push. Though it is recommendable to take insurance out before trying this. Another way of advancing this exercise is by using step-up boxes in place of the landing mats. The deeper the boxes are the harder it will be to generate sufficient force to propel your body high enough to land on them.


Dos

  • Keep you back ironing board-straight throughout the exercise.

  • Keep your core engaged.

  • Remain close to the wall – the further your hands are away from the wall the more likely your back will sag, which must be avoided at all costs.

  • Place an extra thick training mat directly under your face – just in case you cream it.


Don’ts

  • Don’t arch or flex the back in a bid to generate momentum.

  • Don’t perform this exercise in a cluttered room or near jutting surfaces/objects.

  • Don’t hold your breath.

  • Don’t lockout at the elbow.



To Conclude

If you’ve traversed your way through the three articles that comprise this series on ‘jump training’, you will have gained all the knowledge and exercise ideas you need to implement plyometrics into your fitness regime.


All that’s left now is for you to go and get jumping!


If you desire a deeper insight into the many ways plyometrics can develop your physicality, or you would like to further expand your repertoire of plyometric exercises, access the link below and get yourself a copy of Donal Chu’s Jumping into Plyometrics.



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.



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.

B073Z8DFL2



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.


(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)



Blog Author

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