Plyometric Training for Beginners
by Jamie Osmak
I’m sure that many of you have heard of plyometrics, but aren’t sure what it entails or how to begin a plyometric routine. Plyometrics refers to exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest possible time. This exercise involves repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles (as by jumping and rebounding). When performed correctly, plyometric training can increase your power, strength and speed.
Consult with a physician and qualified fitness professional before starting an exercise regimen.
Who Should Do Plyometrics?
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts can greatly increase their power and overall speed with plyometric training programs. It’s important to choose the routine that’s most effective for your sport or activity. There are various types of modes, including those targeted for the lower and upper body. Lower body plyometrics is great for sports like basketball, track & field and volleyball, while upper body plyometrics is better for golf, tennis and baseball.
How to Start a Program
When starting a plyometric program, you’ll need to decide on the mode, intensity, frequency, duration, recovery and progression of the routine. A general rule of thumb is to start at a lower intensity (i.e., jumping rope) for beginners and progress toward higher intensity routines (i.e., depth jumps). Starting at a lower frequency is also important for beginners (i.e., one day per week). 48-72 hours is typically the time needed for proper recovery between workouts. For a typical lower body plyometric routine for beginners, the number of jumps ranges from 80-100, while a more advanced athlete can range from 120-140 jumps.
Requirements & Safety Guidelines
It’s also important to consider your age, technique, strength, speed and balance when starting a plyometric program:
Age: Plyometric exercises can greatly benefit both children and adults. However, high intensity lower body drills, such as depth jumps, pose a risk for injury in children and should be restricted.
Technique: No matter what your age, proper technique and joint alignment are crucial for minimizing risk of injury.
Strength: In order to meet the strength requirements for lower body plyometrics, you should be able to perform a one-rep max (that means it’s the very best you can do, or the point that you “max out”) for a squat at a weight of at least one and a half times your body weight. For upper body plyometrics, you should be able to bench press a one-rep max at one to one and a half times your body weight.
Speed: Because plyometric exercises require quick movements, you need to be able to move rapidly before beginning a plyometric routine. For lower body plyometrics, you should be able to perform five repetitions of a squat with 60% body weight in 5 seconds or less. For upper body plyometrics, you should be able to perform five repetitions of a bench press with 60% body weight in 5 seconds or less.
Balance: Balance is also crucial in performing lower body plyometric exercises. The balance requirement is standing in a quarter squat position on one leg for 30 seconds.
Jamie Osmak, certified strength and conditioning specialist, is a member of the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center team at Hospital for Special Surgery. Jamie is a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in Exercise Science from Rutgers University.