Plyometric Exercises

by Christine on May 17th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

Plyometrics is great for endurance and strength!What are plyometric exercises?

Okay all you Biggest Loser fans – you know how every season Bob and Jillian make their contestants jump onto the top of the (ungodly high) black step stool?  That short, furious burst of energy used to fuel that (super-scary) jump is called a plyometric exercise.

Actually, plyometric exercises are a high-intensity training technique designed to produce fast, powerful movements. The most common plyometric exercises are hops, jumps, and bouncing movements.   Plyometrics can help build strength, endurance, speed, and muscle.

Plyometric exercise are also terrific plateau-busters. If you are stuck in a weight-loss stallmate, consider taking up a plyometric exercise routine for a week, or check out a high-intensity interval training exercise (CLICK HERE for more information).

How do I get started using plyometric exercises?

Clap pushups

  • This is pretty self-explanatory. Do a regular pushup, but at the top you launch yourself into the air, clapping your hands underneath you.

Box Jumps

  • Just like in the Biggest Loser, stand behind a box or stepping stool set to the desired height. Swinging your arms and bending your knees, jump onto the stool.  Keep your knees bent when you land. Step down and repeat.
  • You can also do this same exercise by jumping onto the 2nd step on a stairwell.  This is a good at-home alternative if you do not have a safe box or stool to use.
  • You can increase the intensity by holding onto freeweights in each hand.
  • You can increase the intensity by increasing the height of the box or stool.

Vertical Box Jumps

  • Stand behind a box or stool, as in the exercise above.  Put your right foot on the box.  Shift your weight forward, onto that right foot, and use that right leg to launch yourself into the air. Land in the same position as you started. Switch starting legs and repeat.

Lateral Bounds

  • Standing in “ready” position (knees bent, arms parallel in front of your like you’re holding downhill ski poles), jump to the side as far as you can, landing softly on your leading foot. Keep your knee bent and supple. Straighten yourself and regain your balance. Repeat by bounding onto your other foot. Repeat.
  • A variation of the lateral bound is to move at a 45 degree angle to the side. (If you are facing due “north” and if you jump due “east” in a typical lateral bound, then this would have you jumping “northeast.”
  • You can increase the intensity of this by adding freeweights in each hand.

Burpee Variation #1

  • Start by standing tall then drop to your hands in front of you in push-up form. Stand up as quickly as you can. Make sure that you don’t drop your knees and bang them on the floor. Make sure you land with your elbows bent.

Burpee Variation #2

  • Star t by standing upright, feet together, hands in the air by your ears. Bend down, and jump your feet backwards so that you are in plank position. Jump your feet up inbetween your hands again. Stand up into starting position. Repeat.

Mountain Climber

  • Get down into plank position.  Jump your right foot up in between your hands.  Now jump it back to start, but at the same time jump your left foot up in between your hands. Keep your butt down for an increased intensity.

Jump Rope

  • That’s it. Just jump rope. Any variation of jump-roping is a form of plyometric exercise.  No need for a description here!

Jump-Lunges

  • Starting by standing with both feet together. Jump forward onto right hand foot (your left leg should be off the ground), lunging down into a deep lunge on the right leg.  Step backwards to starting position. Repeat on your left leg.
  • You can increase this exercise by holding freeweights at shoulder-height.

Tuck Jumps

  • Start with feet together, knees comfortably bent, arms in front of you. Swinging your arms to help with momentum, jump as high as you can, and tuck your feet under you (kick yourself in the butt if you must!). When you land, your knees should be supple and bent.
  • Add freeweights for an added intensity.

How safe are plyometric exercises?

There are varying opinions in the sports medicine fields about whether plyometrics are safe or not. The American College of Sports Medicine states that “plyometric training is safe, beneficial and fun activity for children and adolescents provided that the program is properly designed and supervised.” The American Council on Fitness and the National Strength and Conditioning Association are also in favor of plyometric exercise.

That being said, there is risk for injury if you don’t follow certain safety precautions. I wince every time those Biggest Loser trainers make their trainees make that leap onto that high pedestal. The most important is creating a safe landing technique.  A safe technique should involve landing on the toes, rolling to the heels, and keeping your knees soft and supple. Avoid twisting or turning at the knee because this could cause your knee to sprain or pop out.

Before embarking on a plyometric exercise routine, it is recommended that you be able to squat 1.5 times your bodyweight in order to have strong enough knees to support plyometric jumping.

Videos to watch

Confused about my descriptions? Want more ideas? See what I’m talking about by watching these videos on Youtube:

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Interval Training – Blast Calories and Strengthen Your Heart!

by Christine on May 13th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

Interval Training Blasts Fat!High Intensity Interval Training (also called HIIT) is a type of exercise that involves bursts of high-intensity work followed by low-intensity work.  Alternating between high-energy and relatively lower-energy work strengthens your heart by repeatedly elevating the heart rate, slowing it, and repeating the process.   This type of workout can be used in any cardiovascular workout – jogging, cycling, stair-stepping, rowing, etc.  Anybody can do interval training, regardless of their exercise ability. It’s all about raising your heart rate, so the amount of exertion might differ from person-to-person, but anybody can do it.

If you’re stuck in a weight-loss plateau, adding a few interval workouts will help you blast through it.

Here’s some more geek information: During high intensity workout, the body’s anaerobic system users glycogen (energy) stored in the muscles to fuel the short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen, and the by-product is lactic acid. During high intensity workouts, the lactic acid builds, which means you enter an “oxygen debt.”  When you recover after this workout, your heart and lungs work together to replenish the oxygen deficiency and break down the lactic acid.  In this phase, the aerobic systems in your body take control, using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.  (This is why many athletes train in high-altitudes, such as in Colorado. By training in high altitudes they can increase the number of red blood cells, which helps them perform for a longer period of time with little or no fatigue throughout.)

This should sound like magic to your ears, readers!

Interval training has many benefits. It strengthens your heart, replenishes its supply of oxygen, increases your metabolism for 24 hours following your workout, improves your athletic performance, and may even help lower your risk for diabetes by improving insulin action.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high-intensity exercise.

A recent study of athletes following interval training exercise showed that interval training increased the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for the following 24 hours because of post-exercise oxygen consumption.  (Smith 2003) Studies have shown that interval training burns fat effectively and improves athletic performance.  For instance, a recent study showed an 8.2 second improvement in 2000m rowing following four weeks of interval training in well-trained rowers.  (Driller et al, 2009) Additionally, a study at Laval University in Quebec found that HITT cardio helped trainees lose NINE TIMES more fat than those who trained more traditionally (moderate speed for 20-60 minutes).  (bodybuilding.com)

Interval training is a training method used by long-distance runners, sprinters, and football players. In fact, intervals account for 50-75% of total training volume of most athletes.  I think the most common place I see athletes do interval training are in the images of boxers. Sure, they stand there and punch a bag. Then they go and jump rope for 2-3 minutes, then return to the punching bag. That’s interval training in action!

To be maximally effective, you should warm up, cycle through the high/low intensity six to ten times, and then follow the workout by a cool-down exercise.  Instead of measuring heart-rates, let’s use an intensity-scale. Assume 1=easy and 10=you’re going to fall over dead from exertion.  During the low-intensity interval you want to be at a five. During the high-intensity interval you want to be at a 7 or higher.

  • This is a great table that shows what your target heart rate should be during low- and high-intensity training.  (CLICK HERE)

Suggestions

Beginning exercisers:

  • If walking is the main crux of your exercise, you can still get intervals in.  Try walking briskly for two minutes, followed by one minute of skipping like a silly schoolgirl. The higher (more “air”) you can skip, the better. You may want to consider adding an ankle brace just for some extra support.  Repeat until your mile walk is done.
  • You can also elevate your heartrate by putting your hands over your head; this increases blood to your heart.  So another option would be would be walking briskly for two minutes followed by two minutes of brisk walking with your arms moving like you were doing jumping jacks.  You can add some light, 2-pound weights for a little extra gusto.

Intermediate exercisers:

  • Try 60 seconds of intense exercise followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8-12 cycles.  You can use this technique in any exercise (jogging, cycling, rowing, stair-stepping, etc).  Try to push yourself beyond Level 7 intensity and into the Level 8 realm.
  • Try jumping rope in between whatever your normal exercise is.  If you haven’t jumped rope as an adult, it’s going to surprise you, I promise.

Advanced exercisers:

To get the best bang for your buck out of interval training, you can change up four variables when designing your interval program:

  • Intensity (speed) of work interval
  • Duration (distance or time) of work interval
  • Duration of rest or recovery interval
  • Number of repetitions of each interval

You want to try to get to a maximal heart-rate during your high-intensity workout.  Try to aim for 85-100% heart rate reserve.

Sources

Smith TP, Coombes JS, Geraghty DP (2003). “Optimising high-intensity treadmill training using the running speed at maximal O(2) uptake and the time for which this can be maintained”. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 89 (3-4): 337–43. doi:10.1007/s00421-003-0806-6. PMID 12736843.

Driller, Matthew; Fell, James; Gregory, John; Shing, Cecilia and Williams, Andrew. (2009). The effects of high-intensity interval training in well-trained rowers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 4(1)IJSPP

BodyBuilding.com has a great article about incorporating HIIT training into your program, with tweaks for what your long-term goals are (weight loss, muscle-building, etc.) CLICK HERE.


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