Plyo (plyometric) training — also known as jump training — could be the answer to your fitness-plateau woes.
This high-intensity workout method is all about quick, explosive movements that stretch a targeted muscle group before immediately (and quickly!) contracting that same muscle, NASM-certified personal trainer Theresa Swigert said.
The overall goal of plyo training is to exert the maximum amount of force or power in as short of an interval as possible, she added.
By incorporating this method into your fitness routine one to three times a week (since plyo is a high-intensity workout, any more could put you at risk of an overuse injury), you're opening yourself up to a diverse set of benefits.
Want to improve your speed and reaction time? Swigert said that the explosive nature of plyo training does just that.
Plus, you can increase your power output thanks to the force required to execute plyo movements. The result: eventually upgrading your weightlifting sessions with small reps of heavier loads, she noted.
Improved endurance makes the pros list, too, thanks to increased strength in the muscles and cardiovascular system.
Swigert also mentioned that your resting metabolic rate can increase, as well; even in a resting state, your body continues to burn calories after your workout is complete.
As for the cons of plyo, Swigert said that there are no real disadvantages as long as you are injury-free, limit your sessions to accommodate adequate recovery between workouts, and are proficient with standard bodyweight movements.
In fact, Swigert said that plyo workouts can be beneficial for injury prevention.
"Most injuries occur from the body experiencing an unpredictable pattern or situation. Because plyo training involves generating, accepting, and redirecting power, the body is better capable of handling unpredictable patterns," Swigert said. "Additionally, plyo is unique in that many exercises involve generating power at a muscle's weakest point. Due to this, muscles gain strength at their weakest point, which is excellent for preventing injuries."
And if the words "jump training" and "high-intensity" still have you concerned for your joint health, Swigert wants you to know that there are still benefits to modifying plyo movements by removing impact.
She used jump squats as an example: by explosively lifting from the squat position to the toes instead of jumping, you can still generate more power and elevate the heart rate more than a standard air squat.
Swigert's rule of thumb for beginners is to remove the explosive element from any plyo exercise you are going to do and check for pain — if you experience discomfort, you shouldn't continue with the high-impact modification.
For example, Swigert said, "jump lunges should only be performed when a standard reverse lunge can be executed while keeping the front foot flat to the ground, the chest lifted, and no pain in the knees."
Intrigued? Ahead, Swigert shared two exercises to exemplify how this fitness method works and possibly start you on your plyo training journey.
Standing Broad Jump
Targeting your glutes and hamstrings — which Swigert said are commonly weaker muscle groups for those who spend a lot of their day seated in a chair — is easy thanks to standing broad jumps.
- Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Drive your hips back and tip your chest forward before explosively driving your hips forward and jumping as far as you can while landing softly.
According to Swigert, depth jumps are designed to increase your vertical jump height.
- Begin standing on a box.
- Drop off the box, absorb the impact briefly, and aim to jump immediately back on the box as quickly as possible.
- This move can be progressed easily by starting on a low box and increasing box height over time.