Plyometrics (also known as plyos) is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in sports.
Plyometric movements, in which a muscle is loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence, use the strength, elasticity and innervation of muscle and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder, depending on the desired training goal. Plyometrics are used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, providing explosiveness for a variety of sport-specific activities. Plyometrics has been shown across the literature to be beneficial to a variety of athletes. Benefits range from injury prevention, power development and sprint performance amongst others.
Developed for Soviet athletes, plyometrics came to the States in 1975 via track-and-field guru Fred Wilt. Whereas weight training makes muscles bigger, plyometrics makes them faster, by improving a muscle's stretch reflex, or the speed with which its energy is transferred to movement. No matter the sport, plyometrics can make you better. Quickly.
Here, four exercises from Neal Pire, author of Plyometrics for Athletes at All Levels, to work into your routine.
Objective: Run faster
Drop into a squat and jump onto a bench. Always land on the balls of your feet. Spend as little time touching the ground as possible. Two sets of 10.
Objective: Jump higher
Step off a bench with your right foot. Upon landing, immediately explode vertically as high as possible. Repeat, alternating legs. Two sets of five.
Objective: Move quicker
Set two markers four feet apart. Start with your right leg in front and your left foot behind you. Explode to the left and land on your left foot, bending your left knee to cushion your landing. Immediately jump back onto your right foot, like a speed skater. Two sets of ten.
Objective: Hit harder
Bend your knees slightly and hold a medicine ball at your chest. Pull the ball up and behind your head, then slam it on the ground as hard as you can. When it bounces up, catch it. Two sets of five.