Plyometric exercises are exercises which utilize explosive movements such as jumping to increase muscle power. This type of exercise is often used by athletes to develop strength for particular movements. For example basketball players may focus on plyometric exercises which increase muscle strength in the legs and enable the athlete to jump higher while baseball pitchers may focus on plyometric exercises which improve arm strength and throwing ability.
The key to understanding plyometric exercises is understanding how muscle contractions work. An eccentric muscle contraction is a contraction in which the muscle contracts as it lengthens. Conversely a concentric muscle contraction is a contraction in which the muscle contracts as it shortens. Plyometric exercises are exercises which combine an eccentric contraction followed immediately by a concentric contraction.
The following steps will help you to incorporate plyometric exercises into your training regimen:
- Consult a physician before engaging in plyometric exercises. The explosive movements involved in plyometric exercises are intense and should only be performed by well-conditioned individuals. Additionally, children who are still growing should not participate in plyometric exercises as explosive, repetitive movements can be damaging to growth plates.
- Consult with a personal trainer experienced with plyometric exercises before beginning these exercises. This is important for learning proper form for each exercise involved. Failure to execute proper form can result in injuries.
- Warm up thoroughly before engaging in plyometric exercises. These exercises are extremely taxing on the muscles involved and failure to warm up these muscles can result in muscle pulls and tears.
- Always perform plyometric exercises on a soft surface such as matting or grass. Performing these exercises on hard surfaces such as concrete or hardwood can result in joint damage.
- End plyometric exercise sessions when fatigue sets in. Good form is essential in performing these exercises and fatigue may cause poor form which can be damaging to the body.
- Allow a day of rest after performing plyometric exercises. This will give the muscles utilized an opportunity to rebuild. Through the process of tearing down muscle fibers and allowing them to rebuild the muscle becomes stronger.
The following are a few examples of plyometric exercises:
- Plyometric Lunges
- Stand with one foot in front of the other in a lunge position
- Bend the knees and lower the body so the thighs are parallel with the ground
- From the position above jump upward switching the position of the legs so the opposite leg is in front when you land
- Repeat the lunge and jump sequence with each leg
- Plyometric Squat Jumps
- Stand with the feet approximately shoulder width with the knees slightly bent
- Lower into a squat position as if sitting in a chair; the thighs should be parallel with the floor and the knees should not extend past the toes
- After reaching the squat position, immediately jump upward as high as possible and then land softly on the feet
- Plyometric Overhead Throws
- Stand a few feet away from a wall and position one foot in front of the other with the knees slightly bent
- Hold a medicine ball overhead with both hands
- Throw the medicine ball against the wall forcefully
- Plyometric Push Ups
- Lower yourself into the standard push up position
- Lower yourself to the ground and push up explosively so the hands leave the ground
- Clap once and return to the starting position