I had not written about plyometric exercises earlier and not included them in the fitness guide for the concern I had felt for over-enthusiastic beginners injuring themselves through these exercises. I have injured my Achilles through performing single leg hops on an exercise Stepper and Jump Squats. With improved leg strength I am recommencing these exercises after 2-3 years at 60 plus. Since I consider myself okay to get on with these exercises then most of the readers can definitely do so. Please understand these well and use them for their benefits.
What are Plyometric Exercises?
· Plyometric exercises force the target muscles to stretch followed by an immediate contraction of the same muscle. This stretch and contraction motion is why plyometric exercises may also be called jump training. Many of the exercises within plyometric training involve jumping movements. These exercises are different from strength training because the latter aims to adapt the muscles and the nervous system, while plyometric exercises focus on improving explosiveness of movements. Specifically, they develop the maximum amount of force produced in the quickest possible time.
· Some examples of plyometric exercises are:
o jump rope,
o box jumps,
o clapping push-ups and
o frog jumps.
These exercises are the best known today for developing explosive power. There are several other benefits as well.
· Limited Equipment. Unlike some workout routines, plyometric training requires limited equipment and some of the exercises require no equipment at all.
· Stronger Bones. Most people start to lose some bone density by the time they are in their 30s. Plyometric exercises will apply a small degree of stress on the bones. By adding stress, these exercises encourage the natural process of rebuilding bones, which help them stay stronger for longer.
· Increased Metabolism. Plyometric exercises can also contribute to increasing the performer’s metabolism, which means the individual will burn more calories during resting periods and between sessions.
Exercises for Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced Athletes
Plyometric exercises have become an integral component of exercise programs that improve health, wellbeing and sporting performance.
There is a wide range of available exercises, which is why plyometric movements promote the development of power, a foundation from which an individual can refine the skills and performance of the body.
1. Beginner Plyometric Exercises. These simple exercises are very effective to build strength, balance and coordination in the legs and developing a stable platform for more difficult movements.
o Forward/backward/side to side hops.
o Skipping rope.
2. Intermediate Plyometric Exercises.
o Jump Squats. Squat is a staple exercise in all workout regimes, the jump adds the plyometric element which helps to develop, power, strength, balance and coordination in the lower body predominately.
o Push Up Pop Up (In NDA we called these, “Crocodile Jumps”. The all-round exercise is a great way to develop a strong core whilst working out the pecs and shoulders. It is performed by starting from a classic push up position on the floor, hands beneath the line of your shoulders. Slowly lower your body down to the ground so your chest lightly touches the floor, then push back up to the start position with a hop and move forward.
3. Advanced Plyometric Exercises.
o Plyo-Push Ups. This exercise activates the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Developing these fast-twitch muscle fibers helps to build strength and muscle mass, you can utilize this development to perform ‘explosive’ exercises quicker and more effectively. It is performed by starting in the top of the classic push up position on the floor, with your hand’s shoulder-width apart, abs tight and back straight, slowly lower your chest to the floor. Immediately push back up with enough force that your hands leave the floor and land back in the starting position. Land lightly on to the ground, that’s one rep, so move into the second rep straight away. As your hands leave the ground during the ‘explosion’ phase you can even clap your hands quickly before landing in the starting position.
o Depth Drop Jump. This advanced plyometric exercise will improve athletic performance. The drop jump increases explosive power, so your muscles can produce as much force in as little time as possible. Way to Performance: Stand on top of a box, step off the box with both feet landing softly at the same time shoulder-width apart. As you land immediately jump straight back up into a vertical jump as high as you can, landing softly once more, that is one repetition.
As you become more skillful with the exercise you can increase the height of the box you are dropping from or increase the height of your jump by jumping back up on to a different box or surface.
Sportspersons Utilizing Plyometric Exercises
You would have seen gymnasts take off for the vault or land and immediately bound in floor exercise routine. You would have seen triple jumpers hop, land on one leg and immediately bound and then perform the final jump. All jumping and bounding exercises are plyometric exercises. All modern sportspersons utilize these exercises from track and field athletes to all types of jumpers, Basketballers, Volley-ballers, Footballers, racket game players, weight lifters, Boxers, Wrestlers, MMA fighters, throwers and so on because explosive power is needed. Plyometric exercises will develop power in the muscles without making them bulky. Just visualize the built of jumpers. They definitely have a lot of explosive power yet are not bulky.
Guidelines to Avoid Injuries
1. Perform plyometric exercises on soft ground, wooden flooring, rubber flooring and not on hard surfaces like road, concrete and Tennis hard courts.
2. Please do not lock the knees; keep them slightly flexed to have a soft landing.
3. Warm up before the exercises.
4. Do not perform advanced form of leg plyometric exercises unless you have the ability to squat up to your body weight, implying that if you weigh 60 kg then you should be able to do a full squat with 60 kg on your shoulders.
5. Do not perform “Crocodile Jumps” unless you can comfortably do 30 push-ups comfortably inside one minute.