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If you’ve ever tried a workout from Crossfit, Beachbody or Les Mills, you may have heard the term Plyometrics. You may have already done plyometric workouts – but do you fully understand what they are? The fitness industry has a lot of specific terms and abreviations – and it can be easy to assume everyone else already understands. In our experience, there are loads of you out there who aren’t quite sure on some of the terminology. We’re here to help, and guide you through the “what’s”, “why’s” and “how to’s” of our industry.
‘Plyometric’ is a style of training in which your muscles exert maximum force in a short time. This helps you to build up your speed and strength. It’s an explosive style of training, similar in nature to a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. You can either do a full plyo session, or you could incorporate plyo movements into a wider circuit routine, for variation. Because it’s high-intensity, it’s not something you should be doing every day; your body needs time to recover.

What are the benefits of plyometric exercise?

Lots of the moves involve jumping, squatting and hopping – so plyometric training is great for building up strength in your legs and glutes. You’ll also benefit from increased power and flexibility. If you playing any high-impact sports, plyo workouts will help improve your performance. Regular plyo improves your overall physical fitness, but won’t help you develop your core strength.

Who is it suited to?

If you’ve already got a good level of physical fitness, adding in plyometric movements is a fun way to mix up your workouts. It’s high impact, and can be pretty intense – sessions are tiring and you can expect to get very sweaty!
No matter your ability level, as with anything new, it’s best to work with a trainer to start off. The moves are high impact, so you risk injury if you’re not performing them properly. It’s worth spending time getting the basics right, before you add in the “explosiveness” element. For example, get comfortable doing squats first, then develop these into jump squats. Once you’ve got this down, you can move your squat jumps onto a box – start low, and build up height. It’s a good idea to train on a softer surface (like grass) to cushion your landings.
It’s not something we’d recommend if you’re new to fitness or you’re not in the best shape physically. If you’ve got an existing health condition you should speak with your doctor first to check if it’s right for you. For instance, plyometrics training can burn through a lot of calories in one session, so anyone with diabetes will need to factor this in.

Do I need any special equipment?

If you’re a regular gym-goer, you might have seen different sized foam boxes, benches or hurdles used in training. These are often included in plyo workouts to help push your muscles further by adding height. The idea is that you start on the ground, and use your jump or hop movement to propel you on to the box. Take a look at these plyometric box drills to get you started off. If you do incorporate plyo boxes into your workouts, it’s a good idea to start low, build confidence and then add more height.
Although adding height can bring another dynamic to your training, it’s not essential for plyometrics. You can still get a great session in without any extra equipment. Plyometrics is something you can do if you’re working out away from the gym – if you can, get out in the garden or to a local park. The grass helps cushion your landing, reducing the impact on your joints.

What should I wear?

You won’t need any specialist clothing for plyometrics – comfortable, breathable active wear will be fine. Whatever you’re wearing, make sure you can move about freely as you’ll be doing lots of hopping and jumping.
One recommendation we’d have is to make sure you have comfotable, well-fitting trainers. They’ll need enough cushioning to help you absorb impact, and keep your heel and ankle supported as you move.

OK, I'm ready to try some Plyometric moves!

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to give some plyometrics a try and include them in your fitness routine. If you need a pointer on getting started, we’ve put together our suggestion for a beginner plyometric session. Once you’re nice and warmed up (no injuries here please!) you can get going:

  • Split jump lunges – builds quad strength and power in the glutes

Start off in a lunge position, with one leg forward and one leg back. Your torso should be straight and upright. Keep your shoulderblades retracted throughout. Drive upp off the floor (use arms to increase momentum). Switch legs as you jump. Land softly back into a lunge – the back leg should now be at the front, and the front leg at the back.

  • Explosive Press Ups – works your chest, triceps, abs, and shoulders
Starting in the press up position, bend from the elbows and lower yourschest to the ground. Your move back up from the floor should be explosive, driving through the shoulders. Once you’re back to the top, you should aim to get your hands off the floor momentarily ( a quick clap helps here). If you’re still building up to this step, concntrate on generating speed off the floor.
  • Jump Squats – improves your agility, and works your abdominals, glutes, and hamstrings

Start from standing, soft knees over toes and hips tilted back, chest up, shoulders retracted. Bend from the knee and hip, until you reach a ‘seated’ position, with a 90 degree angle behind the knee. As you straighten back up, generate speed (use your hands to help) and drive up off the floor, into a jump. Land softly and drop back down into another squat, repeating the movement.

  • Burpees – You get it all from a burpee; arms, back, chest, core, glutes and legs!
This is a four stage movement: hands, feet, feet, hands is an easy way to remember. From either standing or a crouch, HANDS flat to the floor, jump FEET back, so you’re in a tall plank, jump FEET in to a tuck position, then HANDS up as you jump up.
  • Speed Skaters – great for quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs and hip flexors
Think Winter Olympics for this one as you’ll resemble the Speed Skaters (hence the name) when you do this move. Simply, it’s involves lateral hops from one foot to the other. Your torso should be tucked forward at 45 degrees, knees soft and your arms help you power from side to side. Transfer your weight over as you hop from side to side. A great all-round lower body workout.

Depending on your full workout, aim to perform between 3 and 6 sets of each of these exercise, doing around 8 – 12 reps each time. Remember, the aim is to perform each exercise with maximum power and speed, so if you feel like your form here is slipping, you should reduce the reps as you’re no longer getting the benefit. 

Your rest should be around 30-60 seconds between sets (depending on the movement) so you feel fully ready to give max power to the next set.

We love mixing plyometric elements into our sessions; it keeps things varied, gets the blood pumping and adds an extra dynamic. If you’re ready, give these movements a go, and let us know how you get on!

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