Plyometrics are, without a doubt, my favorite forms of exercise. I grew up playing basketball and became obsessed with jumping higher, running faster, and maximizing my athletic potential.
When I first started doing plyometrics I was solely doing it because it would enhance my basketball athleticism. Little did I know that plyometrics are actually one of the best all-around workouts you can perform to build lean muscle and burn fat. The main benefit of plyometrics is the incredible fat burning you will get from it. During plyometric training you are challenging your body in different ways than it is regularly accustomed to. This will force your body to burn more calories while trying to recover from the intense workout.
I think that just about anyone who isn’t suffering from joint or muscle injuries can benefit greatly from frequent plyometric workouts. Switching your normal, boring cardio sessions to plyometric training can give you the added muscle confusion and workout excitement to take your physique to the next level!
So what are “plyometrics,” exactly?
According to Wikipedia, plyometrics are a form of exercise designed to produce fast and powerful movements. Plyometrics are designed to improve speed, power, quickness, agility, balance, jumping, and overall explosiveness. Plyometric exercises will have a strong emphasis on fast and explosive movements to develop strong muscular power and athleticism. When performing plyometric movements you are exerting maximum force and taking your body far outside its comfort zone.
Plyometrics will work your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Standard cardio sessions will work your slow-twitch muscle fibers. Your slow-twitch muscle fibers are a lot easier for your body to repair and rebuild. Why is this important? When your body is repairing damaged muscle fibers from training, it takes extra energy (calories) to do so. The great thing about working your fast-twitch muscle fibers is that your body may take up to 48 hours to recover after an intense plyometrics session!
Lifting weights and engaging in plyometric training puts a strong emphasis on your fast-twitch muscle fibers. I know many body builders that do not do ANY form of traditional cardio – and they have under 5 percent body fat! Simply put – I KNOW the science of this works. Running and swimming for long distances would be examples of exercises that work your slow-twitch muscle fibers. While these are still effective forms of cardio for weight loss, you will not optimize your fat burning potential and may lose some lean muscle in the process. If you are looking for an athletic-looking physique that is both low in fat and lean and muscular, plyometrics are the best form of cardio training you can do.
What are some good plyometric exercises to start off with?
For beginners: basic sprints and jumping rope is a great start. Once you get comfortable with the basic plyometric exercises, there is a whole world of options! Incline sprint intervals, box jumps, depth jumps, weighted dumb bell jumps, broad jumps, explosive step-ups, and explosive burpees… just to name a few. In fact, here’s a great video demonstration of plyometric lunges:
For a great list of more plyometric exercises, check out this plyometric database. If you are looking to maximize your athletic potential and physique, make sure to incorporate plyometrics at least twice a week!