By Aparna Mele MD
What Is Plyometrics?
Plyometrics is a type of exercise training that uses speed and force of different movements to build muscle power. Plyometric exercises not only help you build strength, but explosiveness (or power), speed, and agility, too. Those last three perks don’t come from strength training alone, so incorporating these challenging fit moves will round out your fitness routine.
All plyo movements require your muscles to stretch and contract at a rapid pace, which helps them become more explosive, and that it why they are considered an intensity workout. Essentially, a plyometric exercise is any exercise that requires a production of sufficient internal force in your muscles to overcome the resistance of an external force, changing its velocity. This typically may involve the resistance of a weight, but it can also involve the resistance of your own body weight through gravity (ie. box jumps). Power is the ability to exert force and overcome resistance, in the shortest amount of time. The difference between strength and power is the component of time. Practicing exercises that require explosive power improves your speed, by priming your body to generate force more efficiently. Every time you land from a jump, your muscles get a stretch. That gives your next jump even more power. The combination of stretching and contracting your muscles helps tone them into shape.
Plyometrics can therefore drastically improve your cardiovascular health, burn calories, and strengthen muscles. A 2014 study in Portugal and published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that in a group of athletes doing plyometric training, they decreased their body fat percentage by 16.4 percent and gained 2.1 percent of muscle after the 12-week program.
When you’re getting started, work with an experienced trainer who can show you how to safely jump and land. Start slow and low. Mix a few plyometric moves into your regular workout.
Simply put, plyometric exercises make you faster and stronger. Because plyometrics is high-impact and intense exercise, check with your doctor first if you aren’t active now or if you have any health problems. Plyometrics isn’t the workout for you if you don’t like to sweat!
Plyometrics are an ideal addition to your workout routine if you’re looking to maximize your power, speed, and strength. As with any workout routine, don’t forget to incorporate muscle recovery protocols to ensure your body stays healthy and is ready to go for every training session.
Carvalho, Alberto et al (2014). “Effects of Strength Training Combined with Specific Plyometric Exercises on Body Composition, Vertical Jump Height, and Lower Limb Strength Development In Elite Male Handball Players: A Case Study”. Journal of human kinetics, 41, 125-132.