Top 11 Plyometric Exercises That Can Help Build Explosive Power and Strength

These powerful exercises can help prepare, build, and strengthen your muscles for explosive power, strength, and agility.

woman doing plyometric exercises-03

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What are plyometric exercises?

Plyometric exercises, aka plyo or jump training, are a form of exercise that focuses on explosive movements. The exercises generally involve jumping, hopping, or bounding movements.

Plyometric exercises aim to increase power, speed, and agility by utilizing the stretch-shortening cycle of the muscles involved in the movement.

Box jump plyometric exercises -one of the best calf exercises

The stretch-shortening cycle involves three phases:

  • Eccentric phase or muscle lengthening,
  • Amortization phase or transition, and
  • Concentric phase or muscle shortening

Plyometric exercises exploit the above cycle by rapidly stretching the muscles during the eccentric phase and immediately contracting them during the concentric phase, producing a powerful explosive movement.

How do plyometrics work?

Plyometrics utilizes the stretch-shortening cycle of muscles to help improve power, explosiveness, and athletic performance.

The stretch-shortening cycle refers to the rapid lengthening of a muscle, immediately followed by a quick shortening.

Plyometric exercises use that cycle to store and release energy, allowing muscles to generate force more efficiently.

  • Energy storage
    During the eccentric phase of a plyometric exercise, such as landing from a jump or lowering into a squat jump, the muscles are rapidly stretched.
    The eccentric contraction stores elastic energy in the muscle-tendon complex.
  • Energy release
    After the eccentric phase, there is a brief transition, referred to as the amortization phase, before the concentric phase.
    The stored energy is released during this phase, causing a powerful and explosive muscle contraction.
  • Rapid force production
    The quick transition from the eccentric to the concentric phase enables muscles to generate force rapidly, resulting in explosive movements such as jumping or bounding.
  • Motor unit recruitment
    Plyometrics activate fast-twitch muscle fibers responsible for rapid and powerful movements.
    The recruitment of motor units enhances the nervous system’s ability to coordinate muscle contractions efficiently.
  • Neural adaptations
    Regular plyometric exercises lead to neural adaptations, improving the communication between the nervous system and muscles.
    That can enhance the coordination and synchronization of muscle contractions, leading to more efficient movement patterns.
  • Improved power and athletic performance
    As plyometrics focus on power development and explosive movements, they can significantly enhance an athlete’s ability to generate force quickly.
    That can help improve athletic performance in sports that require speed, jumping, and quick movements.

What muscles do plyometric exercises target?

Plyometric exercises target the fast-twitch muscle fibers that generate quick and explosive movements.

These muscles include

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Core Muscles
  • Hip Flexors
  • Trapezius and Deltoids

Note that the targeted muscles can vary depending on the type of plyometric exercise performed. For example, depth jumps target the lower body more, while clapping push-ups focus on the upper body explosiveness.

Powerful plyometric exercises that can help build explosive power, strength, and agility

Burpees

burpees bodyweight chest exercises

Burpees are some of the best plyometric exercises popular with many fitness enthusiasts due to their ability to target upper and lower body muscles.

Burpees combine elements of strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, and plyometrics.

Steps to follow

The basic burpee movement involves the following steps:

  • Start in a standing position.
  • Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground.
  • Kick your feet back into a plank or push-up.
  • Perform a push-up.
  • Jump your feet back to the squat position.
  • Explosively jump up into the air with your arms overhead.

The explosive jump at the end of a burpee incorporates the principles of plyometrics, engaging multiple muscle groups and requiring a rapid stretch-shortening cycle for the legs to generate maximum force.

Box Jumps

box jump plyometric exercises - leg press alternative exercise

Box jumps are highly effective plyometric exercises that involve jumping onto and off a sturdy platform, such as a plyometric box or step.

Box jumps are popular plyometric exercises widely used to improve power, explosiveness, and lower body strength.

Steps to follow

To perform a box jump

  • Take an upright stance, facing the plyo box with your feet at shoulder-width.
  • Lower your body into a quarter-squat position and prepare to explode upward.
  • Swing your arms for momentum, then jump explosively, extending your hips, knees, and ankles to propel yourself onto the box.
  • Land on the box with both feet, ensuring a stable and balanced landing.
  • Step back down carefully and repeat.

Pop Squats

pop squats plyometric exercises

Pop squats are dynamic and explosive movements that combine elements of a squat and a jump, making them excellent plyometric exercises for improving power, cardiovascular fitness, and lower body strength.

Steps to follow

To perform pop squats:

  • Stand upright with your feet at more than shoulder-width and your hands at your chest. You can also keep your hands by your sides.
  • Lower your body into a squat position by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
  • Explosively jump up, extending your hips and knees fully.
  • While in the air, quickly and smoothly transition into a wide stance by opening your legs and landing softly in a squat position.
  • Immediately bring your feet back together and jump back to your starting position.
  • Repeat the movement, moving fluidly between the squat and jump phases.

Plyometric Lunges

jumping lunge - box jump alternative exercises

Plyometric lunges are dynamic variations of traditional lunges that incorporate explosive movements, making them beneficial for exercisers looking to improve lower body strength, power, and agility.

Steps to follow

To perform plyometric lunges,

  • Get into a lunge position with your right foot forward and left foot behind.
  • Bend both knees and lower your body into a lunge, ensuring your right knee aligns with your right ankle.
  • Explosively push off the ground, switch your leg positions mid-air, and land with your left foot forward and right foot behind.
  • Lower your body into another lunge with your left foot forward and right foot behind.
  • Continue alternating between lunges with a jump in between each switch.

Depth Jumps

Depth jumps, also known as depth drop jumps or shock jumps, involve stepping off a raised platform or box and immediately performing an explosive jump upon landing.

Depth jumps are advanced plyometric exercises. Thus, approach them with caution and proper technique.

They target the fast-twitch muscle fibers responsible for producing explosive movements.

Steps to follow

To perform a depth jump,

  • Find a sturdy box or platform of a suitable height.
  • Stand on top of the box with your feet at shoulder-width.
  • Step off the box with one foot, allowing your other foot to follow quickly to the floor.
  • Upon landing, immediately perform an explosive jump vertically or horizontally as soon as both feet are on the floor. Use your arms for momentum if desired.
  • Focus on landing softly and absorbing the impact through your muscles rather than your joints.

Split Squat Jump

Split squat jumps, or jumping lunges, are plyometric exercises that target your lower body muscles. They involve explosive movements similar to traditional lunges.

Split squat jumps are advanced plyometric exercises that require strength, balance, and coordination.

They target the lower body muscles and engage the core muscles for stability and control.

Steps to follow

  • Get into a lunge position with one foot forward and the other back.
  • Bend both knees to lower your body into a lunge, ensuring your front knee aligns with the front ankle.
  • Explosively jump up, pushing off the ground with both feet.
  • Switch your leg positions in mid-air to bring the back foot to the front and vice versa.
  • Land softly and immediately go into another lunge position.
  • Continue alternating between lunges with a jump in between each switch.

Clapping Push-Ups

clapping push-ups plyometric exercises image 01

Clapping push-ups are an advanced variation of the traditional push-up exercise. They are plyometric exercises that require explosive upper-body strength and coordination.

You push yourself off the floor with enough force to allow your hands to leave the floor during clapping push-ups, clap in mid-air, and then catch yourself back in the push-up position before lowering back down for another repetition.

Clapping push-ups are challenging and high-intensity plyometric exercises that target the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They also engage the core muscles for stability and control during the explosive movement.

Steps to follow

  • Get into a standard push-up position with your palms placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor, keeping them at around 45 degrees to your body.
  • Explosively push off the ground with enough force to allow your hands to leave the floor.
  • Clap your hands together in mid-air.
  • Quickly bring your hands back to your starting position to catch yourself and land softly.
  • Immediately lower yourself back into the next repetition.

Lateral Bounds

Lateral bounds, aka lateral or side-to-side jumps, are plyometric exercises involving lateral or side movements. They are dynamic and explosive movements that help improve lateral power, agility, and balance.

Steps to follow

  • Stand with your feet together and slightly bend your knees.
  • Explosively jump to the side, extend one leg outward, and land on the opposite foot.
  • Immediately jump back to the other side, switching legs as soon as you land on one foot.
  • Continue jumping back and forth laterally, using your arms for balance and momentum.

You can perform lateral bounds as part of a plyometric circuit or incorporate them into a broader training program to add variety and spice things up.

Vertical Jumps

vertical jumps

Vertical jumps are classic and fundamental plyometric exercises that use explosive upward power to target vertical jump height and lower body strength.

Vertical jumps are simple but powerful exercises that involve jumping as high as possible from a standing position.

They are suitable for athletes of various sports and fitness levels. However, they are physically demanding and may not suit exercisers with some injuries or joint issues.

Steps to follow

  • Stand with your feet at shoulder-width.
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower your body into a squat position.
  • Explosively jump upward while extending your hips, knees, and ankles fully.
  • Swing your arms for momentum and balance.
  • Land softly, ensuring you bend your knees to absorb the impact, and immediately go into the next repetition.

Skater Hops

Skater hops are dynamic lateral movements that mimic the motion of a skater gliding from side to side. They are excellent for improving lateral power, agility, and balance.

Steps to follow

  • Stand with your feet at shoulder-width.
  • Take a lateral hop to the right and land on your right foot while bringing your left foot behind your right leg.
  • Immediately push off with your right foot and hop laterally to the left, landing on your left foot and bringing your right foot behind your left leg.
  • Continue hopping back and forth laterally, using your arms for balance and momentum.

Medical Ball Throws

Medicine ball throws are dynamic and explosive movements that incorporate the stretch-shortening cycle of muscles, similar to other plyometric exercises.

Medicine ball throws involve rapidly stretching the muscles while holding a weighted ball and then quickly releasing the ball to generate explosive force.

Some medicine ball throws include

Overhead Medicine Ball Throws

The exercise involves explosively throwing the medicine ball overhead and vertically.

It targets the shoulders, triceps, and core muscles, improving upper body power and strength.

Chest Pass Medicine Ball Throws

The chest pass involves standing facing a partner or a wall and explosively throwing the medicine ball forward from the chest.

It targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, similar to a powerful push-off motion.

It can help improve upper body power and sports-specific movements, like passing a ball.

Rotational Medicine Ball Throws

These throws involve rotating the body and explosively releasing the medicine ball.

They target the core muscles, obliques, and lower body, improving rotational power and stability.

Side Throws

Side throws involve standing sideways to a partner or a wall and explosively throwing the medicine ball to the side.

It targets the core, obliques, and hips, improving lateral power and agility.

man doing clapping push-ups image-02

Benefits of plyometric exercises

Plyometric exercises offer several benefits for athletes who incorporate them into their fitness regimen.

Increased power

Plyometric exercises improve the development of explosive power.

By training the stretch-shortening cycle of muscles, these exercises enhance the muscle’s ability to generate maximum force in a short time.

The increased power can benefit athletes in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, and sprinting.

Improved strength

Plyometric exercises engage multiple muscles simultaneously, leading to improved strength.

The explosive movements require muscles to generate force quickly. That can enhance muscular strength and endurance.

Enhanced speed and agility

Plyometric exercises improve the rate of force development, enabling athletes to move more explosively. That can translate into enhanced speed and agility.

Thus, incorporating plyometric exercises into your workout regimen can help you accelerate faster, change direction much more quickly, or react quicker in various sports and activities.

Increased jumping ability

Plyometrics are excellent for improving vertical jump height.

By training the muscles to stretch and contract rapidly, athletes can develop more power in their lower body and improve their jumping capabilities.

Bone density and tendon strength

Plyometric exercises, with their high impact and load-bearing nature, can stimulate bone growth and increase bone density. They can also enhance tendon strength and resilience.

That can help reduce the risk of injuries such as tendonitis and other tendon-related problems.

Calorie Burning and Fat Loss

Plyometrics are intense exercises that require significant energy expenditure. They can help increase calorie burning during and after the workout by engaging multiple muscle groups and elevating heart rate.

Incorporating plyometric exercises into a well-rounded fitness regimen can aid in fat loss and weight management.

Functional Fitness

Plyometric exercises mimic real-life activities, such as jumping, leaping, and rapid direction changes.

Athletes can improve their fitness and prepare for everyday activities and sports by training their bodies to perform these functional movements more efficiently.

man doing plyometric exercises-02

Limitations of plyometric exercises

Plyometric exercises offer numerous benefits, but they have limitations.

High impact and joint stress

Plyometric exercises involve quick and explosive movements that exert high forces on the joints, particularly the ankles, knees, and hips.

That can increase the risk of joint stress, strains, and impact-related injuries.

Exercisers with pre-existing joint issues or a history of injuries should approach plyometrics cautiously and consider modifying or selecting alternative exercises.

Skill and technique requirements

Plyometric exercises often require coordination, balance, and strength to perform correctly.

It is crucial to master the techniques and progress gradually to more advanced exercises.

Improper form can lead to inefficient movement patterns and increase the risk of injuries.

Fitness and experience level

Plyometrics are generally more suitable for exercisers with baseline strength and fitness levels.

Novices with limited exercise experience may need to develop a foundation of strength, stability, and coordination before engaging in plyometric training.

Recovery and overtraining

Plyometric exercises place significant stress on the muscles and the central nervous system.

Adequate recovery time is crucial for muscles to repair and adapt to the training stimulus. Overtraining or insufficient recovery can lead to decreased performance, increased risk of injuries, and fatigue.

Individual Considerations

Some exercisers, especially those with certain medical conditions, joint problems, or older adults, may need to exercise caution or modify plyometric exercises to suit their capabilities and limitations.

Plyometric exercises are more intense and high-impact compared to other movements. Thus, they may not suit older adults and those with weak joints.

Such people can still benefit from plyometric-like exercises that are lower impact. For example, performing bodyweight squats or step-ups at a controlled pace can offer similar benefits to plyometrics without the same level of impact.

Exercisers in such a category should consult a healthcare professional or qualified fitness trainer for personalized guidance.

Steps to follow

Final words from LiveLIfe

  1. Gjinovci B, Idrizovic K, Uljevic O, Sekulic D. 2017. Plyometric training improves sprinting, jumping and throwing capacities of high level female volleyball players better than skill-based conditioning. J Sports Sci Med. 2017;16(4):527-535.
  2. Slimani M, Chamari K, Miarka B, Del Vecchio FB, Chéour F. 2016. Effects of plyometric training on physical fitness in team sport athletes: A systematic reviewJ Hum Kinet. 2016;53:231-247. doi:10.1515/hukin-2016-0026
  3. Kons RL, Orssatto LBR, Ache-Dias J, et al. 2023. Effects of plyometric training on physical performance: an umbrella review. Sports Med – Open. 2023;9(1):4. doi:10.1186/s40798-022-00550-8

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