Plyometrics (shortened plyo) also called “jump training” is an intense workout for explosive strength building.
It was invented in the 1970s for improving performance of athletes and involves exercises like squat jumps, burpees, lateral jumps, clapping push-ups, power skipping etc (1).
It has been shown useful in improving vertical jump height – a measure of how high a person can elevate him/herself from the ground (2, 3).
What is Plyometric Training?
Plyo is a combination of cardio and strength training which increases explosiveness through fast stretching and contraction of the muscles. It is a very effective way of improving muscular strength and speed, and it helps in toning and defining the body.
Image source: prophysio.com.au
During landing from a jump, the front muscles in the thighs stretch while the knees bend, and a fast contraction occurs with the next jump which gives more power to it. Shortening the time between stretching and contractions is what makes a person faster and more powerful.
Plyo can be practiced a few times per week, however not one day after another in order for the muscles to have enough time to regenerate. The recommended recovery period varies between 48 and 72 hours (4).
Proper form is more important than the number of repetitions. It is better to start with a few sets with less than 10 repetitions and go to more difficult training little by little. It is also important to rest for 30-60 seconds before starting a new set.
The positive sides of this workout are improvements in physical speed and muscular power. Also, using different muscle groups during this explosive complete workout, the body burns a lot of calories and speeds up weight loss.
Plyo increases the strength and elasticity of the tendons (connective tissue between muscles and bones) and lowers the chances of tearing them (5). Because of all the jumping involved, plyometrics is more lower (legs and glutes) than upper (arms, back, core) body workout.
The main concern is high risk of injury. If you are a beginner, start with light exercise and progress slowly to an advanced version as the repetitive jumping can result in joint damage and fall injuries. Also, if you have a heart condition – do not practice plyo because the jumping will increase your heart rate which may reflect on your heart.
When landing from a jump, toe to heel landing should be practiced as it lowers the pressure on the ankles. Moving of the knees from one side to another should be avoided because it makes more difficult for the surrounding muscles to help and support the knee joint (6).
These risks can be reduced by wearing supportive straps for the knees and ankles, as well as proper footwear. Never miss a proper warm up (such as jogging) before plyo because the intensity of the workout may cause muscle strain.
1. Chu DA. 1998. Jumping Into Plyometrics: Human Kinetics
2. Markovic G. 2007. Br J Sports Med 41: 349-55; discussion 55
3. Makaruk H, Czaplicki A, et al.,. 2014. Biol Sport 31: 9-14
4. Chu DA. Plyometric training for youth.
5. ArtofManliness – Beginners guide to plyometrics.
6. American Council on Exercise: “Plyometrics: Controlled Impact/Maximum Power”.