Top Plyometric Exercises For Athletic Performance

Boost your strength and speed with these explosive exercises.

For those of us tired of the same old workouts day after day, we need to consider a change. While bicep curls and squats mixed with the treadmill or elliptical will keep us healthy, we are not truly maximizing our gains as efficiently as possible. Plyometric exercises are a fantastic way to change up your workouts to boost speed and strength. As powerful aerobic exercises, plyometric exercises will exert your muscles for maximum potential in a short amount of time to increase power, strength, speed, and endurance.

While plyometric exercises are most often geared toward well-trained athletes or gym-goers in great physical shape, they can be used for everyone and are great ways to burn calories, build muscle, and improve overall fitness to get to the point of peak condition. Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises start with quick movements to lengthen the muscle and then immediately shorten to provide power generation and neuromuscular agility (1). Through this, they provide the ideal workouts to facilitate fat loss and improve your overall strength and endurance.

plyometric exercise

Plyometric exercises can potentially cause added stress and strain on tendons, ligaments, and joints so solid form and confidence in your ability to perform them is key. Knowing your body is important but pushing yourself with these explosive movements will provide for great benefits and serious progress with your overall fitness.

Benefits of Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. With little to no equipment required, they are great options for those lacking the equipment or who love bodyweight exercises. They can improve muscle mass (2) and shed unwanted fat giving you a push towards that desired toned physique.

By activating the fast twitch muscles fibers, you greatly improve muscle mass and the quick change in contractions from shortening the muscle (concentric contraction) to stretching out the muscle (eccentric contraction) shows serious strength results while also boosting agility and balance (3). Since they really work to get your heart rate up and boost your metabolism, you will burn calories and can even supplement for a cardio workout. By shedding fat and building muscle, your body composition becomes one you can be proud of.

The continuous movements of plyometric exercises can increase power performance by improving explosivity and having more efficient means of endurance. As a result, your workouts can last longer and with higher intensity. The benefit to plyometric exercises when it comes to power and explosiveness is that with solid, stable joints, these exercises do not cause significant strain and your joints will not suffer from some of the more low-impact exercises. Since not all of our muscles are symmetrical, plyometric exercises will help your muscles coordinate with each other to strengthen the weaker side without relying on compensation.

plyometric exercise

With all of the physical benefits plyometric exercises provide, they are a nice variation from your traditional workouts. With the ability to burn fat, build muscles, improve balance and coordination, and increase explosive power, plyometric exercises are a fun way to challenge yourself and see great overall fitness growth.

Jump Squats

Jump squats are great for working your glutes, leg muscles, and hitting your lower abs. Improving strength and balance, they are great toning as well as getting your heart rate up to burn calories. Th squatting motion aids in muscle growth while the jumping aspect increases mobility and balance.

How to: With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, perform a bodyweight squat. Once at the bottom, propel upwards into a jump using your hands to propel the movement. As you land, make sure your knees do not cave in.

plyometric exercises

Clapping Push-Ups

Clapping push-ups give you all the benefits of a traditional push-up in terms of chest and upper body strength building with the bonus of targeting fast-twitch muscles to produce short bursts of power. This is great for those looking to increase intensity while also working major muscle groups.

How to: Begin in a push-up position and perform a normal push-up movement. Once at the bottom, explode up and clap your hands together while bracing for the landing. Continue with your desired number of reps.

Box Jumps

Box jumps do not cause as much stress on your joints and are great for a warm-up or a mid-workout exercise. They are great for seeing muscle growth, but also aiding in other exercises since they require fast extension and flexion of your hips at the top.

How to: Choose a box with your desired height and stand about two feet away with your feet shoulder-width apart. Perform a squat and propel yourself towards the box, jumping up onto it. Land gently to avoid a rough impact and stand up. Step or jump down to start your next rep.

plyometric exercise

Skater Jumps

For those looking to build lateral strength, skater jumps are great for your quads and glutes. They allow for increased balance and coordination since the entire load is on one leg. This allows for each leg to benefit from the whole workout without relying on the other for support.

How to: Starting in a squat position, push off with your right leg. Land on your left leg and move your right leg behind you as if you are on ice skates. Alternate each side for the desired number of reps.

Burpees

Burpees should be a staple in your workout for they provide a full body workout that can burn fat and increase strength and overall performance. A fantastic and physically demanding exercise, burpees will help you drop calories and get your heart rate up, while also hitting your upper and lower body.

How to: Start in a squat position and jump back into a push-up position. Lower to the ground and push back up, jumping your feet back to the starting position. With your arms overhead, jump into the air and return to the starting position repeating the same process for your desired number of reps.

Wrap Up

Plyometric exercises are often under-utilized in our workouts, but the benefits can have tremendous effect on our overall strength and fitness. With little to no equipment required, they allow us to increase our heart rate, burn calories, build muscle mass, and enhance our explosive power. Great for athletes or gym-goers looking to increase their fitness, plyometric exercises promote speed and strength and need to be in your workouts.

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*Images courtesy of Envato

References 

  1. Asadi, Abbas; Saez de Villarreal, Eduardo; Arazi, Hamid (2015). “The Effects of Plyometric Type Neuromuscular Training on Postural Control Performance of Male Team Basketball Players”. (source)
  2. Peitz, Matti; Behringer, Michael; Granacher, Urs (2018). “A systematic review on the effects of resistance and plyometric training on physical fitness in youth- What do comparative studies tell us?”. (source)
  3. Slimani, Maamer; Chamari, Karim; Miarka, Bianca; Del Vecchio, Fabricio B.; Cheour, Foued (2016). “Effects of Plyometric Training on Physical Fitness in Team Sport Athletes: A Systematic Review”. (source)
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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.