Why Guys Should Add Plyometrics to Their Workout Plans

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FOR MOST GUYS, lifting weights is a serious business. Sure, it’s fun to mess around on the weight rack and spot lifting buddies, but every time they set foot in the iron arena, they do so to add more weights, bang out more reps, and take a few more steps toward their ultimate goals building strength and muscle. They don’t see the need to jump up on boxes or throw med balls around; the term “plyometrics” is nowhere to be found in their lexicon.

Perhaps that’s why a lot of men don’t give plyometrics more weight in their training programs. “Jump training” (as plyometrics is commonly called) is often an afterthought—something to do at the end of a workout if you have a few extra minutes and want to burn a few extra calories. But plyometrics is so much more than just jumping and bounding. When done correctly, it’s a total body endeavor that can increase explosive power, elevate athleticism, and help you hit the accelerator toward your goals.

What Are Plyometrics?

When you hear the term “plyometrics” the first thing that pops to mind is likely some form of jumping, such as the box jump, squat jump, or split jump. Such moves certainly fall under the plyo umbrella, but they only represent half of it—the bottom half, to be exact. That’s because you can also perform plyometrics with your upper body.

A plyometric exercise is any move that takes advantage of something called the stretch shortening cycle (SSC), which involves a “pre-stretch” or “countermovement” followed immediately by a strong muscular contraction. It works kind of like a rubber band; when you rapidly stretch muscles and tendons (e.g., by bending your knees and hips in preparation to jump), those muscles and tendons briefly store the “elastic” energy created by the movement. That energy can then amplify the power created by rapidly contracting your quads, hams, and glutes, helping you to generate enough explosive force to momentarily defy gravity.

But again, plyometrics aren’t relegated strictly to the lower body. If you’ve ever seen a gymnast perform a back handspring, you’ve seen an upper body plyo move in action. If you’ve ever done an explosive pushup, you’ve executed one yourself—and you can reap the same benefits in your arms, chest, and back as you do for your lower body by jumping when you make such exercise a regular part of your training program.

The Benefits of Including Plyometrics in Your Workouts

Everyone has their own fitness goals, but what a lot of people overlook is the interconnectedness of fitness skills and the benefits of training skills that aren’t your primary focus.

Such crossover benefits are especially pronounced when it comes to plyometrics. In addition to enhancing explosive power—which is helpful in just about any athletic endeavor—research shows the performing plyo exercises regularly can enhance agility, sprinting ability, neuromuscular coordination and activation, and even bone mineral density.

What’s more, incorporating plyos might also help reduce your risk of injury, especially as far as your ACL is concerned. But as with everything else in fitness, these advantages can only be optimized if you incorporate plyometrics into your training program safely and correctly.

How to Integrate Plyometrics into Your Training Program

Plyometric exercises are high-impact, so they’re not something to jump (pun intended) into without planning and know-how (and a brief consultation with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for it). If you’ve never performed plyometrics before, start gradually. A good strategy is to begin by turning familiar exercises, such as the dumbbell squat and lunge, into a plyo moves by ditching the weights and adding a jumping element (e.g., by doing a bodyweight jump squat or split jump) a few times a week.

If you’re heavier or have a history of joint injuries, it’s even important to start gradually to avoid over-stressing your joints. You can do that by eliminating the jump from the jump squat, for example. (Still perform the movement explosively, but don’t allow your feet to leave the ground.) In so doing, you’ll reap most of the performance benefits of the plyometric movement without elevating your risk of joint injury.

As your form, stability, strength, and explosive power improve, you can increase the challenge of plyometric moves by adding weight gradually (e.g., with increasingly heavy dumbbells) or progressing to more advanced variations of the moves.

Plyometric Exercises to Add to Your Workouts

Jump Squat

preview for Jump Squat | Form Check

Why: This basic plyo will get your feet off the ground and on the way to building explosive power that will help with everything from your back squats to your basketball game.

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet at about shoulder-width apart. Push your butt back, then bend at the knees to descend into the squat.
  • Lower down to a point where your butt is higher than your knees. Shift your arms behind your torso. Squeeze your core and shoulder blades to create tension.
  • Press through your feet to explode off the ground to jump straight up. Drive your arms forward and overhead to help to create more power.
  • Land evenly on both feet, ready to descend into the next rep.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps


Plyo Pushup

preview for Plyo Pushups Build Chest Power | Men’s Health Muscle

Why: Create pushing power without an external load and level up your pushups. This will pay off for chest exercises like bench presses (and standard pushups, too).

How to Do It:

  • Place your hands on a box. Set up slightly away from the box, almost creating a right angle between your upper arms and torso.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs tight. Lower yourself down into the rep, keeping your elbows tight to your torso on the way down.
  • Press your hands to “explode” from the bench, straightening your elbows to drive as hard as you can away from the bench.
  • When your hands regain contact with the bench, slowly lower yourself in a controlled manner, then repeat.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps


Med Ball Slam

preview for Ball Slam | Form Check

Why: You’ll be able to produce a ton of force while also letting off some steam with this throwing movement. Along the way, you can get into the important triple extension position, which is a key for athleticism and power.

How to Do It:

  • Start by picking up the ball using good deadlift mechanics. Create tension by squeezing your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes.
  • Raise the ball over your head, raising up onto your toes in triple extension (straightening your ankles, knees, and hips). Don’t overextend your lower back.
  • Drive down into your heels, sit back, and finally follow through and swing your arms down to slam the ball into the floor.

Sets and Reps: 3 rounds of 30 seconds


Box Jump Alternatives

preview for Don’t Do Box Jumps In Your Workout | Men’s Health Muscle

The box jump is a popular plyo movement, but MH experts think there are better alternatives for your workouts. Here are their picks for what you should do instead:

Box Drop

Why: You’ll learn how to land safely doing this exercise, while also honing the stretch shortening cycle before an explosive jump.

How to Do It:

  • Start standing on top of a raised platform like a bench or box.
  • Step off with one foot, then drop off the box to the floor. Land softly and squarely on both feet, allowing the momentum to bend your knees and lower down into a quarter squat to absorb the force.
  • Stand back up and squeeze your glutes, extending your knees and hips.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps

Tuck Jump

Why: You can practice creating explosive force by jumping straight into the air with this exercise. Your vertical leap will benefit—and your heavy squats, too.

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension.
  • Push your butt back, bend your knees slightly, and swing your arms back behind your torso.
  • Explode up off through floor through triple extension, driving your arms up to create even more force. Tuck your knees up to your chest at the top of the movement.
  • Reverse the motion to extend your legs back down and land squarely and as softly as possible on both feet.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Trap Bar Jump

Why: Add an external load to give yourself even more of a challenge and ratchet up your power output when you leap.

How to Do It:

  • Start inside a loaded trap bar, holding the handles tightly. Push your butt back, hinge at the waist and bend at the knees, and squeeze your shoulder blades and abs.
  • Press through the floor and jump straight up, continuing to hold the handles tightly.
  • Land squarely on both feet, controlling the weight back to the floor.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

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