Plyometric exercises are used by athletes and gym goers to improve their muscular power, agility and speed. These exercises are rapid, high-intensity movements that can be added to your training to enhance your performance in the gym or on the field.
The 9 best plyometric exercises for power are:
- Plyo Push Up
- Jump Squat
- Box Jump
- Jumping Lunges
- Mountain Climbers
- Plank Jacks
- Plank Jump to Squat
- Skater Hops
- Hurdle Jumps
What Makes a Good Plyometric Exercise?
Plyometric exercises are designed to improve speed, agility, balance and muscle power.
These exercises begin with the eccentric component of a movement (i.e. the lowering phase). This is when the muscle lengthens and contracts.
This is followed by the concentric part of the exercise (i.e. the upward phase), in which the muscle shortens.
However, in order for it to be considered a plyometric action, oscillating between the eccentric and concentric needs to be done quickly.
So you can expect to see a lot of dynamic movements like jumping, running and hopping.
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Who Should Do These Plyometric Exercises?
Plyometrics are great for anyone who wants to work on their muscle power or agility. When you work on “power”, you are training the body to move quickly. In other words, training your body to recruit your muscle fibers rapidly.
Whether you play sports like basketball, are an athlete or just want to run faster, adding this strength and conditioning component to your workouts can give you an edge over other athletes. Power is also an important quality to work on if you’re an Olympic weightlifter.
However, the high intensity nature of these exercises means that not everyone should do it. The high-impact movements, such as jumping or hopping, are not ideal for those who suffer from joint pain, have arthritis or are pregnant.
Not to mention, if you’re a beginner, then you’ll need to build your technique first, before trying to perform movements explosively.
Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
There are many benefits to plyometrics.
As we’ve mentioned, it’s a really great addition to your training because it builds upon your speed and power.
It means that you’ll be able to jump higher and longer and not only run faster but be able to change direction easier as well.
As well as building muscle strength and burning calories, it focuses on mobility, flexibility and endurance. And the best part is—all these functional benefits will translate across other fitness disciples as well.
Benefit #1: Increases Strength
Plyometric exercises can be used in conjunction with your weight training to increase your strength.
As shown in this study, specific plyometric training conditions can be used to optimise your strength gains.
Benefit #2: Improves Agility
Not only will your strength improve but so will your agility.
Plyometrics have been found to decrease athlete’s ground reaction times as well, as illustrated in this study.
Subjects were divided into two groups that each completed the T-test and Illinois Agility Test, and a force plate test both pre and post testing.
One group was subjected to 6 weeks of plyometric training while the others were the control group.
At the end of the 6 weeks, the group that did plyometric training showed significant group improvement over the control group.
Benefit #3: Improved Running
Another benefit to plyometric is improved running.
This study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, consisted of seventeen male runners split into two groups: an experimental group that did 6 weeks of plyometric training on top of their usual running program, and a control group that only followed their running regime.
It was found that the experimental group had significant improvements on their counter movement jump, 5-bound distance test and lower leg musculotendinous stiffness while there were no significant changes in the control group.
Benefit #4: Increased Power
If you want a more powerful performance, then plyometrics is great for you.
It has been proven to improve your power that can then be translated to other fitness disciples or sports such as soccer.
By performing biweekly plyometric training in addition to their normal training, the male soccer players in the experimental group of this study achieved an increase in thigh muscle volume as well as height in their squat jump, countermovement jump and average jump power.
9 Plyometric Exercises to Increase Power
1. Plyo Push Up
Muscles used: chest, core, triceps, shoulders
- Your starting position is a high plank. Balance on the palms of your hands and your toes. Ensure that your arms are straight and your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your legs extended as well.
- Brace and keep your body tight and strong as you bend at the elbows. Keep going until you’re just off the ground.
- Push back up, creating momentum from this movement to then explode off the ground, getting both hands off the ground. If you’re more advanced, then add a clap mid-air. If you can’t, then not to worry–this is something to work towards.
- As you land, bend at the elbows again so you can absorb the impact, heading straight down into your next rep.
There are many common mistakes that people do when doing a push up, let alone a plyo one. Ensure that you can do a push up with proper form before attempting a plyo one and watch out for these mistakes:
- Flaring your elbows too wide
- Arching your back as you descend
- Not keeping your body in a straight line
2. Jump Squat
Muscles used: quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings, calves, core
- In a standing position, keep your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards. Stand up straight and engage your core.
- Bend at the knees. Ensure your hips go back and your knees don’t cave inwards. Keep going until you reach parallel or as far down as you can go.
- In an explosive movement, straighten up again, driving through your heels. As you come up, shift your weight to your toes and jump off the ground with both feet in the air, as high as you can go.
- Land lightly by bending your knees. As you do so, descend into your next rep.
- Not engaging your core
- Landing with straight legs and/or on the soles of your feet
3. Box Jump
Muscles used: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core
- Face a stable box. The height of the box will depend on your ability level. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slightly bend your knees so you’re in a quarter squat. Swing your arms back to get momentum.
- Swing your arms forwards as you push through your feet, shift your weight onto your toes as you jump up onto the box.
- Land lightly on the box with both feet at the same time, bending your knees as you do so.
- Push off both feet again, jumping down. Again, make sure you bend your knees as you land to absorb the impact.
- Landing in a full squat after jumping onto the box is a sign that the box is too high. Opt for one that you can land in a quarter-squat.
If you want a lower-impact method of getting down from the box, then simply step down one leg at a time. This is a good option for those who have joint problems or knee pain.
4. Jumping Lunges
Muscles used: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, hips
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width wide. Face forwards with your toes pointing the same way. Keep your chest up and brace.
- Jump up into the air. As you do so, split your legs so that one leg comes forwards while the other is back from your starting position. Remember to keep engaging that core to maintain balance.
- From there, bend so you’re in a lunge, bracing your abdominal muscles. Keep your torso up and straight. Keep lunging until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is almost touching the ground.
- Then, push up and jump, switching legs mid-air.
- As you land, descend into your next lunge but this time with your back leg at the front and vice versa.
- Stepping your foot too far forwards or backwards is a common mistake. You want to step wide enough so that you can have proper form in your lunge form while still maintaining balance. As you continuously practice this move, you’ll be able to instinctively estimate the proper distance when lunging.
- Don’t make the error of landing one foot at a time. Make sure that both feet hit the ground simultaneously.
5. Mountain Climbers
Muscles used: core, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, quads, calves
- Begin in a high-plank position. Keep your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and your arms straight with your legs extended behind you. Stay on your toes.
- Bring one leg into your chest. Then, as you bring it back to the starting position, switch legs so the other is tucked in.
- Keep switching back and forth.
- Keep your back straight. Don’t let it arch or curve.
If you need a beginner-friendly version, then bring one leg back down to the ground behind you before bringing the other leg into your chest.
6. Plank Jacks
Muscles used: core, chest, back, shoulders, arms
- Begin in a high plank position on your hands. Make sure that your hands are below your shoulders and that your arms are extended. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your toes and your core engaged.
- Keeping your body still, jump your legs apart to either side. Your upper body should remain where it is.
- Then, jump both feet back in so you’re back in the starting position.
- Repeat, alternating jumping out and in.
- Keep your body aligned in a straight line, even when you’re jumping. Don’t let your back arch or your hips sag.
A lower impact version of plank jacks is to step out to the side one leg at a time without jumping. Just take a step out with your right foot before bringing it back. Then switch, stepping out with the left.
7. Plank Jump to Squat
Muscles used: core, back, shoulders, triceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes
- Start in a high plank position with your hands beneath shoulders, arms straight down and legs straight out behind you.
- Engage your abdominal muscles.
- Jump your feet forward, landing lightly in a squat. As you do, bring your hands off the ground and up in front of you.
- Pause in the squat position.
- Bring your hands back down to the ground and jump your feet back so you’re in a high plank position.
- To transition into the squat position from the high plank smoothly, ensure that you jump your feet in close enough to your hands.
8. Skater Hops
Muscles used: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core
- Begin in a standing position with your knees slightly bent, toes facing forwards.
- Engage your core to keep balanced and push off your left foot to leap laterally to your right. Take as far as a step as you can go, landing on your right foot while bringing your left one behind it. Don’t let it touch the ground though, stay balanced on your right side.
- Pause for a moment.
- Then, push off your right foot and leap laterally to your left, landing on your left foot, keeping your right one in the air behind it.
- Not taking advantage of your upper body when doing skater hops. Use your arms as momentum and swing them side to side as you hop. It’ll also help you remain stable.
If you’re finding it difficult to maintain your balance, then gently bring your foot to the ground after you leap, instead of keeping it in the air. Lightly touch it to gain your balance before switching.
9. Hurdle Jumps
Muscles used: quads, hips, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core
- Set up 5 hurdles that are at knee-height. Keep them close together at equal distance apart from each other.
- Begin facing the first hurdle with your knees slightly bent.
- Jump over the first hurdle. Land lightly on your feet, bending your legs.
- As you straighten your legs, jump over the second hurdle.
- Repeat until you’ve jumped over all 5 hurdles, then turn around and go back the other way.
- Spreading the hurdles too far apart or keeping them too close together. You want enough space between the hurdles so that you can jump over each of them without having to adjust your feet.
Try to work your way up jumping over the hurdles in a row without taking a break. In the meantime, take a beat between each one to rest and get ready for the next jump.
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Sample Plyometric Strength Program
Let’s put these 9 plyometric exercises for power into a 3-day program.
Add this into your training but ensure that you incorporate a rest day in between due to its intense nature. The numbers read sets x reps.
If you want more recommendations for plyometric exercises, then take a look at the FitBod app.
The FitBod app is a great tool to have because you can input your personal information such as your goals and available equipment and then generate a customized training plan just for you. Check it out to see what other plyometric strength exercises you can add to your workout.
Plyometric Workout: Day 1
- Box jump – 5×8
- Plank to jump squat – 3×10
- Jumping lunges – 5×10 (per leg)
- Mountain climbers – 3×20 (per leg)
Plyometric Workout: Day 2
- Jump squat – 5×12
- Plyo push ups – 3×10
- Plank jacks – 3×20
- Skater hops – 5×10 (per leg)
Plyometric Workout: Day 3
- Plank to jump squat – 3×10
- Plyo push ups – 3×10
- Jumping lunges – 5×10 (per leg)
- Hurdle jump – 3×10
Plyometric exercises are a great way to improve your power, agility and speed. These workouts are intense and so should be skipped for those with joint problems. However, for those who are able to add them to your training, the rewards will greatly benefit you in your performance in the gym or on the field.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.