Re-discovering the Joys of ‘Spring’
If you’re currently working out at home during lockdown to to stay fit, adding some simple plyometric exercises into the mix is a great way of keeping things interesting. The controlled, explosive movement involved in these exercises also factors in balance, reaction time and co-ordination to keep your mind engaged.
Plyometrics are exercises that involve rapid stretching and contracting of the muscles to exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (i.e. both strength and speed). Anyone who remembers the liberation of hopping, skipping and jumping for seemingly hours on end as a child will enjoy rekindling some youthful spring in their step here!
Here are three simple plyometric exercises to mix into your workouts. The great thing is, none of them require any equipment. Thoroughly warm up before you try these exercises and always stack them towards the start of your workout to minimise the risk of injury through fatigue. For the jump exercises, do these on a soft surface to begin with (grass, carpet or foam exercise mats are ideal) and don’t overcook the height of your jumps until you get a feel for the technique and the effect on your body. These can easily cause impact injuries if approached in an overly enthusiastic fashion!
Any set of stairs – indoor or outdoor – will do, but ideally start with an indoor, carpeted, straight staircase. This will be kinder to your shins if you miss a step while you’re practicing.
Mark out an achievable number of stairs for your first attempt, let’s say six. If you find your technique becoming ragged towards the final reps, stop and lower your target until you get more competent. As with any exercise, the focus should be on technique in the early going.
- Start at the bottom of the stairs. From a standing position with your ams loaded at the side of your body, initiate a strong vertical jump to the first step, driving your ams upwards to provide momentum.
- You should land mid-step, on the balls of your feet and quickly absorb the landing through your thighs and buttocks, quickly descending into a flat footed, semi-squat position, to load for the next jump.
- Jump immediately again to the next step by forcefully extending your hips and gathering momentum with the arms to launch from the balls of your feet.
- The set should be done without a pause between each jump – a continuous set of jumps until you reach your target step.
- Walk down to your start position and rest for 30-60 seconds before you go again.
Once you’re comfortable with single stair jumps and have increased the rep range, try jumping two steps for each repetition. For an even more advanced session, try single leg jumps – with take-off and landing utilising the same foot. Alternate your feet for each rep, or do continuous reps with the same foot. Be sure you work each leg equally, so however many sets or reps you do, make sure it is divisible by two!
This is probably best done outdoors, using a low garden wall, for example. If you have a fixed, stable surface indoors, then by all means use it, just clear off any incriminating footprints afterwards 😉. To begin with, aim for a 12” (30cm) vertical drop onto a soft, stable surface.
- Stand with your toes at the edge of your drop-off point and initiate the rep by stepping off.
- Land on the balls of each foot simultaneously, to distribute the forces evenly.
- Absorb the landing forces by descending into a flat footed position, followed by a quick but controlled descent into a low squat, absorbing the forces sequentially through your thighs, buttocks and lower back. Imagine that your body is operating hydraulics to effect your ‘landing’.
- Stand up from the squat position, return to the top and repeat.
- Aim for two sets of six repetitions to start, with a short rest in between to reset and gather focus
Once you’re happy with your technique, you can gradually increase the height of your drop or mix in a 90 degree rotation during the airborne phase of each rep. Make sure you’re fully rotated before you land to avoid twisting your knees. Alternate left and right rotations to improve any imbalances and overall co-ordination.
Fans of Rocky may remember those impressive ‘handclap’ push-ups while Balboa was grinding out his pre-fight training routine. This is a natural progression from a regular push-up and a good way to mix in some explosive upper body power that you just wouldn’t get from a regular bench press, for example.
- Start at the top of a regular push-up position: a high plank, with your hands underneath your shoulders and a nice, flat line from your heels to your head.
- Lower into the bottom part of the push up, then push to drive power through the hands and explode dynamically off the floor.
- Your hands should become airborne at the top of the press-up position. If you get sufficient height, give yourself a clap! 🙂
- Hands should return quickly to the ground at the shoulder width position.
- Descend immediately under control. Imagine your arms are hydraulics and are loading up as you descend for the next repetition.
- Aim for two sets of 10 reps, with a 60-90s rest in between sets.
Once you’ve nailed some explosive power on your push-ups, you can progress the exercise by driving off simultaneously with the hands and toes, for a completely ‘airborne’ push-up. Generate force through the legs by keeping your core muscles engaged, being careful not to hyper extend your back to achieve take off.
Plyometrics add an interesting dimension to any workout and can have fantastic sport-specific benefits. Give them a try!
About the author
Dean is a full-time fitness enthusiast and a qualified personal trainer in Godalming, UK
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