Plyometric exercise – The hard-hitting workout you’ve forgotten about

If you’re on a weight loss journey at the moment, it’s inevitable that at some stage you’ll hit a plateau – whether it’s now, or in the future. When that happens, you need to up your exercise game – and plyometric exercises could be just what you need to do that.

They’re one of the most intense exercises in existence, and they’re what kept you supple as a child. But the sad reality is, you’ve probably not performed plyometric exercises since you hit your teens. That needs to change if you really want to lose weight and tone up!

What are plyometric exercises?

Think back to when you were a child in the school playground. Remember the jumping, hopping and skipping you did on a daily basis? Well, that’s pretty much what plyometric exercises are. It sounds so basic, but this kind of exercise is so intense, just 5 minutes can leave you feeling as exhausted as you would after a 30-minute run.

Plyometrics really are the forgotten holy grail of high intensity, fat burning exercise – and without a doubt, you should fit more into your life.

Unlike traditional exercises, plyometrics (or plyo’s for short) is a form of training that involves quick, explosive movements. It is common amongst speed athletes such as sprinters, however, everyone can do it – no gym required!

A Plyometric exercise routine can involve a mixture of jumps, skips and bounds in various directions, speed and depths, with pauses or continuous movements. You might use both legs or a single leg to make it more challenging.

The benefits

Due to the process involved in the extension and contraction of large muscle groups, and the nature of the exercise, there are several benefits to a plyometric workout, including:

  • The development of muscle strength, power and tone
  • The development of core strength (great for abs!)
  • The development of muscle stability and balance
  • The strengthening of tendons
  • The improvement of the neuromuscular system
  • The increase in heart rate so that you work at maximum intensity
  • The calorie burn (great for weight loss!)
  • The combination of both aerobic fitness and strength training

The 3 stages of plyometric exercises

A plyometric exercise involves three different phases:

1 The ‘eccentric phase’ – This is the lengthening of the muscle
2 The ‘amortization phase’ – A brief resting period
3 The ‘concentric phase’ – When the muscle shortens to produce an explosive movement

Getting started

We’ve developed a workout below that will give you the opportunity to get started with plyometric exercises. However, before you begin, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Although plyometrics is hugely beneficial to weight loss, it’s important not to perform these exercises every day because of the intensity.
  • You also need to remember that if you’ve not performed these exercises since you were a child, your body will be in shock until it gradually adapts to what is basically a new activity to it.
  • Your muscles will be sore, especially in the first week of undertaking this workout. This is called Delayed-Onset-Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which means micro tears. But don’t worry, this is normal! There are ways to treat DOMS, and one method is called rest. Yes, that’s correct, your body will need adequate rest to repair (take note; rest and proper nutrition is all part of getting into shape).
  • There are many different types of plyometric exercises and routines, and getting started can be confusing, so we’ve concentrated on exercises suitable for the complete newbie.
  • This 4-week workout plan takes into account rest, but also ‘active recovery’ and ‘cross-training’ sessions which will still enable you to workout, but take away the load and intensity of the main objective (plyometrics). The main reason for this is to allow the body to adapt and prevent the risk of injury.
  • It’s important to perform the plyometric routine on a soft surface such as grass. Take the exercises slow and focus on having full control. Also, if you’re not very active now, it may be a good idea to work on your basic fitness first to prevent injury. And like starting any new form of exercise, please consult your doctor or health professional before starting.
  • The workout includes 2 plyometric sessions, 2 active recovery sessions and 2 cross-training sessions per week; all of which will do wonders for your health. The sessions have been planned to give your body enough time to recover and be fresh again for the next training session. The end result should be a drastic transformation in your fitness and body fat levels by the end of the 4 week period.
  • Each plyometric session includes a warm-up, the exercises for that session, and a cool down. Each cross-training session includes the type of exercise, along with the ‘heart rate zone’. This is all explained in the next section.

Things to consider before you start

Before you start the workout plan, there are a few things you’ll need to know:

Active recovery, cross-training and heart rate zones.

Active recovery

Active recovery refers to a ‘less intensive workout’. In other words, on days where you’re performing active recovery workouts, you’ll be performing gentle exercises which are not as demanding on the body. This is the best way to promote recovery from the main exercise (in this case plyometrics), but still maintain your general fitness and higher metabolism at the same time.

Cross-training

Cross-training refers to another form of exercise in the regime, other than the plyometric exercises. In this plan, cross training will include exercises such as cycling, elliptical training and swimming.

Heart rate zones

Keeping an eye on your heart rate during workouts is a good way to track fitness and also ensure you’re not overdoing it.

The heart rate is measured in BPM (beats per minute). When exercising, the ‘working heart rate’ is set in ‘zones’, known as the ‘heart rate zone’, which is simply a range within which your heart beats per minute sit.

The heart rate will vary from person to person depending on their age and fitness level; however, the ranges are set to suit everyone

This workout has set heart rate zones for the active recovery/cross-training sessions; this is to ensure you don’t overdo it, as the plyometric sessions themselves will be intense.

Working out your maximum and resting heart rate

To work out the right zone for you, you need to do a little maths. This initially involves working out your HRmax (heart rate max) and HRrest (resting heart rate):

To find out your HRmax – Use the popular formula of 220 beats per minute minus your age. So if you’re 35, your HRmax will be 185bpm.

To find out your HRrest – You need to take this first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. You can do this by using a wearable device with an HR monitor, or alternatively, you can manually count your beats for a minute.

Using your HRmax and HRrest to work out correctly

This workout sets heart rate zones of 50-60% (very light) and 60-70% (light). The following example shows the heart rate zone for someone with HRmax of 185 and HRrest of 65.

Minus your HRrest from HRmax to get your heart rate reserve: 185 (HRmax) – 65 (HRrest) = 120

Calculate the percentage you’re aiming for, so in this case, it would either be 50- 60% or 60-70%. For example 50-60% of 120 = 60-72

Now add HRrest (65) to these figures, which will be: 127-137.

So in order to work with the heart rate zone of 50-60%, you should be aiming for 127-137 beats per minute.

Plyometrics reps and sets

The reps (repetition) and sets will gradually increase throughout the month. The reps mean how many times the jump or skip is performed and the set is how many times the whole lot of reps are performed. There is a 1-minute rest between each set.

For example: ‘Perform 8 jumps x 4 sets, with 1-minute rest between each set’ translates to performing 8 jumps, resting for 1 minute and repeating that another 3 times.

Warm up and cool down

Be sure to do the following before and after each exercise:

  • Warm up – 5-10 minutes jogging and an overall body stretch routine (holding each stretch for 10 seconds).
  • Cool down – 5-10 minutes jog down/walk and an overall body stretch routine. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

Hydration

Always ensure you have sufficient fluid before, during and after your workouts. Failing to do so will lead to underperformance at best, and dehydration at worst.

Calorie expenditure

How to calculate how many calories you burn during each workout depends on your weight and the activity. The following calculation will help you work out how many calories you have burnt after each workout:

Take the MET value for the exercise (as given below) and multiply it by your weight in kilograms. This will tell you how many calories you have burnt in 1 hour.

  • Cross training at 50 -60% MET: 3.0
  • Cross training at 60-70% MET 4.0
  • Swimming MET: 3.5
  • Plyometrics MET: 8.0

To work out how calories burnt in half an hour, divide that number by 2. Or for 15 minutes, divide by 4.

For example; For a person weighing 70 kg, the calorie expenditure for a 30-minute session would be 8.0 * 70 = 560 kcals/hour. Then 560/2 = 280 kcals

Introducing the 4-week plyometrics workout routine

Now you know how everything works, all that remains is to tell you which routine to follow. And here it is:

Week 1

Monday:

Cross training – bike or elliptical trainer – 30 – 40 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Tuesday:

Plyometrics –

Warm up

Skipping rope: 15 jumps x 5 sets.

Using a regular skipping rope, landing double footed, in a continuous motion.

Star jumps: 8 star jumps x 4 sets.

Bend your knees to get into a squat position and jump vertically as high as you can, extending your arms and legs out to the side. On landing, pause for a second and repeat until you finish the set.

Standing ankle jumps: 8 ankle jumps x 4 sets.

Stand with feet pointing forward, shoulder width apart. Keep the ankles stiff. Perform mini jumps (about an inch from the ground) landing on the balls of your feet. The jumps should be done in a continuous motion.

Burpees: 10 burpees x 4 sets.

Squat down to a depth that you’re comfortable with, placing your hands on the ground in front of you. Then, push both feet back, so you end up in an extended arm plank position. Hold this position for a few seconds. Quickly bring both feet forward, until your knees are to your chest, stand up and jump.

Cool down.

Wednesday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Thursday:

Cross-training: gentle swimming: 30 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Friday:

Plyometrics:

Warm up

Squat Jumps: 5 squat jumps x 4 sets.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down to a comfortable depth, with your back flat, hold for a few seconds and jump as high as possible, using the arms.

Jumping jack planks: 8 plank jumps x 4 sets.

Set yourself in an extended arm plank position, starting the feet together. Then extend both feet out laterally (as far as you can go) and back. Perform this exercise in a continuous motion.

Standing lunges with hops: 6 jump lunges x 4 sets.

Position yourself in a lunge position. Jump up, switching legs. Perform this exercise in a continuous motion.

Mountain Climbers: 12 climbers x 4 sets.

Get into an extended plank position. Pull one knee up and in toward your chest, take back and repeat with the other leg. This movement should be performed in fast continuous motion.

Cool down

Saturday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Sunday:

REST

Week 2:

Monday:

Cross training – Bike or elliptical trainer – 45 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Tuesday:

Plyometrics – Same instructions as week 1

Warm up

Skipping rope: 20 jumps x 5 sets.
Star jumps: 12 star jumps x 4 sets.
Standing ankle jumps: 12 ankle jumps x 4 sets.
Burpees: 15 burpees x 4 sets.

Cool down

Wednesday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Thursday:

Cross-training – Gentle swimming – 30 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Friday:

Plyometrics – Same instructions as week 1

Warm up

Squat Jumps: 10 squat jumps x 4 sets.
Jumping jack planks: 12 plank jumps x 4 sets.
Standing lunges with hops: 10 jump lunges x 4 sets.
Mountain Climbers: 20 climbers x 4 sets.

Cool down

Saturday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Sunday:

REST

Week 3:

Monday:

Cross training – Bike or elliptical trainer – 30 -40 minutes.

Heart rate zone 60 -70% of HRMAX.

Tuesday:

Plyometrics:

Warm up: 5-10 minutes jogging and an overall body stretch routine (holding each stretch for 10 seconds).

Skipping rope: 25 jumps x 5 sets.
Tuck Jumps: 6 tuck jumps x 4 sets.

Stand in a squat position, with your back flat to a depth that is comfortable. Then jump up, as high as you can go, swinging your arms forward and bringing your knees to your chest. Land firmly with both feet planted on the ground and hold for a few seconds before repeating.

Single leg jumps: 8 jumps (on each leg) x 3 sets.

Stand on one leg, with the leg slightly bent and the back flat. Hop upwards, swinging the arms and firmly land flat-footed. Hold for a few seconds and repeat until you have completed the reps on each leg. Swap legs.

Lateral Jumps: 8 lateral jumps x 4 sets. (8 on each side).

Keeping your back flat as you bend slightly forward, perform a small jump to the right. As you do, bring your left leg behind you and tap the ground. At the same time, bring your left arm in front of you. Then jump to the left, bringing your right leg behind you and your right arm in front of you. This should be a continuous movement. Repeat until you have completed the reps for the set.

Cool down

Wednesday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Thursday:

Cross-training – Swimming – 45 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Friday:

Plyometrics:

Warm up

Squat Jumps travelling: 6 jumps x 4 sets.

Take the same the stance as you would with the squat jump. But this time jump forward, land firmly on both feet, hold for a few seconds and repeat until you complete the set. Use the arms to swing forward.

Plank knee drives: 12 knee drives x 4 sets. (12 on each leg).

Get into a plank position, but with arms extended. Drive the knee to the chest as quickly as you can and then back, hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat on the other leg.

Jump lunges travelling: 8 jump lunges x 4 sets.

Position yourself in a lunge position, then jump up and lunge forward, travelling. Swing the opposite arm with the opposite leg. On landing, hold this position for a few seconds and repeat.

Power Skipping: 6 power skipping x 4

Perform a regular skip, but jump and lift your knee as high as you can. Firmly land with feet flat on the ground. Perform this exercise in a continuous motion.

Cool down

Saturday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Sunday:

REST

Week 4:

Monday:

Cross training – Bike or elliptical trainer – 45 minutes.

Heart rate zone 60 -70% of HRMAX.

Tuesday:

Plyometrics:

Warm up

Skipping rope: 30 jumps x 5 sets.
Tuck Jumps: 8 tuck jumps x 4 sets.
Single leg jumps: 12 jumps on each calf x 3 sets.
Lateral Jumps: 12 lateral jumps x 4 sets.

Cool down

Wednesday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Thursday:

Swimming – 45 minutes.

Heart rate zone 50 -60% of HRMAX.

Friday:

Plyometrics:

Warm up

Squat jumps travelling: 8 jumps x 4 sets.
Plank knee drives: 16 plank drives x 4 sets.
Jump lunges travelling: 10 jump lunges x 4 sets.
Power skipping: 8 power skipping x 4 sets.

Cool down

Saturday:

Active recovery – Yoga

Sunday:

REST

What are you waiting for?

This type of workout has been used for many years, and every person who has tried it has had impressive results and enjoyed it! It’s a great way to break out from your regular routine so please have a go and have fun!

Good luck!

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