What is plyometrics?

with advice from Kim Todaro, PT, DPT, OCS,
Kristina Holland, PTA,
and Mark Salandra, CSCS

What is plyometrics?

Have you heard of plyometrics? It’s been gaining popularity throughout the past year. More simply known as “jump training,” plyometrics exercises are “high-intensity, high-velocity resistance exercises that are designed to increase muscular power and coordination,” says Kim Todaro, a physical therapist and the clinical director of the Johnstown location of Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member with 10 locations in Pennsylvania).

The purpose of plyometric exercise is to increase the power of subsequent movements by using both the natural elastic components of muscles and tendons and the stretch reflex. Mark Salandra, the founder of StrengthCondition.com (one of Physiquality’s partner programs), defines this force-speed relationship as POWER. When used correctly, he adds, “plyometrics training has consistently been shown to improve the production of muscle force and power.”

Lower body plyometrics are appropriate for virtually any athlete and any sport, says Mark, because most sports require athletes to have quick bursts of energy to run down a field or toward a ball. Upper body plyometrics exercises are often used for specific sports like baseball, tennis, and other throwing sports, and they are not used as frequently as those for the lower body.

Progression is key.Progression is key. “Plyometrics should be started at ground level, like jumping over cones, and progressing to jumping on and off of elevated surfaces,” says Kristina Holland, a PTA at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. If you’re just starting to add such exercises into your regimen, she suggests working with a physical therapist who can observe your alignment and make corrections, in order to reduce the chance of injury.

There are lots of exercises that can be described as plyometric; even jumping rope can be categorized as such. Here are a few other exercises suggested by Kim and Mark:

Lower body exercises:

  • Repetitive jumping on the floor: in place, forward/backward, side to side, diagonally to four corners, zigzag jumping
  • Vertical jumps and reaches
  • Bounding
  • Box jumping
  • Jumping over objects on the floor
  • Depth jumps
  • Power skips
Upper body exercises:

  • Catching and throwing a weighted ball with a partner or off the wall, throwing overhead or from side to side, with two hands or with one
  • Dribbling a ball against a wall or the floor
  • Drop push-ups
  • Clap push-ups

BoundingPlyometrics is thought to improve joint protection and muscular strength and reduce the risk of injury. And, Kim points out, one can vary the targeted muscle groups being exercised, as compared to running, in which the same groups are being targeted repetitively. Athletes should be careful not to overdo such exercises, though; be sure to rest at least 48 hours after activity in order to give the muscles time to recover and to minimize joint stress.

Because of the intense nature of some of the exercises, plyometrics should only be added to your program after you have already achieved a high fitness level. Kristina notes that the joints involved in jumping, like the ankles, knees, and hips, as well as the back, are at risk, particularly if you have conditions like arthritis, instability, prior surgery or other problems. It’s recommended, and always a good idea, to help you decide about whether it is appropriate for your body, to speak with your physician or physical therapist before adding plyometrics to your program.

Kim Todaro, PT, DPT, OCS

Kristina Holland, PTA

Mark Salandra, CSCS
Kim Todaro, PT, DPT, OCS, is the clinical director of the Johnstown location of Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member with 10 locations in Pennsylvania. The first person to complete the Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency Program at St. Francis University, Kim also recently became a board-certified orthopedic specialist.

Kristina Holland, PTA, has been a physical therapist assistant for 7 years at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee.

Mark Salandra, CSCS, is the founder of StrengthCondition.com, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Mark educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury.

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For further information, look through our selection of articles on sports and fitness, in addition to the below links:

Mitchell, Pauline. How to do bounding exercises. YouTube.com, June 18, 2013.

Ratini, Melinda. Plyometrics. WebMD, May 25, 2013.

Fitness trend alert: Plyometrics has exercisers jumping. TODAY Health, March 18, 2013.

Reichert, Robin. Plyometrics exercise routines. Arizona Central: Healthy Living.

Drop push-ups. BodyBuilding.com.

Cruz, Dave. Plyometrics without injury. CorePerformance,com, February 11, 2008.

The material and information contained on this Web site is for information only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or consultation.

Consult your personal physician before beginning any exercise program or self-treatment.