Do you include plyometric exercises in your fitness routine? If not, you’re missing out on some powerful fitness benefits. Plyometric training helps build explosive muscle strength and power. Plus, research shows regular plyometric sessions involving the lower body can increase your vertical jump height. Plyo movements also build explosive power, and explosiveness will help you perform better when you sprint, jump, or throw. That’s crucial if you play certain sports.
With the obvious benefits, it’s not surprising that many coaches include plyometric training in athletic training programs. Some of the most popular plyometric exercises include jump squats, skaters, tuck jumps, depth jumps, and box or platform jumps, and these exercises improve exercise performance.
You might think plyometrics are mainly for the lower body, but plyo movements that target the upper body, such as plyo push-ups or medicine ball slams against a wall, will help you throw with greater force and help you increase the velocity with which you throw a ball or swing a racket. This comes in handy if you play baseball, tennis, or any sport that requires throwing. For any of these activities, upper body plyometrics can improve your performance.
The 3 Phases of a Plyometric Movement
Now that you know why you need plyometrics and the results you can expect from doing this type of training, you might wonder why they’re so effective at building explosive power. It all comes down to storing and releasing energy. You can divide a plyometric movement into three phases. Looking at each one will give you a better understanding of how plyometrics improves explosiveness and power. Let’s look at each one.
The eccentric phase is the pre-stretch phase of a plyometric exercise. During the pre-stretch, your muscles and tendons store energy they will eventually release in the third phase of a plyometric movement. Think of a jumper as they lower their body toward the ground before propelling their body into the air. During the lowering phase, they’re storing energy they will release shortly.
The amortization phase is where the muscles that stored energy in the eccentric phase stabilize. The muscle has stored energy, and it’s waiting to be released, but you don’t want to prolong the amortization phase, as delaying the release of stored energy too long can cause the muscle to lose some of its potential energy, reducing the explosive force you can generate.
The concentric phase is the phase where you release the stored energy generated during the eccentric phase and stabilized during the amortization phase. During the concentric or “release” phase, you liberate the energy your muscles and tendons stored during the eccentric phase. That’s how a basketball player can jump so high into the air; they’re releasing stored energy explosively. The amount of energy released depends on how much was initially stored during the eccentric phase and this varies with how quickly you stretched the muscle, the magnitude of the stretch, and how long you held the stretch for.
Other Benefits of Plyometric Exercises
Now you know how plyometrics make you more explosive and enhance how high you can jump, but they have other benefits too. Most plyometric movements, like jump squats and platform jumps, are high-impact exercises where both feet leave the ground at the same time. The force of landing stimulates bone cells called osteoblasts to lay down new bone tissue. That’s important for building and maintaining bone density.
Another benefit of plyometrics that many people don’t think about is better flexibility. During the eccentric phase, your muscles stretch to store energy and then release the energy. This type of stretching can improve flexibility.
The stretching, stabilization, and release of energy that takes place when you do a plyometric movement also teaches you how to maintain better control over your body and your movements. So, they help with the functional movements you do every day and with sports activities.
Finally, there’s some evidence that plyometric training reduces the risk of anterior cruciate ligament injuries to the knees. By increasing the connection between the nerves and the muscles, lower body plyometric movements reduce stress on the anterior cruciate ligaments and that’s healthier for your knees.
The Bottom Line
Now you know what plyometrics can do for you and how they work their magic. Why not add some to your own routine? Include lower body plyometric movements that require jumping but also upper body plyo exercises, like plyo push-ups and medicine ball slams. When you do lower body exercises, focus on landing softly on your feet to reduce the impact on your joints. Get the mechanics right and plyometrics will go far toward building your fitness level.
Begin by building up a baseline level of strength through resistance training before introducing simple plyometric movements, like jump squats or lateral skater jumps. Once you’re comfortable with these movements, you can try more advanced movements like jumping onto a platform. Avoid doing plyometrics if you’re had a recent injury or have joint instability. You should also check with your doctor before doing them if you have significant knee arthritis or osteoporosis.
Also, don’t do plyometric movements every day because of the high-impact nature of the movements. Your muscles and joints need time to recover after a high-impact workout. You can get benefits by doing them only twice per week. Are you ready to get started?
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