Jumping around is about way more than…well, jumping around. Plyometric training can enhance your full-body coordination, overall strength, cardiovascular fitness, and power (meaning your ability to move a lot of weight quickly). The explosive nature of plyometric movements will challenge you to up your physical and mental training.
Whether you’re into functional fitness, weightlifting, or powerlifting — incorporating plyometric exercises into your training will help you become a more well-balanced, focused, and stronger athlete. The eight best plyometric exercises detailed here either require no equipment or very little equipment — the better to train at home, in your local park, or that small corner of your gym that no one ever ventures to.
Best Plyometric Exercises
- Explosive Split Squat
- Lateral Jump
- Clapping Push-Up
- Squat Thrust
- Single-Leg Deadlift into Jump
- Traveling Push-Up
- Box Jump
- Kneeling Medicine Ball Chest Pass
- 360 Squat Jump
- Jump Rope
- High Knee Skip
- Rotational Med Ball Throw
- Medicine Ball Shot Put Throw
- Depth Jump
- Single-Leg Lateral Box Jump
- Lateral Box Shuffle
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A basic split squat — think a lunge, but with both feet remaining in the same position the whole time instead of switching your lead foot with each step — is already a solid way to build some serious glute, hamstring, and quad strength. Explosive split squats, which have you jump at the apex of the movement, add elements of power and coordination into the mix. To get air, you need to explode up, not just raise up. That increased velocity will build more power, and that power will transfer to other lifts, like the back squat.
Benefits of the Explosive Split Squat
- Increase lower-body strength and power.
- Improve squatting technique by addressing strength and stability imbalances in your legs, glutes, and hips.
- Enhance hip mobility and range of motion.
How to Do the Explosive Split Squat
Set up for a split squat — with one foot stepped out in front of the other like you’re about to sink into a lunge. Adjust your feet so that when you go down, your hips stay square, but your knees and thighs will form roughly 90-degree angles. Your feet will remain in this basic position the whole time (until you switch sides). Maintain an upright torso and squared hips while you lower yourself into several split squat pulses. Explode up with each rep so that both feet leave the ground. Land softly and directly back into a split squat and repeat. Keep the rep count even on both sides. If you’d like to add weights, hold dumbbells in your hands at your sides to up the challenge.
You don’t have to be the world’s most powerful jumper to reap the benefits of lateral jumps. In addition to building power (which every move on this list does), the lateral jump trains coordination of your legs and torso, as the two parts work in tandem to bound side-to-side. That coordination creates more body control which does translate to just about every free-weight movement in the gym. You can stick with lateral bounds, leading with one foot at a time instead of taking off with both feet at once, if you’re looking for a lower-impact (but effective) version of this coordination and strength-builder.
Benefits of the Lateral Jump
- Enhance control and efficiency of your deadlift by improving the coordination between your torso and legs.
- Improves foot, knee, and hip stability.
- Enhance lower body power and strength in the frontal plane.
How to Do the Lateral Jump
Stand tall with your hands by your sides and feet shoulder-width apart. Lean to your left side with soft knees, loading your left leg. Transition quickly to using your left leg to fuel your right leg, bounding as far out to the right side as you can. Land softly on your right foot and repeat the reverse way. Stay with bounds if you need lower-impact movements, but if you want to move into jumps, work your way up to leaping laterally with both feet taking off and landing at roughly the same time. Maintain soft landings with each rep.
Plyometric pushups can take many forms, but clapping pushups are definitely a classic. You’ll also stimulate muscle growth and power throughout your upper body, including your core — which you’ll need to keep your body in line while you manipulate your bodyweight like a badass.
Benefits of the Clapping Push-Up
- Stimulate hypertrophy in your chest, triceps, and front delts.
- Improve strength at the bottom of your bench press by increasing chest power.
- Enhance upper body coordination and control.
How to Do the Clapping Push-Up
Begin in pushup position — you might find that you need a wider grip than usual to make this work for where you’re at in your training, but make sure not to compromise your form by flaring your elbows. If you’re not ready to go full explosive, you can perform these from your knees. Lower slowly until your chest is a hair from the ground, and explode up. If you’re on your knees, you might overbalance yourself by clapping, so feel free to just explode up until your hands leave the ground, slow it down, and land carefully. If you are in a full push-up position, make sure you get enough height to comfortably clap and get back to catch yourself as lightly as possible.
Think of this exercise as a more focused version of a burpee. And, sure enough, squat thrusts are an integral part of your classic burpee. You can definitely integrate burpees into your plyometric routine — but, to be real, many people become less explosive the more burpees they do. With so many (literally) moving parts to spend energy on, sometimes it’s more accessible and beneficial to perform more squat thrusts with perfect form than fewer burpees with wonky form.
Benefits of the Squat Thrust
- Develop overall lower body strength and power, focusing on your quads that translate especially well into front squats.
- Increase coordination between your torso and legs, strengthening your core in the process.
- Improve your ability to activate your glutes on command (to protect your low back), which will help your deadlift mechanics.
How to Do the Squat Thrust
Sink into a bodyweight squat. Transition quickly into a pushup position, sending your legs back in one swift motion. If you need a lower-impact way to get into position, step back one foot at a time. Either way, as you reach a full pushup position, squeeze your glutes to make sure that your low back doesn’t hyperextend and sink toward the ground. Jump or step back up into a squat, stand, reload, and do it all again.
This one might take some concentration to get coordinated, but mastering single-leg deadlifts into a jump will be well worth the mental effort. The payoff is better balance, hip hinge mechanics, and unilateral leg power. You’ll start by hinging down to near-parallel and finish by leaping upward in a one-footed jump. As always, make sure to land softly, and gains will abound.
Benefits of the Single-Leg Deadlift into Jump
- Improve full-body coordination.
- Enhance ankle, knee, and hip stability.
- Increase balance and address lower body strength imbalances.
How to Do the Single-Leg Deadlift into Jump
Stand tall and plant your left foot firmly, with soft knees. Hinge at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you, so you’re hinging forward into a single-leg deadlift. As your torso gets closer to parallel, increase the bend in your left knee, “loading” your left leg. Bend your right knee and swing it forward, leaping up from your left leg. Land softly and repeat. Make sure to keep it even on both sides. Rise only onto your tiptoes if you need to eliminate the higher-impact landing.
You’ll need a very low box or step for this, as you’ll be using the momentum of your traveling pushup to have your hands land in a different location with each rep — with the help of your raised surface. You’ll target all the same muscles as you do with a clapping pushup, but you’ll be adding lateral movement to the equation.
Benefits of the Traveling Push-Up
- Improve power and strength in your upper body that will translate into a stronger bottom of your bench press.
- Enhance upper body coordination and control.
- Increase lateral strength and stability in your upper body.
How to Do the Traveling Push-Up
Start in regular pushup position, but with your right hand placed on a raised surface, like the kind of step you’d use for step-ups or a group fitness class. Sink into the deepest pushup you can before exploding upward. Using that momentum, shift right so that your left hand lands on the raised surface and your right hand is on the flat ground or mat. If you need to avoid the higher impact of this transition, take it one push at a time, walking your hands to switch their positions instead of relying on sheer explosiveness to do the trick.
If you value your shins, you’ll do a good job warming up before you dive into box jumps. Make sure you’re squatting into your loading position before you leap up and land softly on your box — doing so will make sure you’re getting the most you can from this plyometric staple.
Benefits of the Box Jump
- Build mental stamina and confidence — you definitely need a lot to hop up onto boxes of all kinds of heights.
- Improve lower body strength and power, translating into better squat and deadlift dynamics.
- Increase full-body coordination, which increases your ability to activate multiple muscle groups across the body on command.
How to Do the Box Jump
Start by sinking into a bodyweight squat in front of your box. Use your arms to help keep your coordination and momentum as you explode out of your squat, traveling up and somewhat forward, so that both feet land securely (but lightly) on your box. Step or lightly hop off the box before repeating. If you don’t have access to a box or are still building up your confidence, try tuck jumps instead — sink into your squat and jump high, literally tucking your knees up as high into your chest as you can.
If you’ve got a medicine ball, a blank wall, and something soft to put your knees on (a thick mat will do), you’ve got everything you need for kneeling medicine ball chest passes. You’ll build better pressing power as you can explode your arms forward as hard as possible to throw the ball into the wall. As a bonus: the kneeling position will recruit your core muscles as you stabilize yourself, and this is a nice way to let off a little steam.
Benefits of the Kneeling Medicine Ball Chest Pass
- Practice bracing on both the release and the catch, which will help all your big compound lifts.
- Improve coordination between your torso, hips, and lower body to keep yourself stable.
- Increase upper body strength and power.
How to Do the Kneeling Medicine Ball Chest Pass
Assume a kneeling position a couple of feet in front of a blank wall. Hold a medicine ball to your chest and brace your core. Squeeze your glutes and drive your toes or the tops of your feet into the ground. Actively squeeze the medicine ball between your hands and pass it — hard — directly in front of you into the wall. Catch it on the rebound, ensuring you have a soft recoil without letting yourself get bowled backward.
Squats jumps are a fantastic bodyweight plyometric move to improve your power, vertical jump, and conditioning. Adding a 360-rotation to the mix further challenges your rotational strength, agility, power, and boosts your heart rate.
Adding such a quick full-body turn will help with quickly changing direction while improving your ankle mobility.
Benefits of the 360 Squat Jump
- This move improves your leg power, vertical jump, and rotational strength.
- You’ll improve your agility and ability to quickly change directions.
- If you’re looking to improve your footwork and cardio performance at the same time, this move is your new go-to.
How to Do the 360 Squat Jump
Stand in your preferred squat stance. Keep your arms by your sides. Squat down and pull your arms back. Explode up and throw your arms in the same direction of the turn. Rotate either 180 or 360 degrees depending on your ability. Land in your squat position. Repeat in the same direction if you turned 180 degrees. Repeat the movement in the opposite direction.
Being on your toes with the repeated plantar flexion of your calves puts your largest calf muscle — the gastrocnemius — under constant tension. This tension will improve your power, muscle growth, and endurance.
Benefits of Jumping Rope
- While this move can put a lot of pressure on your feet, it’s not as high-impact on your knees as some other plyometric moves.
- You’ll improve conditioning, lower-body power, and coordination — including strength and coordination in your wrists and shoulders.
- This exercise can help grow stubborn calf muscles.
How to Perform Jump Rope
Pick a rope that fits you correctly. Stand in the middle of the rope so that both handles reach your armpits. Adjust accordingly. Hold a handle in each hand with the rope behind you. To move the rope, rotate your forearms forward. Use your wrist to swing the rope overhead. When the rope is overhead, bend your knees. When the rope is at shin height, spring up from the balls of your feet to jump up. Start slowly. Make sure to stay on the balls of your feet the entire time.
High knee skips are relatively low-impact and easier on your joints than many other plyometric moves. Although it’s more of a hop than a skip, high knees will strengthen your core, hip flexors, single-leg balance. All of that will help improve running efficiency.
The triple extension of your ankles, hips, and knees carries over to more complex athletic movements.
Benefits of the High Knee Skip
- This move strengthens your hips flexors, core, quads, and glute muscles.
- High knee skips are both high intensity and low impact, so they’ll go easy on your joints but still get the job done.
- You’ll improve your coordination in your lower body joints that will have direct carryover to more complex athletic movements.
How to Do the High Knee Skip
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your arms to 90 degrees. Hop up on your right leg while bringing your left knee up toward your chest. Stand tall. Drive your knee towards your chest. Repeat on the other side while skipping and pumping your arms.
That rotational training means a more injury-resistant core that’s more resilient to spinal compression and challenges that training throws your way.
The Benefits Of the Rotational Med Ball Throw
- This move strengthens your obliques.
- You’ll also strengthen the internal and external rotators of your hips.
- Rotational throws improve rotational power so you can hit or throw a ball harder.
How to Do the Rotational Med Ball Throw
Stand sideways two to four feet away from a wall. Grab a medicine ball with both hands. Take the ball to your back hip. Transfer your weight from your back hip to your front hip. Lead with your hips to throw the ball explosively against the wall. Rotate your back foot toward the wall as you throw. Catch the ball with both hands. Reset and repeat.
The medicine ball shot put throw trains your chest, triceps, and shoulders unilaterally and explosively. Training unilaterally — with one side at a time — addresses power and strength imbalances between sides.
If you’ve plateaued with any of your pressing exercises, improving your power on both sides can help. Plus, if you’re playing golf, baseball, or football, you can practice throwing or hitting the ball further and with more pop.
Benefits of the Med ball Shot Put Throw
- You’ll improve rotational strength and throwing power.
- This is a low-impact plyometric exercise that’s easier on your joints while building major power.
- Because you’re performing this move unilaterally, you’ll address power imbalances between sides.
How to Do the Med ball Shot Put Throw
Stand sideways six to eight feet from a wall. Holding the ball at chest height. Keep your elbows high. Side shuffle forward or transfer your weight to your back hip. Explosively shot put the ball at the wall by shifting your weight to your front leg. Reset and repeat.
Here, your body absorbs force and quickly reacts to it. By doing so, you’ll improves reactive strength and explosive power. Performing depth jumps will improve your vertical leap, strengthen your lower body, and improve sports performance.
Benefits of the Depth Jump
- Improve your vertical jump while putting less pressure on your joints.
- Strengthen your entire lower body with this controlled plyometric.
- You’ll train your body to absorb and react quickly to force.
How to Do the Depth Jump
Stand on a 12 to 18-inch box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Maintain upright posture and soft knees. Step off the box. Land on the balls of your feet. Get into a quarter squat to prepare to jump. Immediately push your feet into the floor, throw your arms up into the air, and jump vertically as explosively as you can. Land softly. Reset and repeat for reps.
The frontal plane is often neglected because so much focus is given to traditional lifts that have you move weight and your body straight up and down. Training explosively in the frontal plane works to correct imbalances between sides and improves balance and coordination. Plus, if you’re an athlete, this will improve your ability to change direction at speed to help evade opponents.
Benefits of the Single-Leg Lateral Box Jump
- This move will improve your single-leg stability and strength.
- You’ll fight power imbalances between sides.
- Using a box jump for lateral movement increases your ability to quickly change directions.
How to Do the Single-Leg Lateral Box Jump
Stand next to to a 12 to 18-inch box. Have your right side facing the box. Stand on your right leg. With soft knees, push your foot into the floor. Jump sideways onto the box. Using your arms to counterbalance. Softly step down the floor. Do all the reps on one side. Repeat on the other side.
The lateral box shuffle works similar muscles to the single-leg lateral jump. But this version has a lower impact on your joints because you’re landing on two feet instead of one.
This is a great alternative if the high impact of jumps bothers your joints. Moving from side-to-side quickly and explosively will improve your lateral movement, conditioning, balance, and coordination.
Benefits of the Lateral Box Shuffle
- This move improves your side-to-side movement and lateral explosive power.
- It has a lower impact on your joints to help increase intensity without increasing joint pressure.
- You’ll improve your cardiovascular conditioning.
How to Do the Lateral Box Shuffle
Stand next to a 12 to 18-inch box. Place one foot on top of the middle of the box. Keep the other foot on the ground. Both feet should be pointing forwards. Quickly shuffle sideways over the box. Land softly on the opposite side of where you started. Shuffle from side to side for reps or time.
Benefits of Plyometric Training
Plyometric training — especially in the right amount — can do wonders for your performance in and out of the gym. Here are five benefits of plyometric training.
Increase Mental Focus And Training
Plyometric training is excellent for enhancing your physical training program (more on that below) — but it’s also spectacular for your mental and emotional training. That split second before you explode into whatever plyometric lift or jump you’re doing takes guts — it requires you to muster up everything you have and go for it. What if you miss and slam your shins on the box? What if you fumble your footing on lateral jumps? What if you’re not jumping as high or as gracefully as the next person, and you’re just straight-up embarrassed?
Even if you’re an experienced and physically fit athlete, integrating plyometrics into your training program requires you to learn a whole new set of skills — and forge a whole new level of devil-may-care confidence. Especially if you’re used to loading plate after plate onto the bar, it’s easy to underestimate how much mental discipline and emotional focus it takes to power through being humbled by explosive, largely bodyweight-oriented movements. But staying humble will only increase your hunger — and no matter what kind of athlete you are, that hunger and emotional stamina will serve you well.
Sure, powerlifting has the word “power” right there in its name, but it’s a misnomer. In the physics sense, “power” is the amount of force your muscles can produce in a given period of time. To put it another way, you’re more “powerful” when you can move heavy loads quickly than when you can move heavy loads slowly. That’s not to say that one is a more important training goal than the other — it’s just to clarify what it means to say that plyometric exercises will increase your power.
Since you’ll be priming your muscles to move very quickly — going from zero to a metaphorical sixty in less than a second — you’ll notice over time that your muscles can generate more force, faster. And yes, more power will help your (slow) powerlifting: think about how much easier it will be to get out of the hole of your squat if your muscles and mind are trained to produce all the energy you need, right when you need it.
Plyometric training isn’t just about going fast — it’s about getting strong. Sure, you might not be lifting heavy barbells while you’re doing bodyweight plyometric exercises. Still, it definitely makes you stronger when you practice quickly manipulating your bodyweight over big distances and heights. You’re giving your muscles that extra gas they need to stimulate increased strength and even some growth when you burst out of the bottom of your push-up with enough force to come off the ground and clap your hands before landing back down. That extra gas will make your regular push-ups feel that much more manageable because — yes — you’ll be stronger.
Enhance Cardiovascular Fitness
You can be as strong as a proverbial ox and still not be able to make it through a basic round of hypertrophy training. If you’re running out of air around the fourth rep, and by the sixth rep, you’re ready to pass out, it’s just going to be a lot more difficult to get through the kind of variety that good training macrocycles contain.
Plyometric exercises will force you to learn to regulate your breathing while also making your body physically better at processing more oxygen in shorter amounts of time. By incorporating the kinds of high-intensity training that plyometric movements offer, you’ll be getting the legendary benefits of conditioning work while also getting a lot stronger.
Improve Full-Body Coordination
You need to know how to move your body as one unit if you’re going to properly execute your big three in powerlifting, especially your Olympic weightlifting exercises (which are pretty explosive in nature themselves). Plyometric training is a great way to enhance your kinesthetic awareness — that is, your ability to control and be aware of your body in movement.
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Plyometric training requires you to consciously recruit all the muscle fibers you can, as explosively as you can. To successfully execute plyometric moves, you’ll need to be better at knowing where your ankles are in relation to your hips and how moving one impacts the other dramatically. Intuitive knowledge like that will serve you every day, whether you’re going for a PR or figuring out how to bring all the grocery bags upstairs at once.
How to Train With Plyometrics
There are three phases of each plyometric exercise: the eccentric (loading) phase, the amortization (transition) phase, and the concentric (unloading) phase. To understand the elements of plyometric exercises, take the box jump as an example.
In the eccentric phase of the box jump, you’re going to squat down. This is when you’re telling your muscles, “Okay, fellas, let’s get ready to rumble.” The idea is to gather all the potential energy possible in your muscles to complete a high, effective box jump. Think of yourself like a rubber band — if you want to fling the band far, you’ve got to stretch it pretty taut (squat down low). If you only stretch the rubber band a little bit, you’re not maximizing the potential to send the rubber band (your box jump) as far or as high as it can go.
The amortization phase is a fancy way to refer to the transition between the eccentric and concentric phases. In other words, that super brief, almost unnoticeable moment where you get super nervous and think, “Holy crap, this box is high, I’ll never be able to do this.” Physically speaking, you’re at the bottom of your pre-jump squat, but only for a brief moment. And you want to make this moment very quick because otherwise, you’ll waste your muscles’ potential energy that you’ve built by squatting down in the first place.
Think about how much harder paused reps are — when you crush all that momentum at the bottom of your lift. It’s a lot harder to lift the load back up. That’s what you’re trying to do with paused reps, but it’s the opposite of what you’re trying to do with most plyo moves — you want to use all that pent-up energy and explode into the next phase.
Concentric or Unloading Phase
The next phase is the concentric or unloading phase. It’s when you throw all proverbial caution to the wind and explode into your plyometric movement — the jump part of the box jump, in this example. Channel all that potential energy you gave yourself in the concentric phase and transition it into kinetic energy with your jump. This is where you’ll be developing all that power — moving through movements that require a lot of muscular strength very quickly and suddenly.
As you’re going through your plyo exercises, make sure you’re remaining disciplined enough to maintain every one of these three phases in each rep. It’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to get a high rep count or trying to move faster — but you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck (and a lot less injured) if you pay close attention to every nuance of every move.
How to Program Plyometrics
Training plyometrics helps to improve your explosive power and strength. They are usually high-impact, high-intensity, and require lots of energy to perform. This is why it’s best to train these movements early in your training after your warm-up and before your strength training to get the best out of them. That’s because plyometrics are demanding on your neurological and muscular systems.
Plus, training power before strength sets the table for the rest of your training because your fast-twitch muscles fibers are now primed to lift some weight. That said, if you’re planning to lift heavy that day, make sure you’re not exhausting yourself with your plyometrics. If you want to go as hard as possible with them, you might want to program them on a separate day entirely, or toward the end of your training session as a finisher.
When you’re training plyometrics, the goal is to be as powerful as possible. The moment you get fatigued and performance starts to drop, you’re not training power anymore — you’re training muscular endurance. For many lifters, this lies somewhere between four to 12 reps or 10 to 20 seconds of full-on effort.
With plyometrics, it is important to measure how many times your feet contact the ground. Each time both feet touch the ground, this is equal to two foot contacts. One foot is equal to one foot contact. If you are new to plyometrics, 80 to 100 contacts per session may work best. Intermediate or advanced lifters and athletes 100 to 140 foot contacts per session is a great starting point.
Rest Between Sets
You may feel ready to go after about 30 seconds of rest. However, it usually takes anywhere from 60 to 180 seconds to fully recover and get the best out of your next power set. That said, play around with your rest periods to find what works for you. You’re aiming to strike a balance between challenging yourself and resting long enough to maintain excellent form.
Who Should Do Plyometric Exercises
Training plyometrics helps to develop and maintain a good base of strength training. With that base, you’ll improve your body’s ability to absorb and apply force. That will be particularly helpful when you’re training to lift max weight. Because of this, athletes as far-ranging as powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and even bodybuilders can benefit from plyometric work.
Although plyometrics are often performed by athletes to improve athletic performance, regular gymgoers can also benefit from training power.
If you have joint pain, however — especially in your lower body — you might want to avoid higher-impact plyometric work. Performing low-impact plyometrics like high knee skips or med ball throws might be accessible even if you tend to experience joint pain.
How to Warm Up for Plyometric Training
Plyometrics are within themselves a warm-up. Jumping, bounding, and skipping are great ways to wake up your central nervous system and enhance your coordination pre-workout. That said, you should build gradually into your movements — even if you’re super skilled at box jumps, hopping up onto a 36-inch box cold could lead to injury.
Some folks prefer to warm up with some light and brief cardio, and that’s fine — but just like you would ramp up in weight before you start your working deadlift sets, you’ll want to ramp up into your plyo moves as well. If you’re planning to do the fully-expressed form of the exercises listed above, for example, start with a few sets of the low-impact versions of each plyo move first.
So, unweighted split squat pulses before weighted split squat pulses, and unweighted split squat jumps before weighted split squat jumps. Gradually get your muscles and heart rate primed for the work you’re about to do instead of — literally — jumping right in.
More Plyometric Training Tips
If you’re just starting plyometric training, it’s always good to learn as much as possible for your journey. And if you’re already integrating the best plyometric exercises into your program but are itching for more insights into training to improve your power and strength, knowledge is the start of that power. Check out these other plyometric training articles for more ways to amp up your program.
- How to Program Plyometric Jump Training Into Your Weightlifting Workouts
- Plyometric Vs. Resistance Training: Which Is Best For Short-Term Results?
- Five Plyometric Exercises For a Stronger Deadlift
- Five Plyometric Exercises to Develop More Power
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