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Plyometric exercises are explosive moves (like jumping) that allow the body to gain power, strength, speed, and fast reaction time.
Athletes and those dedicated to increasing their muscular power (amongst other athletic gains) utilize plyometric training as a way to level up their athleticism and fitness status. “Plyometric exercises increase muscular power, which then produces higher jumps, faster sprints, and a stronger more responsive lower body,” explains Michael Wittig, ISSA C.P.T., a sports performance coach, nine-time natural pro bodybuilding champion, and masters world champion.
And you don’t have to be an avid athlete to benefit from plyos. “Plyometric exercises are not only beneficial for athletes but also everyday gymgoers who want to continue moving great as they age or those who want to find fun ways to burn calories,” he says.
For some, jumping on a box or a bench may seem intimidating or unnecessary, but box jumps have a reputation for taking an everyday lifter or fitness enthusiast and turning them into a powerhouse of strength, power, and explosiveness.
“Plyometrics can help increase hops, speed, and explosiveness as well as burn a good number of calories,” says Wittig. This style of training is typically involved in athlete programs, or those wanting to improve general fitness.
Plyometric exercises are quick, powerful movements that start with an eccentric, (muscle-lengthening action) and are immediately followed by a concentric (muscle-shortening action).
This is where the power and shift in athleticism come in. Although not ideal when it comes to developing muscular hypertrophy, plyometrics build and teach your muscles how to become the best they can be; fast, powerful, and with a quick reaction time.
When working with athletes Wittig typically programs specific speed/plyometric days, but explains if you are doing plyos for general conditioning there are several ways to do it. Wittig says aPlyo movements can be done as fun cardio which should be done after lifting weights,” says Wittig.
Wittig recommends doing most plyo work either on a separate conditioning or cardio day, or if you are doing them for fun and to burn calories. Another good time would be after your weighted leg exercises.
Plyometrics are not necessarily a great fit for every fitness goal, so if you are looking to add these explosive-type movements to your exercise program, make sure it aligns with your goals. For example, “Bodybuilders looking to build maximum muscle mass may not benefit as much using plyos in their routine. For most progressively increasing weight while staying in a six-to 12-rep range is more their goal.
According to Wittig, “While plyometrics build muscular power, they are more cardio for the seasoned lifter.”
This doesn’t mean in the off-season you can’t utilize plyos to up your fitness level. Plyos will shed fat while keeping you strong and fast.
When looking to cut fat, whether it’s for an upcoming competition, photo shoot, or just to get healthier, Wittig has his clients engage in what’s called cardio acceleration during legday workouts. “This involves supersetting plyometric movements like the jump squat, immediately after a basic weighted movement like barbell squats or the leg press,” Wittig says.
If you’re interested in adding plyos to your routine, Wittig’s got you covered.
Why These Exercises Work: Box jumps, among other plyometric exercise moves, cause your muscles to stretch and contract repeatedly in an explosive manner. This allows you to generate maximum force in the shortest amount of time possible which leads to increased power. “Hence, why we do these exercises to become better athletes,” Wittig says.
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