Pliometrics is very popular now. It is often included into workout programs, it is mentioned in various articles and it is being widely discussed nowadays.
Despite the whole 'new and popular fitness current' fusion about it overseas, this type of physical activity was born in the USSR and was called 'impact method'. This method was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky, the professor who used it for training track-and-field athletes at the beginning of 1980s. Then Americans invented a new name for it and spread the slightly changed methods of training into public. Throughout the whole process of popularization and adaptation the basic idea of the method got blurred and it earned a wider meaning. In the modern interpretation any exercises containing jumping are meant by pliometrics.
Why is pliometrics so popular today and is it worth adding its elements into your workout routine?
The original idea of pliometric exercises was developing the explosive power which is a capability of performing a large effort in a short period of time. The main exercise in the method was a spring down (jumping down from a box, instant impulse jumping from the earth surface in order to jump up on another box). This exercise is considered the most effective one for the power development, as well as one of the hardest exercises in the method.
But in the modern version there are plenty of other exercises in pliometrics which do not require such efforts and any specialized training.
What does pliometrics give to you?
1. It develops one's explosive power (muscular power). It especially applies to the lower body part.
2. It develops one's coordination.
3. It improves one's agility.
4. It helps to burn calories and speed up one's metabolism.
5. It improves one's neuromuscular proprioceptive sense (the body perception).
6. It stimulates quickly-contracting muscle fiber which is responsible for the power and which is susceptible to hypertrophy (growth).
7. It strengthens stabilizer muscles if those are not developed enough which lowers the risk of getting injured.
Pliometric exercises are usually performed by athletes aiming for certain tasks (runners, boxers, football and basketball players, etc.), as well as by those passionate about functional currents in fitness like crossfit. But they can and they should be used by all wishing to improve their physical condition, to speed up their metabolism, to burn some extra fat. If at least one goal of those stated above is on your list, you may start actively jumping on your workouts. Not only will it add intensity to your training, but some variety as well.
Like any other exercises, jumping requires strict rule obeying in order to avoid getting injured. As muscles and ligaments can get extremely loaded and cardiovascular system can get stretched to its limit, you should consider the following factors:
Adequate physical development. Exercises require some certain power and endurance. You should be physically well-prepared and practice regular weight and cardio training. If you are a beginner, you may start with some easy exercises and a small number of repeats and then increase them gradually.
If you wish to start practicing regular pliometrics training in separate days when resting from weight training, you should be fresh and well-recovered. Avoid having jumping workouts more than twice a week.
This type of training is prohibited for those having issues with joints, spine, and cardiovascular system. Please consult your doctor before trying.
Wear comfortable shoes, preferably running shoes of high quality.
Study the proper technique of exercise performing. Even a slightest mistake can be costly for your health. Be extremely careful. If you feel any kind of discomfort or pain, you should stop performing and find out the reason.
Make sure you warm up properly before a pliometric workout. You should get all warmed-up and stretched for the training.
Start with easier exercises and then complex them gradually.
Add supportive supplements to your nutrition plan, as such type of training gives huge loads on your joints and ligaments. And never forget about rich well-balanced nutrition and enough amount of water.
Can this type of training be useful personally for you? As scientific research and practice show, it will be useful for everyone. But due to some individual circumstances only you can say for sure whether to try them or not.
Here are a couple of words about the exercises.
There are plenty of such exercises. You can find the huge variety of videos and description on the Internet. Links to some of those are given here in the videos listed below. All those movements are basically known for all of us starting with our childhood when jumping, crawling and other type of activity were common for us. Among the basic exercises there are high jumps with different leg position and different altitude, long jumps, one-leg jumps, alternate one-leg jumps, pushups with a jump, box jumps, etc.
An example of a full pliometrics workout
Rope jumps – 2 minutes
Jumping lunges – 30 repeats
Squat jumps – 30 repeats
Plie jumps – 30 repeats
(starting at 1:00)
Box jumps – 20 repeats
Technique description: you can use a step-platform to begin with, so it would not be as high. Squat a little and push your body up before jumping. Land on full feet, keep your knees bent. Breathe out on exertion only.
Rope jumps – 1.5 minutes
Jumping lunges – 25 repeats
Squat jumps – 25 repeats
Plie jumps – 25 repeats
Jumps on a bench or on a box – 15 repeats
Rope jumps – 1 minute
Jumping lunges – 20 repeats
Squat jumps – 20 repeats
Plie jumps – 20 repeats
Jumps on a bench or on a box – 10 repeats
You can add more rounds when it starts getting easy. You can also finish your regular workout with one or two such rounds.