At any given time, you’ll see someone at the gym jumping up on a big box, clapping in the middle of a push-up…or doing the dreaded burpees! These are plyometrics — explosive bodyweight exercises that involve powerful, rapid stretching and contracting of your muscles to boost muscle power.
Plyometrics are an amazing way to increase your strength with heart-pumping moves — not to mention, they burn tons of calories. Plyometrics are the perfect training method to add into your routine if you’re looking to take your workout up to the next level, and here’s why:
Benefits of Plyometric Training
Strengthens fast-twitch muscle fibers
The goal of plyometrics is to maximize muscle contraction, quickly, which increases the output of muscle power.
In order to increase your power, you need to increase and strengthen the muscle fibers that are responsible for converting strength into speed. These fibers are referred to as fast-twitch fibers, and plyometric training can strengthen them. The stronger the fast-twitch fiber, the faster the muscle contraction — which leads to increased power.
Increases tendon strength, which can decrease injuries
Power exercise not only strengthens your muscle fibers, but also increases the strength of your tendons. Furthermore, stronger tendons mean fewer injuries. Plyometrics can strengthen the tendons and improve their elasticity by placing stress on them in a controlled setting. (1)
Increases athletic performance
With increased power comes increased performance. This makes plyometrics a key training component of many athletic training programs — especially sports requiring explosive movements.
Exercises like box jumps and vertical jumps are perfect training tools for football players who may need to jump to avoid a tackle or for Olympic weightlifters who need power for their squats. Plyometrics recruit the same major muscles and joints, and have a similar range of motion as many common movements in other sports.
So now that you know how plyometrics can benefit your training and performance, let’s look of some of the best plyometric exercises to add into your workout routine.
1. Jumping Jacks
Start by standing with feet together and your arms by your sides. Jump the feet out wider than shoulder-width apart, as you bring the arms out to the side and overhead. As you jump the feet back together, bring the arms back down. Be sure to get the heels all the way down with each jump. Repeat for 60 seconds.
2. High Knees
Start by jogging in place, focusing on bringing the knees up in front of you. As you get into the rhythm of things, start to go faster, bringing the knees higher and higher. Keep going for 30-60 seconds.
Start by standing with most of your weight in your RIGHT leg as you bring your left foot behind you. Slightly lower down to help you propel yourself up, hopping your LEFT leg out to the side and landing on the left foot, bringing the right foot behind you. Continue hopping side to side, landing on one foot on each side. Complete 20 repetitions for a total of 30-60 seconds.
4. Tuck Jumps
Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, start by hopping both the feet off the ground and landing on both feet at the same time. Once you start to gain some momentum and power, use your lower abs to help pull the knees in towards the chest quickly as you jump, making sure you land softly on both feet. Complete 10-20 jumps.
5. Star Jumps
Start down in a crouching position with your hands reaching down towards the floor or on the floor. Use your legs and keep your core tight as you jump vertically up in the air and reach your arms out and up overhead, and open the legs wider than shoulder-width apart, making a large “X” shape with your arms and legs. Land softly with your feet together and down in your crouching position. Complete 10-20 jumps.
6. Jump Squats
Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and knees and shoulders very slightly turned out to the side. Lower down into a squat, keeping your weight in your heels. With power, drive through your heels to propel yourself up into a jump straight up. Land softly, rolling from the toes down to the heels, and sink down into your squat to repeat. Complete 15-30 jumps, depending on your ability.
7. 180 Jump Squats
Start just as you did for jump squats, only this time, as you jump, rotate and twist your body to the RIGHT so that you land facing the opposite direction, turning 180 degrees. Be sure to land softly and with your feet and toes facing forward. Repeat twisting and landing to the LEFT (the opposite direction as before). Repeat for 10-20 repetitions, making sure you’re even on both the right and left.
Exercise: 180 Jump Squats
8. Squat Jacks
Start in a lower squat position with your feet together. Staying in a lower position, jump the feet out to about shoulder-width apart. Quickly jump back in. Continue for 20-30 repetitions for 30-60 seconds.
Exercise: Squat Jacks
9. Leap Frog
Similar to the jump squats, you are going to lower down into a squat position, but as you power to jump up, jump forward, propelling your hips forward and landing softly heel to toe. Jump forward 10-15 times, and if you feel up to it, also trying jumping in reverse.
10. ‘Frog’ Jumps or Sumo Jump Squats
Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your knees and toes turned out. Lower into a deep squat reaching your hands to the floor between your feet. Jump as high as you can and extend your arms overhead. Land softly in the squat, with hands to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times.
Exercise: ‘Frog’ Jumps or Sumo Jump Squats
11. Jump Lunges
Start in the lowered position of a lunge with your RIGHT foot forward. Keeping your weight in your front, engage the hamstring in the back of the front leg as you straighten the legs and jump vertically in the air. As you are jumping, quickly switch your legs so that you land softly with your LEFT foot in front. Complete 10-15 repetitions on each side.
12. Box Jumps
Start by standing next to a box or bench that is sturdy and won’t move at all. (The box can be any height — start with 6 inches and continue to work your way up when you feel ready.) Start by standing about your own foot distance away from the box. Squat down, keeping your weight in your heels. As you power up through the heels and hamstrings, jump up and propel yourself up and forward to land both feet on the box. Either step off carefully or jump back down. Repeat 10-20 times.
Exercise: Box Jumps
Start by standing with feet together. Lower into a deep squat position to bring your hands down to the floor. Jump your legs backwards into a full plank position on your hands. Jump your feet back into your low squat position and jump up, reaching your hands overhead. Complete 10-20 burpees.
14. Mountain Climbers
Start in a plank position on your hands. Keeping your abs engaged and your shoulders directly over your hands, drive your RIGHT knee in towards your chest, using your abs to pull it in. Quickly reach that leg back and drive your LEFT knee in towards your chest. Go as quickly as you can while maintaining abdominal strength. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
15. Plank Jacks
Start in a plank position with your feet together, keeping the weight in your arms and your core tight. Jump your feet out wide so that they are wider than shoulder-width apart. Quickly jump your feet back together as if you were doing regular jumping jacks. It’s important to make sure your hips don’t lift too high or sag too low during this exercise, so keep those abs tight! Complete 30-60 seconds of plank jacks before taking a quick rest.
16. Plank Tucks
Start in a plank position with your core nice and tight, and legs out straight behind you. Focusing on your lower abs and quads, jump your knees in towards your chest, landing your feet close by your wrists. Complete 10-20 repetitions.
Exercise: Plank Tucks
17. Side-to-Side Plank Hop
Start in a plank position with your shoulders directly over your hands. Tighten your core and use your lower abs to jump your feet as if you were doing plank tucks, but jump your feet over to the RIGHT, just outside your right shoulder. Jump your feet back to the full plank position, and then quickly jump the feet over to the left. Continue jumping from right to left for 20-30 repetitions total.
Exercise: Side-to-Side Plank Hop
18. Donkey Kicks
Start in a crouching position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your abs pulled tight. Quickly kick your legs up into the air, bending your knees and bringing your heels towards your glutes. Land softly. Repeat 10 times.
Exercise: Donkey Kicks
19. Push Offs
Begin in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Bend the elbows to lower down towards the floor, keeping your elbows close by your sides, as if you were doing a tricep push-up. As you press back up, power through your arms. As you straighten them, push the hands an inch or two off the ground, working your way higher and higher. (Just be sure to land as softly as possible on the hands!) Repeat for 10-20 repetitions, and modify by doing this raised on a bench or chair if needed.
20. Push Up Jacks
Start as if you were going to be doing a standard push-up. As you lower down with your upper body, quickly jump your feet out wider than shoulder-width apart. As you push up, hop the feet back in, together. Complete 10-20 repetitions.
21. Clapping Push Up
Start by beginning with standard push-up, and lower down with the elbows close in by your sides. As you push back up, power up to push off the ground and quickly clap your hands while in the air. (Modify by performing this raised with your hands on a bench until you feel comfortable to progress to the floor.) Complete 10-20 repetitions.
22. Insert Wide to Narrow Push Up
Begin by performing a tricep-style push with your hands directly under your shoulders and keeping your elbows in close by your sides as you lower down. Push up and power off the floor to quickly land with your hands in a wide push-up position — just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower into a wide push-up, and then power and push up to land in the narrow position for one full repetition. Complete 6-10 full repetitions. See also: The 10 Best Ways To Do a Push Up.
23. Wide to Narrow Pull-Ups
Start in a wide-grip pull-up position with your palms facing away from you. Pull up and power up to quickly move your arms into a narrow-grip pull up. Continue switching from wide to narrow for 10-20 repetitions.
Example: Wide to Narrow Pull-Ups
24. Switch Grip Pull-Ups
Start with a regular pull-up position with your palms facing away from you, about shoulder-width apart or more. As you pull up, power up so that you can quickly “jump” and switch your hands to a narrow pull-up position with the palms facing in towards you. Repeat, this time landing with the palms facing away for one full repetition. Complete 5-10 repetitions total.
Example: Switch Grip Pull-Ups
25. Clapping Pull-Ups
Start with a wide pull-up with your palms facing away from you. As you pull up quickly, clap your hands together before placing your hands in the pull-up position. Complete 5-15 repetitions, depending on your strength.
Exercise: Clapping Pull-Ups
26. Muscle Ups
Start in a wide-grip pull-up position. Powerfully pull yourself up, and at the top of the motion, pivot your wrists and simultaneously bring your shoulders and chest over the bar to straighten your arms and push yourself up above the bar. Lower back down in the exact opposite motion and repeat 10-20 times.
Exercise: Muscle Ups
27. Explosive Tricep Dips
Start with both hands on tricep dip bars and palms facing in. Bend the elbows to lower to 90 degrees. Power through the arms to explode up, “jumping” the hands off the bars a few inches and landing softly, lowering back into the dip. Repeat 10-15 times.
Exercise: Explosive Tricep Dips
(Your Next Workout: The 21-Day Bodyweight Jumpstart)