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What Are Plyometrics and Should You Be Doing Them More?

It seems as though there’s a new fitness trend to follow every day, and that trend is going to change your life — cue eye roll.

Most of the time, these trends are just as ephemeral as they appear. Meanwhile, foundational exercises that have stood the test of time lose their luster next to these “cool” workout moves and classes.

And, within that seemingly old school list of workouts, you will find plyometrics. This tried-and-true exercise method doesn’t always get the attention it deserves…probably because no one even knows what “plyometrics” means. We’ll start there.

What Are Plyometrics?

Plyometrics is basically a grown-up version of everything you used to do on the playground — hopping, skipping, jumping — all those air-centric activities fall into the category of plyometrics. Since you probably don’t want to be hopping and skipping around the gym, let’s cover the adult way of performing a plyometric workout.

Plyometrics, or jump training, will have you doing just that: jumping. Jumping up and down into squats or up and onto a weight-training bench are two examples of plyometrics moves. Obviously, these moves can steer you into a high-intensity category, so plyometrics aren’t a workout to take part in every single day.

They’re also not the right option if you need a low-impact routine for your knees, for example.  Jumping up and down is not so easy on the joints.

What Are They Good For?

Plyometrics are a hard workout, but great effort equals great rewards. It’s a particularly effective way to strengthen your legs and glutes — all that jumping has to pay off in the lower half of your body, right?

You’ll want to add in some upper body moves outside of your plyometric workout if you’re looking to tone your arms, back or core since plyometrics don’t typically incorporate those areas of the body.

To that end, your plyometrics workout will get your heart racing since you’re hopping all over the gym. But alongside the major cardio blast, your plyometrics routine will build strength in your lower body muscles, improve your speed and agility, and give you wayyy more power — it takes that real, explosive power to fire you up and down and up and down.

Surprisingly, plyometrics workouts also increase your flexibility, as your muscles have to stretch as you jump and land. This is great news, considering the many benefits of having a more flexible frame.

Finally, plyometrics are a very flexible — pun intended — option if you don’t have the convenience of or time for regular gym visits. You can do jumping squats, push-ups and lunges anywhere, whether you’re in a park, your living room or a hotel room. You can also get creative and use a park bench for box jumps, for example.

Are There Any Catches?

The benefits of a plyometric routine are clear: you can do it anywhere, it’s challenging and it seriously revs up your cardio strength, power, agility and flexibility. However, the fact that plyometrics are so intense can mean the routine won’t suit everyone.

If you’re already exercising, you can probably slide into a plyometric routine without too much of a transition. Sure, it’ll be tough, but you won’t find yourself unable to complete your workouts. On the other hand, if you’re new to the gym and to a fitness routine, build up stamina and strength before diving in a plyometric program.

No matter what, it’s a great idea to sign up for a personal training session or plyometrics class to learn the right form for your moves. Doing so will safeguard you against injuries that can happen when you land incorrectly, for example.

If you can’t afford or don’t have access to a trainer, start at a slow plyometric pace and work up to a full-on, heart-pounding workout. You can even fold a few moves into your existing routine and build up that way, too.

If you have a health condition, check with your doctor before embarking on a plyometric routine. Those with high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol might not want to do something so cardiovascular-ly intense. Instead, opt for a lower-impact routine like swimming for your cardio.

Another health condition that doesn’t go well with plyometrics: arthritis. You can probably guess why. Jumping up and down won’t feel good on already achy joints. Pregnant women should also avoid plyometrics when they feel as though their belly has them off balance. Plus, pregnancy already puts stress on your joints, so jumping won’t help that feel any better.

So… Should I Be Doing Plyometrics?

To recap:

If you’re looking to burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, boost flexibility and strength and increase your agility, then a plyometric routine will achieve all four of those goals.

You should work your way up to a high-intensity plyometric program if you’re not already exercising. A trainer can help you master the moves to avoid injury. You can add them to your existing routine until you’re ready for a full-blown plyometric workout.

Reconsider your plyometric program if you suffer from heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis or if you are pregnant.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether to give plyometrics a try. Go on then — jump right in and see if this up-and-down workout is right for you.

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