Plyometric Workouts & Drills for Cardio & Strength Training
Originally designed to aid world-class athletes in training for the Olympics, plyometrics utilize jump training to increase a muscle's capacity to perform explosive moves. A plyometric workout consists of motions that aim to rapidly stretch and then shorten a muscle. Therefore, plyometric drills employ hopping and jumping exercises to help increase the speed and power of both lateral and vertical movements. Although many plyometric workouts and drills are used to train elite athletes from a wide array of sports, it can also be an important part of a normal person’s overall cardio and strength training routine. However, beginners must be aware that many of the plyometric workouts require a more advanced degree of athletic and muscular ability. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor before considering a plyometrics program in addition to finding a suitable trainer who can walk you through the more difficult plyometric drills.
A plyometric workout can help improve a person’s vertical leap, leg strength, acceleration, balance, and agility. Plyometric drills help strengthen muscles, while simultaneously decrease stress on the joints. Studies done by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine have shown that plyometrics can reduce the risk of ACL injuries among younger female athletes who have a two to eight times higher chance of injury. Plyometrics is a relatively more advanced type of workout than other dynamic exercise routines. Those with poor cardiovascular conditioning or previous joint problems may want to stay away from these plyometric drills until they have received a stamp of approval from a certified sports medicine doctor. For those who are in good physical condition but are apprehensive to start a plyometric workout program on their own should seek the assistance from an experienced plyometric instructor.
When I first began plyometric training in high school, I was lucky to receive instruction from my football/wrestling coach who had been teaching proper jumping and landing techniques for years. Although I was in good physical condition prior to my enrollment in the program, there is no way I would have gotten the most out of every plyometric drill if my instructor wasn't there to guide me through the more difficult exercises. With a plyometric workout, quality is everything. Five perfect repetitions is more effective than fifteen sub-par ones.
The mainstay in all plyometric workout programs are jumping exercises. Whether you are a beginner or a certified instructor, leaping and hopping plyometric drills will always be present. One can separate plyometric drills by lower and upper body exercises.
Lower Body Plyometric Workout
Drop Jumping- One of the most commonly practiced plyometric drills is drop jumping. The person starts by standing on a raised platform or box by balancing on the balls of the feet and heels slightly off of the platform. The height of the box should be determined by the person’s individual skill level and experience. The drill continues with dropping to the ground, landing on the balls on the feet, and immediately jumping back onto the platform in the same position you started from. The key is to be on the ground for the least amount of time possible, without losing one's perfect form in the process.
Bounding/Hurdling- Bounding is a great plyometric workout to increase one's straight line speed and explosion. Bounding comes in the form of one, or two legged hops that may be done on top of a row of boxes, or on a flight of stairs if the focus of the plyometric drill is more towards vertical leap. When a person becomes more advanced, they can employ multiple jumps through a set of obstacles to mimic movements during a particular sport. Box jumps, long jumps, and hurdle jumps are all examples of multiple jump plyometric drills.
Lower Body Plyometric Workout
Push-Ups with Hand Claps- In accordance with the rest of the plyometric drills, push ups with a hand clap in between stresses explosion to strengthen the muscles. Just as in the drop jump, this plyometric workout is best served when contact with the ground is at a minimum.
Medicine Ball- There are many different plyometric drills that utilize the medicine ball effectively. Form is always the most important aspect of plyometrics so make sure you choose a medicine ball for your physical level. The medicine ball is key for plyometric workouts such as chops, throws, and twist throws. Chops are a great method for improving one's balance as the core muscles are mainly targeted. The abdominals are forced to work to balance the movement of the medicine ball around your body. Throws and twist throws require a partner for most of the exercises. One of the best plyometric drills to improve chest explosion is the lying chest throw. While one partner is lying on the ground, the other is standing over them at the head. The medicine ball is dropped from the outstretched arms of the standing partner aimed at the others middle chest. As the lying down partner catches the ball, they must bring it down to their chest and quickly explode back up throwing the ball as high as possible with keeping sound form.
As one becomes more accustomed to the plyometric workout, more advanced techniques can be introduced using other objects such as ropes and tires to stress explosion. Always remember to properly warm up because of the somewhat unorthodox movements you will be forced to complete. Additionally, do not over-do the plyometric workout and allow for at least a minute of rest between each exercise. Plyometrics is a method that can unleash any athletes potential, but you cannot take any short cuts. Landing as quietly as possible and keeping perfect form are two edicts that should always be in the back of your mind while performing plyometric drills.
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