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Pump it up with Plyometrics

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
May 2013
Pump it up with Plyometrics

Can explosive plyometric moves help you burn calories and accelerate your weight loss?

Why plyometrics, you might ask. Plyometrics, also known as ‘plyos,’ not only builds muscle but also burns calories and improves bone density. Its quick, powerful movements improve speed and power, reducing the risk of injury when playing certain sports that require running and jumping. The explosive movement of plyo exercises trains the muscle by applying dynamic resistance. Dynamic resistance rapidly stretches a muscle or lengthens it (eccentric phase) and then immediately shortens it (concentric phase).

These quick short muscle contractions produce more energy, and because these moves are performed much faster than in regular strength training exercises, they can help speed results. Over a period of time, plyometric exercises can improve sports performance by increasing the amount of force one can produce. However, if you have back, knee, or joint issues, or are overweight, plyometrics may cause more harm than good since you will be putting stress on your tendons and joints.

There are several ways to incorporate plyos into your workout routine. For instance, you can superset between strength training sets by adding a plyo exercise. An example would be to add step jumps after weighted squats or leg extension. Another way is to add plyo pushups in between upper-body strength training exercises. Or you can even make plyos a part of your cardio workout. For example, run two minutes on the treadmill, followed by one-minute jumps, alternating this for about 10 repetitions. Here are some basic plyometric exercises to add to your workouts:

Jump squats: Stand with feet together. Now jump placing feet shoulder width apart and squatting at the same time. Then quickly jump back to start position. The movement should be fast and quick. Remember when squatting, keep your body weight on your heels and don’t let your knees extend beyond your toes. Repeat this in a fast pace for 20-30 repetitions.

Step jumps: Facing a step, (about six to eight inches high) jump on it with both feet landing together. Now jump back down. Perform these jumps for 20 repetitions. As you improve, you can jump on a higher step or even a box.

Squat thrusts: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Then squat down and quickly jump up as high as you can, flinging arms up in the air like you’re throwing a basketball. Return back to squat positions and repeat for 20 repetitions.

Lateral jumps: Place a bar or any straight object on the ground. Standing on one side of the bar, quickly jump over to the other side. Perform these lateral jumps moving quickly back and forth for about 20 repetitions.

Explosive push-ups (also known as “clap pushups”): In a push up position, lower your body to the ground, and then quickly propel upper body up, clap and return to start position. Gradually build up to 10 to 15 repetitions.

Finally, keep in mind that due to the explosive moves and jumps, proper shoes are a must. Make sure you are wearing good training shoes with adequate support to prevent injury. Remember that this workout isn’t for everyone, and you must have some basic strength and conditioning before you add plyometrics to your routine.

[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404) 376-5655; info@aartifitness.com. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]

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