An Explosive Workout to Boost Strength and Power
By LISA REED
The word plyometrics comes from the Greek words plio (more) and metric (to measure). The workout term means enabling a muscle or muscle group to reach its maximum force in the shortest period of time.
To produce power for plyometric exercises, you need both strength and speed. While you can't alter the amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers (associated with shorter bursts of explosive action) or slow-twitch muscle fibers (less powerful, more aerobic in nature) in your body, you can stimulate the fast-twitch fibers with explosive training to cause them to contract with more power.
Plyometric exercises should be performed for maximum explosiveness, not brute strength. They are based on a foundation of strength, technique and conditioning. It's important to push your mind and body to perform these power movements, but you should never sacrifice technique to do so.
For best results, you should seek out a certified strength and conditioning specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association to assist you with your technique. While it's important to use maximum effort to perform these power movements, I will stress again: You should never sacrifice proper form.
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Only doing resistance training in the gym will limit your strength gains. Adding plyometrics to your strength-training regimen will improve your strength, power, explosiveness and overall athletic performance.
Another way to include plyometrics in your workout to maximize muscular power is to perform a plyometric move directly after a strength exercise. This type of workout will allow you to increase the contractile force generated by the muscle beyond traditional strength training. You will not only break through strength plateaus and improve mental focus, but you will also burn more fat and ignite your metabolism.
A dynamic warm-up should be performed before doing any type of plyometric exercise. Dynamic warm-up drills (such as high-knee runs, skipping, butt kicks, walking lunges, etc.) will prepare the mind and body for the workout techniques that will follow and emphasizes good posture, movement mechanics, reaction time, flexion, extension of landing and the speed of movement.
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The workout below is designed for the experienced fitness enthusiast/athlete. Proper warm-up, form, technique and recovery are crucial. This type of unique workout will allow you to increase your strength potential beyond what is possible with traditional strength training.
Make sure you do a thorough warm-up for 15 minutes. For each strength exercise below, perform two to three warm-up sets before your first set of plyometrics.
1. Kettlebell Goblet Squats + Explosive Step-Ups
Perform a set of eight goblet squats and immediately perform eight explosive step-ups on each leg. Rest two minutes and repeat two times.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat:
Plant your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with toes pointed out. Hinge forward at the hips, then "sit" back and down. Maintain upright posture by focusing eyes forward and keeping chest tall. Drive through the heels, extending your hips to squeeze the glutes to return to start.
Place your right foot on a plyometric box to start. Push off the right foot (more emphasis on the heel). Quickly jump and switch feet -- bring your left foot up and drop your right foot down to the ground.
The goal is to alternate your feet in midair above the box. Repeat for eight repetitions. Focus on being as quick as possible as you launch off the ground and minimize the time your foot spends in contact with the ground. The airtime off the box is a good indicator of strength and the power of your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and hips.
2. Dumbbell Bench Press + Medicine-Ball Wall Chest Pass
Perform eight repetitions of the dumbbell bench press. Immediately after your last repetition, grab the medicine ball and perform eight wall chest passes. Rest two minutes and repeat two times.
Dumbbell Bench Press:
Maintain five points of contact with the bench (feet, hips, head and both shoulders) with a slight arch in your back. Begin with arms extended and lower the dumbbells alongside the chest, keeping wrists straight and directly above your elbows. Push the dumbbells upward until the elbows are fully extended.
Medicine-Ball Wall Chest Pass:
Begin facing a wall that's approximately five feet away. Keep the medicine ball at your chest with elbows flexed. Move the arms slightly backward before the actual throw. Using both arms, throw the ball to the wall. As the ball rebounds, catch it and immediately repeat the movement.
3. Lat Pull-Down + Two-Hand Overhead Throw to Wall With Medicine Ball
Perform eight reps of the lat pull-down. After your last repetition, perform eight reps of two-hand overhead throw to wall. Rest two minutes and repeat two times.
Place hands in a pronated, wider-than-shoulder-width grip on the bar. Sit facing the machine. Lean your upper body slightly backward and pull the bar toward your chest until it touches. The back of the shoulder blades should contract together. With your upper body still leaning slightly backward, extend slowly back to the starting position.
Two-Hand Overhead Throw:
With feet shoulder-width apart, face a wall that's approximately 10 feet away. Take one step forward as you raise the ball overhead. Move the arms slightly backward before you begin to throw. Then, using both arms, throw the ball to the wall. Allow the ball to bounce on the return, then catch the ball and immediately repeat the throw.
5. Sit-Ups + Sit-Up Throw to Wall With Medicine Ball
Perform eight reps of sit-ups. Immediately after your last repetition, grab the medicine ball and perform eight repetitions of a sit-up and throw to wall. Rest two minutes and repeat two times.
Perform the sit-ups with feet on the floor approximately five feet from the wall.
Sit-Up Throw to Wall With Medicine Ball:
Begin with the medicine ball at your chest and your torso at a 45-degree angle. Perform one high chest pass to wall to build momentum as you begin one repetition.
The goal is to throw the first chest pass against the wall one foot above your head, catch the ball at the top of the sit-up and, as you catch the medicine ball above your head while keeping the abdominals engaged, descend with the ball to touch the floor behind you and immediately sit-up and throw the medicine ball to the wall when your torso hits 45 degrees.
The catch from the wall forces the abdominals to contract by the stretch reflex and creates a level of power and strength beyond traditional core exercises.
Check out all the moves in this video:
Readers -- Have you ever done a plyo workout? Do you incorporate plyo moves in your traditional workout? What are you favorite plyo-strength combos? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator and motivator. She is also the owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C., area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including tennis player Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida.