Usually when I meet up with trainer Cathy she asks me what, if anything, I’d like to focus on for that workout.
My answer is always the same – plyometrics.
I absolutely love doing plyo. There’s just something about that ability to use explosive energy to move yourself higher, faster, further that I find strangely satisfying.
Traditional cardio is my biggest downfall so I try to use active rest during my strength training (between sets) as a way to keep my heart rate up and get quality cardio in without the unhappiness that I generally find associated with sitting on a bike for an hour or running 5K. A lot of people are afraid of plyometrics though, or they don’t know where to begin. Most people know of a jump squat and a jump lunge, both effective, but doing them over and over again can get boring. There’s so much more to plyometrics that people can take advantage of to really ramp up their workout! Here’s a little Plyometrics 101 for those who might be curious about taking the leap… literally.
Plyometrics comes from the Greek word “pleythyein” (to augment or increase). American track coach Fred Wilt coined the word in 1975. Based from the Latin root words “plio” (more) and “metric” (to measure). The purpose of plyometrics is to train speed-based power. Almost everyone has done plyometrics at some point in their life, it’s the basis of running, skipping, throwing and jumping. This isn’t to be confused with power training – one single jump onto a high box doesn’t constitute plyometrics. It’s when you jump off the box, immediately load the muscle and go back into the stretch as you jump again that qualifies it. Speed does trump power. It’s a good idea to have a foundation in weight training before trying some of these moves. The cardio-only types might find it a bit too challenging starting out.
Here’s some terminology you might come across when exploring different types of plyo:
Jump – when you land with both feet
Hop – take off and landing on the same foot
Bound – take off on one foot, land on the other
Hurdle – jump up and over an object
Don’t forget your upper body either! Though more challenging, there’s lots of great options for plyometric exercises for your arms and chest. (Clap pushups, anyone?)
I find a great way to always keep your plyometric exercises different is by making a deck of plyo cards or purchasing the plyometrics deck of FitDeck cards.
If you’re going to make your own, make a list of plyo exercises with a mix of speed, agility and footwork, (you can find all sorts of examples on bodybuilding.com, just click plyometrics on the filter) then flip three cards, add them up and do that many.
Plyometrics doesn’t just keep your heart rate up between sets either, it’s also a great fat burner! I often include plyo in the strength and conditioning class I teach and my “students” don’t dread anything more!
As motivation I often quote fitness great Jamie Eason, “By hitting both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, these moves also will stoke your fat-burning furnace. Picture the marbling in a steak. Our bodies have intra-muscular fat like that. Plyometric exercises help “squeeze” the fat from those areas.”
Somehow that always works at getting another couple of reps in spite of the burning muscle pain! 😛