The best plyometric exercises for your legs should involve fast, explosive movements that are performed repeatedly, using your stabilizing muscles in your torso and hips to maintain your posture and balance as you move, states Juan Carlos Santana, director of the Institute of Human Performance. It helps you improve your reflexes and reactions as well as muscular endurance, stamina and power.
The box jump teaches you how to quickly produce and reduce force by jumping on and off a plyobox or a similar, sturdy platform. The key is to jump up and down as quickly as you can while maintaining your posture and avoid injuries, says Coach Vern Gambetta, author of "Athletic Development." A plyobox is simply a wooden or steel box that is designed to absorb high impacts from jumping.
Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart with a plyobox -- about 2 to 3 feet high -- in front of you. Bend your legs and jump onto the box, landing gently on the balls of your feet with your legs bent. Do not round your spine. Immediately jump back to the ground and land in the same leg position as you had started. Perform three to four sets of 10 to 15 jumps as quickly as you can. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
This is one of the fundamental exercises for plyometrics since it improves your rhythm, coordination and muscular endurance. This exercise forces you to stand up tall to improve your posture because you cannot last very long or jump well with poor posture, says physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance."
To the basic bounce step, stand with your feet together and swing the rope beneath you. Jump over just high enough to clear it -- usually about 2 inches. Jump at a rate of two jumps per second for 30 seconds. Increase the duration by 10 seconds until you can jump for three minutes without making a mistake.
This exercise uses the same principle as the box jump of moving on and off the box as fast as you can while maintaining your posture and balance. Use a plyobox about as high as your kneecap. Place your right foot on top of the box with your heel close to the edge. Push off the box with your right foot and push off the ground with your left foot at the same time. While your body is in mid-air, switch your leg position quickly so that you land gently with the ball of your left foot on the box and on the ground with your right foot. Jump a rate of one jump per second, and perform three sets of 20 jumps.
The squat jump involves eccentric loading -- or building up of potential energy -- in your lower body before the jump. The deeper you squat with good form, the higher and faster you can jump, says Gambetta. Stand with both legs about shoulder-width apart and squat as low as you can with your feet pointing forward. Swing your arms back and do not round your spine. Swing your arms up and jump straight up as high as high as you can. Land on the balls of your feet before you land on your heels in the same position as you had started. Perform three sets of 10 jumps as fast as you can.