Are you dreading yet another leg session in the gym full of nothing but hack squats, leg presses, and leg curls? Do you feel like you training is stagnant and not progressing? Perhaps you’ve reached the dreaded “plateau” and can’t increase your weight or reps on more on your back squat.
This is a common scenario with people who fall into a rut in the gym of doing the same old exercises using the same tired old program they learned back in high school from their gym coach. But, try to think back a few years before you found out about lifting weights.
Remember the fun you had as a kid, running, hopping, skipping, bounding, and jumping around the playground? IT WAS A BLAST!
It was just you and whatever obstacles you could jump over or around. Little did you know back then that you were working your leg muscles in an extremely effective manner. All of this jumping around mimics exercises you do with plyometrics!
Read on to see what they are and how they can take your legs to new levels of size and strength!
What are Plyometrics?
Plyometrics (“plyos,” for short) is also known as “jump training.” Plyometrics were originally developed as an athletic training technique for Olympic athletes that needed to increase their explosive power. In recent years, it has become an incredibly popular workout for people of all ages and skill levels.
Most strength training exercises you do movements that are slow and controlled designed to increase strength and muscle size. Plyometrics, however, consist of quick, explosive movements intended to make you faster and more powerful.
Consider a traditional strength exercise, the squat. When you perform it, you bend your knees to squat (shortening the muscle) and then stand back up (lengthening the muscle), all done in a rather slow, drawn out manner. The goal of plyometric exercises is to limit the amount of time between the shortening and lengthening of the muscle. This is based on the idea that decreasing the time between the two movements, you become faster and more powerful.
In the squat example, the plyometric equivalent would be a squat jump where you quickly drop into a squat and then jump up as hard and quick as you can instead of standing back up. This tidbit is extremely important to remember and is essential to successful plyometric training.
How do Plyometrics Work?
The key training principle behind plyometrics is a term called rapid force development. Take our squat jump example again. Every time you land from one jump, you must immediately generate more force to jump again. Doing this repeatedly, you overload the muscles of your leg and build explosive power and strength.
Benefits of Plyometrics
For the majority of individuals, plyos are a great way to exercise as it offers both high intensity moves and low intensity moves. Just because you aren’t an elite Olympic Track and Field athlete doesn’t mean you can reap some of the same benefits that plyometric training has to offer. Plyometrics offer techniques that you can use in a variety sports and other activities including:
- Better athletic performance
- Increased muscular power and strength
- Improved coordination and agility
- Lean mass gains
- Increased fat loss
- Higher resting metabolic rate
How to incorporate them into your training?
There are several ways to use plyometric training in your workout routine. Here are a few options:
Insert them into your current routine
At the beginning or end of your workout, add a quick plyometrics section. Do this by making a circuit that utilizes only plyometrics. Remember to keep the rep ranges low so technique can be emphasized and you won’t be too fatigued for your heavy lifting sets. This will also provide a great way to get your central nervous system (CNS) churning ahead of the more intense lifting to follow.
Use contrasting sets
If you want to shock your muscles into overfiring, use contrasting sets. This is done by first doing a regular lifting set (squats for example), immediately followed by its unweighted plyometric equivalent (squat jump). This is a rather unique way to “trick” the muscles. During the set of jump squats, the leg muscles will still react as though they still have to move the heavier weight from the back squat!
Make them a separate workout
Tired of slogging away on the treadmill or bike? Substitute these boring forms of steady-state cardio for an intense plyometrics workout. This is a form of interval training and will yield plenty of metabolic stress and aid in burning fat! To keep your heart rate up, keep breaks between sets to no more than 60 seconds.
There are many great benefits in regards to plyometric training: increased strength, endurance, weight loss, and no need to buy any extra equipment to do them. As with any workout routines, plyometrics is not meant for everyone. If you have a history of knee, ankle, or back problems, this may not be the workout for you.
If you are free of these ailments, plyos offer a fun alternative to everyday strength-weight lifting that can be just what you need to break through a plateau or a stale workout regimen. Either do a workout solely made of plyometrics, or incorporate some plyo moves into your current routine to “test the waters.” Either way, be sure to make them a part of your workouts and be on your way to new size and strength gains!
Stick around next week when we go into the various types of plyometrics exercises and some of our favorite moves!
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