Plyometric exercises are a great way to increase muscle power. Incorporating them into your workout routine can help you jump higher and execute movements faster. However, they can be tough on your joints, ligaments and tendons. If performed incorrectly or under improper conditions, they are a recipe for injury. Below are some key factors to consider before starting a plyometric training routine.
What are plyometric exercises
Plyometric exercises are quick and powerful movements in which your muscles exert maximal force and effort in short bursts. To perform a plyometric movement, you move from the eccentric (muscle lengthening) to the concentric (muscle shortening) phase very quickly. Examples of plyometric exercises include squat jumps, tuck jumps, jumping lunges, box jumps, bounding, hopping and clap push ups.
Build base strength, speed and balance first
Before adding plyometric training into your workout routine, it is important to build a base level of strength, speed and balance first. For example, before commencing lower body plyometric exercises, it is advisable to have a solid base of squat strength and speed and the ability to balance on one leg. All it takes is one off-balance landing from a jumping lunge to injure your knee or roll your ankle.
Also be wary of group exercise and HIIT classes that incorporate plyometrics like tuck jumps without proper instruction on lower impact options. If you are relatively new to exercise, it is wise to perfect the basic air squat before moving on to jumping squats, and perfect jumping squats before progressing to tuck jumps.
Warm up properly
Once you are ready to start plyometric training, it is important to ensure you are properly warmed up. A basic warm up should include some sort of cardiovascular activity to get your body warm and dynamic stretching in patterns that mimic the movements you are about to undertake.
Keep this in mind if you are taking part in group fitness circuit classes, which often do not include an adequate warm up. If this is the case, it can be a good idea to take the lower impact option for the first round to ensure you are properly warmed up before attempting the plyometric option in subsequent rounds.
Focus on technique
Plyometric exercises must be performed with proper technique. This goes for any sort of exercise, but the risk of injury is increased with plyometrics. The landing phase of a plyometric movement is often where failure occurs, particularly as we start to fatigue and lose mental focus. Focusing on a soft landing should always be front of mind.