Are you stuck in a cardio rut? Performing the same old boring cardio routines with little to no results? This is the case for millions of people worldwide. Most people assume that the only way to lose weight fast and to burn fat is to perform long bouts of boring cardio. Running on a treadmill as if you were a hamster!
While running obviously burns calories, you are much more likely to be inconsistent with your routine because of the lack of variety. Running for 30 minutes every day at a moderate pace is no way to live your fitness life.
I have always been a huge fan of new and exciting forms of training. Nothing motivates you more to exercise than truly enjoying the routine. Remember as a kid when you were playing your favorite sport? It hardly felt like exercise, even though you were burning calories and running around.
Just because we are adults now doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun with our exercise routine. I have been a huge fan of plyometric training ever since my basketball playing days. Plyometrics could be categorized as a form of high intensity cardio training.
So what exactly is plyometric training? According to WebMd.com, “ Plyometrics — also known as jump training — is a training technique designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness. ”
You may think of plyometrics as a brother or 1 st cousin to High intensity interval training which are very similar. Both plyometrics and HIIT require a large amount of power and explosion. They also focus on your fast twitch muscle fibers, which are used during the high intensity exercises like weight lifting, jumping, and sprinting.
During plyometric jump training the source of your explosion is going to come from your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. These muscles are key for jump training. Explosive plyometric training is one of the best ways to develop and train the seldom-used lower leg power muscles. You will notice that plyometric training has a positive effect on all of your other power lifting exercises.
So what happens to your muscles during a plyometric explosion and how does it work to condition your lower body? According to Webmd.com “ Plyometric training conditions the body with dynamic resistance exercises that rapidly stretch a muscle (eccentric phase) and then rapidly shorten it (concentric phase). Hopping and jumping exercises, for example, subject the quadriceps to a stretch-shortening cycle that can strengthen these muscles, increase vertical jump, and reduce the force of impact on the joints .”
Exercises like jumping explosively at a continuous pace have a similar effect on the body such as sprinting. If you recall from the High Intensity Interval training article last week, sprints work to burn fat so effectively because of the “after burn” effect. The after burn effect is the period after you exercise when your body is trying to repair the damaged fast twitch muscle fibers and your metabolism is temporarily increased.
This is because your fast twitch muscle fibers take a lot longer time to recover than your slow twitch muscle fibers (click here for a quick course on slow and fast twitch muscles). In fact, after a very intense workout it can take up to 24 hours. Slow twitch muscle fibers are the ones used in swimming, jogging, or other low intensity activities. Fast twitch muscle fibers are used during weight lifting, sprinting, and jumping activities. A high quality plyometric workout will trigger the “after burn” effect as well. This means that plyometrics are an incredible way to burn calories and can replace your traditional cardio routine.
Plyometrics can also be used to improve explosive movements such as the sprinting, bench press, squat and other exercises. Plyometrics has been shown, in combination with Post Activation Potentiation (PAP) to help boost certain strength associated movements. In essence, PAP serves to stimulate the central nervous system using high intensity potentiates (plyometrics for example) in order to elicit a response from the muscles contractile history. For more information on post activation potentiation, click here.
Many athletes use Plyometrics because they help to develop lower body explosiveness, increased speed and increased jumping ability. Basketball, football, volleyball and track and field athletes use Plyometric training regularly.
Although plyometrics are used by some of the top athletes in the world, that shouldn’t scare you away from trying them. They are incredibly easy to learn, effective, and very fun! Plyometric training can be enjoyed by a wide variety of fitness enthusiasts.
However, if you are not used to explosive activities like jumping, sprinting of have prior ligament injuries, plyometrics should be used with caution. You should never attempt plyometrics unless you are 100 percent loose, stretched out, and ready to go. It is important to feel loose, and get the blood flowing in your entire body before attempting to jump.
I like to do a light jog for about 5 minutes followed by a light stretch of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors before I start my plyometric routine.
One of the best things about plyometrics is that you can do it practically anywhere. Some of the best plyometric exercises require little to no equipment. Exercises like the leap up, squat jump and long jump require zero equipment. Other exercises like the box jump and depth jump require just a raised platform.
Good luck and all the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.