During plyometrics (“plyos” for short), muscles exert near maximal force in short intervals. The main goal of plyos is to improve power, or “speed strength.” To develop power, your muscles learn how to go from extension to contraction in a very rapid and explosive manner (stretch-shortening cycle), which train your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Plyos include pretty much any explosive movement such as box jumps, jumping lunges, jump squats, power push-ups, lateral jumps, depth jumps, power skips and so on.
There are some guidelines to follow with real plyometric training. First, remember that plyometric movements are different from conditioning training. When performing plyos, you’re exerting maximum effort at a great speed. You’re training for power, therefore these movements should be done at lower rep ranges unless you’re specifically programming a higher-rep plyo day. Keep the volume fairly low and the intensity and speed high. You should also focus on proper body positioning to ensure proper landings during these movements to reduce the risk of injury.
If you’re doing a plyo day, you need to make sure you’re fully recovering between sets. If you try to do plyo movements for conditioning (timed intervals), you really aren’t going to get the full training benefits of plyos and you’ll put yourself at greater risk for injury.
That being said, you can absolutely scale down plyometric movements and utilize them for your HIIT cardio. Let’s say you are doing a Tabata session of jump squats and plyo push-ups. The main goal of this would be to get your heart rate up as high as possible, not necessarily to work on the development of speed strength and power. Jim does a great job of combining plyos and HIIT cardio with his Power HIIT protocol on JimStoppani.com.
Aside from boosting pure speed and power and providing a great cardio option, plyometric training will definitely help increase strength levels in the gym. Strength is basically the ability to recruit a lot of muscle fibers quickly, and this is what plyometric training is all about. Recruiting more motor units during a movement means you’ll use more muscles, which then means you’re able to lift the weight more explosively. So if you’re looking to increase your strength and one-rep max (1RM) on your lifts, definitely add a plyo day to your program – especially if you’re a powerlifter!
Below is a plyometrics-only workout I put together for those who are new to plyos. You can certainly incorporate plyos by just adding one or two plyometric exercises to a strength session (which is what I typically do), but for beginners I recommend starting out with decided plyo day to get the feel for the movements and do them properly.
If you do multiple plyometric workouts during the week, give yourself at least two full days before doing another plyo-centric routine. Your muscles need to recover from the high-impact training.
Beginner Plyometrics Routine
Box Jump, 3 sets of 5 reps
Plyo Push-ups, 3 sets of 6 reps
Jump Lunges, 2 sets of 5 reps per leg
Bound (long jump), 2 sets of 4 reps
Lateral Jump, 2 sets of 6 reps
Medicine Ball Plyo Sit-Up, 3 sets of 6 reps
Perform all reps as fast and explosively as possible. Allow for 2-3 minutes of recovery in between sets.
If you have any questions on how to performed specific plyometric exercises, hit me up on the JYM Girls Facebook page.