Plyometric Workouts from Beginner to Beyond
Want to increase your muscle power? From jumps to bounds, you can use this progression of plyometric exercises to help build your speed and strength.
What’s your fitness strategy? Whether you play competitive sports, go hard at the gym before work, or you’re just trying out a new exercise program, plyometric training can be a key player in your routine. As a professional trainer for EXOS and a performance expert, Natalie Kollars uses plyometrics to help her clients crush their goals: “These exercises can help you to transfer the athletic qualities that you build in the weight room to the field or the court,” she says.
Video: Plyometric Training to Increase Your Muscle Power
What is Plyometric Training?
Plyometrics are dynamic exercises incorporating jumps and bounds, causing muscles to exert maximum force in short bursts. Over time, these high-impact, full-body moves increase muscle power — the combination of speed and strength.
Stretch-Shortening Cycle: the Power Behind Plyo
Plyometric exercises involve your entire body — from your muscles and tendons to your sense of balance, coordination and speed. True plyometrics utilize the entire stretch-shortening cycle, which Kollars describes as “a rapid muscle lengthening, immediately followed by a rapid muscle shortening.”
During rapid muscle lengthening, you store extra energy in your muscles. When you then rapidly shorten the muscles, the amount of energy you’ve stored translates into more power behind your movements. Says Kollars, “it's like loading a spring or pulling back on an elastic band.”
For beginners, plyometric workouts should start with the fundamentals before you try jumping and bounding moves. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can integrate jumps and bounds into your exercise routine to strengthen your muscles, increase the power of each movement you make, and even help you prevent injuries.
“These are high-impact, high-intensity exercises,” says Kollars, so focus on quality over quantity. She suggests limiting your plyometric workouts to no more than 100 contacts per week — “contacts” meaning the number of times your feet touch the ground. These exercises are not meant to be done all in one session. Instead, try adding a couple of these moves into your workouts.
PLYOMETRIC JUMP 01: DROP SQUAT
This is the first of two moves that you should master before moving into the higher impact jumps and bounds.
- Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Come up to your toes and raise your arms above your head, then quickly come down into a quarter squat position.
Plyometric benefit: This drop squat is your first step towards tackling plyometrics. It helps you build tissue tolerance — “tolerance for stretch in your muscles, tendons and ligaments.” Before you progress to jumps, use these to learn the fundamentals of building muscle force.
PLYOMETRIC JUMP 02: NON-COUNTERMOVEMENT LINEAR JUMP
Once you’ve mastered the drop squat, practice this non-countermovement linear jump to introduce force production to your plyometric workout. This move strengthens your hips, knees and ankles.
- Begin in the base quarter squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold this for three seconds.
- Jump as high as you can, raising your arms above your head.
- In one continuous motion, come down into the base squat position with your arms reaching behind you, holding again for three seconds.
Plyometric benefit: Introduces force production, and trains your body to decelerate safely when landing after a jump.
PLYOMETRIC JUMP 03: COUNTERMOVEMENT LINEAR JUMP
After you feel confident practicing the previous foundational exercises, try this basic countermovement linear jump.
- Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart, on the balls of your feet with arms overhead.
- Reach your arms behind you as you drop into the base squat position, then immediately launch into a jump with hands above your head.
Plyometric benefit: This jump is the first true plyometric in this progression, utilizing the stretch-shortening cycle. While still focusing on landing mechanics, deceleration, and force absorption, now you’re starting to increase your rate of force development — the speed at which your muscles build maximum force.
PLYOMETRIC JUMP 04: CONTINUOUS LINEAR JUMP
- Begin standing with up tall on the balls of your feet, shoulder-width apart, with your arms above your head.
- In one continuous motion, quickly drop into a squat before exploding up into a jump.
- Keep jumping from a squat continuously for 3-5 jumps, focusing on jumping as high as you can and braking safely as you return to a squat.
Plyometric benefits: Adding another dimension to your plyometric practice, continuous linear jumps help you add more speed to your muscle shortening cycle.
PLYOMETRIC BOUND 01: SINGLE-LEG DROP SQUAT
Plyometric bounds are different from jumps because you’ll take off from one foot to the other.
- Start standing tall on the balls of your feet, arms overhead.
- Swing your arms down into a drop squat, transferring your weight so that you’re landing on one foot.
- Hold this single-leg base position for three seconds.
PLYOMETRIC BOUND 02: NON-COUNTERMOVEMENT LINEAR BOUND
- Assume your single-leg base position with your hips back, knees bent, and arms back.
- Bound forward using your arms and hips to generate force.
- Land on your opposite leg in a quarter-squat stance. Hold this position for a count of three, then bound again to the opposite leg.
Plyometric benefits: Bounds help you build that muscle power and use it efficiently when moving from one foot to the other. This can translate to more reps, faster runs, and better athletic performance.
PLYOMETRIC BOUND 03: COUNTERMOVEMENT LINEAR BOUND
- Stand up on one leg, arms above your head.
- In one fluid movement, drop into a single-leg quarter squat, throwing your arms back.
- Immediately bound off that single leg, landing on the opposite foot. Hold for three seconds.
Plyometric benefits: With the countermovement bound, you’re now utilizing the entire stretch-shortening cycle when pushing off from one foot.
PLYOMETRIC BOUND 04: CONTINUOUS LINEAR BOUND
- Start by standing on one foot, arms overhead.
- Drop into the single leg base position, then immediately bound forward, using your arms and hips to generate force.
- Land on your opposite leg — absorbing impact with your hip — and immediately repeat the same movement with the opposite leg, linking 3-5 continuous bounds together.
Plyometric benefits: Once you’re comfortable with the simpler plyometric exercises, this bound can help you increase speed and strength in every step, whether you’re on the field, in the court, or running a new trail.
Ready to Jump in?
Want to add these moves to your next sweat session? Download this infographic to your device, or print it out for an easy reference you can keep in your gym bag.
When you integrate these moves one or two at a time into your fitness plan, it can keep your tendons and joints strong and increase your strength and speed. This can help you stay fit and avoid injury, whether you’re a pro athlete or just a weekend warrior.
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