August 01, 2021
We are here to introduce 13 plyometric exercises for beginners plus all the benefits that come from doing them. Train using plyometric exercises to lose fat, run faster, jump higher, hit harder and reduce risk of injury. Plyometric training has been around for almost half a century now and is still being used to create some of the best athletes in the world. Read on to see how even beginners can start to use plyometrics exercises.
The word plyometrics was coined by Fred Wilt, a former US Olympic long-distance runner. The word comes from the Greek words plio meaning more and metric meaning to measure. Today you might hear people referring to plyometrics as simply, plyos.
Plyometrics were first developed by scientists from the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War in the 1960s-1970s. The scientist leading the charge in this new training protocol was Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky. He designed a series of exercises called “jump training” where athletes would complete multiple jump exercises to try to increase speed and explosiveness. He published his findings on this new method of training in 1964. It was no coincidence that during this time frame the Soviet Bloc countries were crushing everyone in track and field events (they possibly had some extra help from some performance enhancers as well during this time).
This original “jump training” employed the use of the shock method where an athlete would drop down from a raised platform then upon hitting the ground would experience a “shock”. This created a forced eccentric contraction which was then converted immediately into a concentric contraction as the athlete would jump immediately after landing. This all happened in a short time frame of .1-.2 seconds. Dr. Verkhoshansky tried many other exercises but he found the best results when using this depth jump to replicate the forces of landing and takeoff.
Fred Wilt saw this style and took notes of how athletes were jumping and skipping around. Wilt later teamed up with Michael Yessis who had spent time in the Soviet Union and worked with Dr. Verkhoshansky. From the early 1980’s Yessis continued to develop new methods of using the principles of jump training to enhance explosive power.
Plyometrics has since become an important aspect of many athlete’s training regimens, from the original shock method of Dr. Verkhoshansky to more varied plyometric exercises being used today. In modern day fitness training, you will hear the word plyometrics being applied to multiple exercises not just the original jump training. The world of fitness continues to evolve with people now referring to multiple explosive movements as plyometrics, even including exercises like pushups.
Plyometrics are so effective at improving explosive movements because they take advantage of opposing muscle contractions. These contractions are when the muscles are shortened or lengthened. Force is produced on both sides of these contractions. The three major segments including both types of muscle contractions that create the stretch-shortening cycle are:
In this post we mainly focus on plyometrics that are jumping movements. The landing portion of the jump causes the muscles to lengthen, creating the eccentric contraction while the jumping portion of the exercise is when the muscles shorten, causing the concentric contraction. It’s important to keep the time in between these two segments as short as possible to reap the most benefits of doing plyometrics.
There are multiple benefits of doing plyometrics including the enhanced performance of nerves, tendons, and muscles so that you can run faster, jump higher and hit harder. Plyometric exercises can help you to excel in dynamic sports and can also improve many aspects of your daily life, including reducing the chances of suffering ACL injuries.
Quicker Nerves: Plyometrics involve different contraction forces, resulting in sending messages to your brain through your neuromuscular system. Because plyometrics revolve around quick explosive movements the neuromuscular system has to work in overdrive thus improving its functioning by enabling contraction and relaxation of your muscles quickly.
Stronger Tendons: Plyometrics require strong tendons because the movements are fast and powerful. By performing plyometrics you build up the strength and elasticity in the tendons which might help you to avoid injuries in the future.
More Powerful Muscles: Due to the nature of the explosiveness of plyometrics, muscle fibers must convert strength into speed. Plyometrics can actually strengthen and increase the amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers in your muscles. The stronger and more abundant fast-twitch muscle fibers equal faster muscle contraction.
Improve Athletic Performance: Whether you’re an athlete or not, plyometric exercises can enhance physical prowess. If done right plyometric exercises can increase your vertical jump height and long jump distance. Plyometrics have been proven to reduce sprint time, improve running economy, enhance joint position awareness and lead to better postural control.
Injury Reduction: Strengthened tendons equate to fewer injuries. This study showed that plyometrics coupled with dynamic stabilization exercises reduced ACL injury risk.
Burns Calories & Reduces Fat: The explosive nature of plyometrics means that your body has to produce a lot of force/power to propel your bodyweight off the ground. This type of movement requires your muscles to consume a lot of energy leading to more calories burned in shorter time periods. The high intensity of plyometric exercises also enable you to burn more calories post exercise as you can end up in EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) up to 48 hours after a plyometric workout.
Plyometrics are no walk in the park, so it’s vitally important that you are completely warmed up before attempting to do plyometric exercises. Explosive exercises such as plyometrics are an intense workout with high impact potential. If you are a beginner than you should consult with your doctor or trainer to make sure your body is in a condition that can take the toll from a plyometric workout.
If you have the strength and stamina to do plyometric exercises then you should start slowly with the easier plyometric exercises before attempting the more challenging movements. The following 13 beginner plyometric exercises are listed by the degree of difficulty, starting with the easiest first.
Follow these guidelines when performing thee following plyometric exercises for beginners:
This plyometric exercise engages all the major muscles in the lower body including the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. The core is also worked during frog hops to help keep the body upright. The frog hop will act as a plyometric as well as a deep dynamic stretch because you will start and end in a wide squat position.
Note: To make this exercise more friendly for beginners you can try completing frog hops by jumping straight up instead of up and forward.
Related: Frog Jump Exercise Guide
In this exercise the goal is to see how far forward you can jump from your starting position without any movement beforehand. Broad jumps require leg strength, power and explosiveness. All the major muscles in your legs will have to work hard to send your body forward through the air. Adding the arm swing also engages your upper body and allows for a great stretch.
Note: Try performing this exercise next to objects or even a tape measure so that you can see the distance that you jump, this will give you a benchmark to work from while trying to improve it over time.
The squat tuck jump is an amazing exercise to boost the power of your lower body. This exercise will improve your jumping ability while getting your heart rate pumping leading to more calories burned in a shorter time.
Note: You can try to swing your arms to gain momentum on the way up. Try to continue to jump higher, bringing your knees closer to your chest each jump.
This is a great full body plyometric exercise that improves explosiveness and quickness. Moving all your limbs in concert adds a level of complexity because you must send these signals through your neuromuscular system quickly. This exercise works all your major lower body muscles including your adductors. Lifting your arms out to your sides also targets your delts.
Note: To make this exercise a little easier try to get the lower body movement down before adding in the arm movement to match.
Scissor jumps engage the larger lower body muscles including glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. This exercise will increase power and strength in the lower body. You can improve your coordination as you will be switching stance mid exercise then landing with your feet position switched.
Note: Make these more difficult by incorporating a weighted vest and/or ankle weights.
Lateral hops are a fantastic exercise as they are a unilateral exercise. This exercise will challenge your balance and coordination as your stabilizing muscles need to work hard to keep you under control. Your hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and calves have to work in unison to complete this one.
Note: Make sure you are in an area where you have enough space to jump side to side without obstacles in your way. To make this exercise easier start slowly and take your time when landing, get your balance before jumping back to the other side.
This exercise combines a few movements and engages multiple muscle groups. It is a plyometric exercise that works not only your lower body muscles but also your core and shoulders. If you’ve ever done planks you know those alone are difficult but adding the explosive jumping movements will be a real challenge.
Note: Focus on controlling each portion of this exercise by making sure your core is engaged throughout the movement.
Backward forward jumps are a great way to shock your muscles as we don’t tend to jump in multi-directions often, especially backwards. This new stimuli on the lower body muscles leads to better balance and stability and at the same time can increase power and explosiveness.
Note: It may take some time getting used to jumping backwards so start small and make sure you are comfortable before increasing the distance and intensity.
This plyometric jumping exercise not only can increase your power and strength but can also act as a dynamic stretch for the quadriceps. Double leg butt kicks are a great aerobic exercise that can improve the efficiency of the stride and might help to boost the speed of hamstring contractions leading to faster running ability.
Note: Try to increase the speed of jumps while shortening landing time.
This is the more advanced version of walking lunges where you will have to jump to transition to the opposite lunge. This is a challenging plyometric exercise that will target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves. You will need to activate your core and stabilizing muscles when performing jumping lunges. The takeoff, landing and transition require high level of coordination and balance.
Note: To make this movement easier in the beginning you can start and land in a high split stance then once your more comfortable with the movement you can complete in a lunge position.
One of the quintessential plyometric exercises, box jumps engage the glutes, quadriceps and calves. Front box jumps are great for improving your vertical jumping height while also increasing explosiveness in the lower body. They also burn tons of calories and help you improve your balance and coordination.
Note: To make this easier lower the platform's height. To increase difficultly you can increase the height of the platform or add weight with equipment like a weighted vest.
Similar to the box jump, the lateral jump requires you to jump up onto a raised platform. The difference here is that you’ll be jumping to the side which forces your muscles to contract in a different manner. This is a great exercise for athletes as many dynamic sports involve moving laterally in explosive movements.
Note: Make sure the platform you’re landing on is sturdy and start at a low height until you are comfortable enough to do at least 10 reps each side before increasing the platform’s height.
This upper body plyometric exercise will get those fast twitch muscle fibers in the chest, triceps, abs and shoulders firing. The difference between a regular pushup and a plyo pushup is the “jumping” component where you’re meant to explode lifting your hands off the ground.
Note: To make plyo pushups easier you can do them with your knees bent, touching the ground. To increase difficulty, turn the plyo pushup into a clapping pushup, clapping your hands together while in mid air.
Here is an example of a good plyometric workout for beginners...
You will complete 3 rounds of the following exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise:
Are Plyometrics HIIT?
Plyometrics exercises can be incorporated into a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout but they aren’t technically the same as HIIT. HIIT training is based around time intervals of high intensity exercises which can be anything from pushup to situps. It’s possible to do a HIIT workout while performing only plyometrics.
What Age Can You Start Plyometrics?
Studies have shown that plyometrics that are implemented at a young age can result in positive benefits, perhaps even improving future performance. By being exposed to stretch shortening cycles at a young age the body can adapt and improve performance. At young ages plyometric training is usually conducted at a low to intermediate level. Intense plyometrics like depth jumps might not be suitable for youngsters as this is an advanced form of plyometrics.
How Often Should I Do Plyometric Exercises?
Due to the intensity of plyometrics the frequency in which you should do them is less than you would for normal bodyweight exercises. Studies have shown that lower to moderate frequency of plyometric exercises produce superior results. The optimal frequency for doing plyometric exercises seems to be twice a week in order to gain strength, improve performance and enhance agility.
Although plyometrics are an advanced style of training, beginners can still become competent at doing plyometric exercises if they get the form down. These exercises might look intimidating at first glance but just think back for a second to remember those days that you were doing jumping jacks in school gym class; yes those could be considered plyometrics in today's vernacular.
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