If you think walking, running, swimming, or riding a cardio-machine at the gym are your only options to get a workout, think again! Plyometrics, a type of weight-bearing exercise which produces quick, powerful movements, is a fantastic way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, tone your muscles and burn calories. Traditionally used for sports specific training, plyometrics is a great way to bring your fitness regimen to the next level.
Plyometrics, by definition, is a high intensity exercise. Your heart rate will elevate past the typical ‘aerobic training zone’ into an anaerobic state where you become short of breath. The resulting challenge to your cardiovascular system makes your heart and lungs stronger. Carrying on a conversation is not an option during plyometrics! Because plyometric exercise is weight bearing and requires explosive movements it is a fantastic way to tone your muscles. The high-energy nature of the exercise means that you will scorch a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Plyometrics is a great addition to an exercise program, but is not for everyone. If you have joint pain, have risk factors for heart disease (i.e. high blood pressure), are pregnant or are new to exercise, lower intensity exercise is a better option. If you are new to exercise, or have concerns regarding your exercise level, talk to your doctor.
Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level? Start with 10 to 30 seconds of each exercise. Take a one minute rest break after completing each exercise. Repeat one to three times. As your fitness level improves, increase the length of the interval and number of sets of each exercise.
Squat jumps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by your side. Squat down and touch the floor. Quickly jump up from the squat position reaching arms up overhead. Land with your knees slightly bent. Repeat for the desired amount of time or reps.
Ice Skater: Stand balanced on your left leg, knee slightly bent. Using your arms for momentum, leap sideways and land on your right leg. Pause for a moment to catch your balance and leap back to the left leg. Repeat for the desired amount of time or reps.
Plyometric Push-ups: Start in push-up position. Perform a push-up, using enough explosive force on the way up so your hands leave the ground. Repeat for the desired amount of time or reps. An easier version of plyometric push-ups can be done with your hands on a wall or bench.
Bunny Hops: Stand behind a line on the ground. Perform a two foot jump forward over the line, landing on both feet. Immediately jump backward over the line. Repeat for the desired amount of time or reps.
Because plyometric exercise is high impact, you must adhere to the following guidelines to prevent injury:
- Thoroughly warm-up prior to starting plyometric exercise.
- Wear sturdy, supportive shoes.
- Land softly with knees bent to absorb shock.
- Pay attention to warning signs of injuries, such as sore joints.
- Perform plyometric exercises no more than two times per week. Plenty of rest is needed to recover from this type of exercise.
If you want to change your fitness routine, incorporate plyometric exercises to strengthen your heart, muscles and burn calories. Be safe and have fun!
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and Fitness Coach, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She
owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, home to Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Stroller Boot Camp, and personal training programs. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.