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!


  • 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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