Get a Jump on Your Fitness with Plyometrics

It’s more than likely that you’ve done plyometric moves without realizing it — clapping pushups, jumping rope, burpees, box jumps.

The term applies to any exercise that requires you to use explosive force with your muscles over short periods of time.

Plyometrics repeatedly force the rapid contraction and expansion of muscles to increase their power. This type of exercise is the opposite of low-impact, putting high pressure on your lower body’s tendons, ligaments, and joints. Plyometrics trains athletes for such sports as basketball, tennis and volleyball, but it also has everyday applications for lower-body strength and balance.

Those taking on a full plyometrics regimen need to be in good physical shape, and it’s best to start training under supervision of a personal trainer who can teach how to properly land from all those jumps off benches, boxes and the like.

But there are lower-impact movements that can be taken on by beginners who don’t have any current joint pain and want to add a little bit of the explosive calorie-burning power of plyo into their workouts:

Toe taps

Using a medium or large soft-sided medicine ball, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. With your right foot, “tap” the top of the ball, then use a short hop to quickly switch feet. Repeat for 20 seconds or as long as is comfortable.

Jump squats

As you lower yourself into the squat, extend your arms in front of you. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, launch yourself upward until you leave the floor, fully extending your legs and letting your arms swing behind you. Land as lightly as you can on the balls of your feet as you go back into a squatting position. Repeat 45 seconds or as long as is possible.

Jumping-jack planks

Begin in high plank, with your body straight and fully extending your arms to the floor. With your core fully engaged and keeping your body straight, jump your feet out wide, then back into the original position, landing softly on your toes. Repeat for 30 seconds or as long as possible.