It’s simple: “If you want to look like an athlete, train like one,” says Neal Pire, top US coach and author of Plyometrics For Athletes At All Levels (Ulysses Press). “Plyometric workouts take resistance training up a notch, develop explosive athleticism and make your heart rate zoom with anaerobic movements.” No wonder everyone from Olympic athletes to Premier League footballers use jump training in their programmes.
But why fit it into yours? “It’s a multi-joint, fun way of training,” says Simon White of Nordic Balance. “It improves core stability, and your muscles have to respond explosively, which raises your heart rate and stimulates the fast-twitch muscle fibres, crucial for muscle growth.”
Plyometrics sessions also aid form and technique for other sports. “You’ll see improvements in your jumping and throwing capabilities, your power output and a lengthened stride and improved times for running,” says White.
Want to look buff and set PBs? “Add a ‘plyometric day’ once or twice a week,” says Pire. “The jumps here target your core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, arms and chest, and shift from up and down, to lateral [side-to-side], and from bilateral to unilateral [two feet to single-foot] impacts.” Do it for about 30 minutes, but listen to your body. “Drills should last for up to 20 seconds, with one or two minutes’ rest,” says White. Deep breath…
1. Squat jumps
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind your head. Squat, then jump up explosively. Land as softly as possible by absorbing the load with the front half of your feet. Lower back into the squat position and repeat.
2. Slalom jumps
Find or imagine a line on the ground, and start with both feet together on one side of the line. Quickly jump with both feet and land on the other side of the line. Repeat.
3. Plyo press-ups
Get into a push-up position on a mat. Push up hard, so your hands catch some air. When you hit the floor, push up again, hard. Repeat.
4. Alternating jump lunges
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Step back with the left foot in a lunge position. Jump, switching legs mid-air so the opposite foot is in front when you land. Repeat.
5. Speed skaters
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hop to the right, landing on your right foot, sweeping your left foot diagonally behind your right leg, left arm across your body, right arm behind. Jump left, switch legs and arms. Repeat.