Quarantine probably has you bouncing off the walls a little bit by now. And although we can’t do anything about your neighbor’s habit of blasting Drake during your Wednesday conference call or make your parents stop going to the grocery store four times a week, we can help you channel that energy. Enter plyometrics: exercises that involve repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles (as in jumping and rebounding) to increase muscle power—think jump squats and explosive clap push-ups.
It’s about more than looking awesome on Instagram (although, yes, many plyo moves are impressive once mastered). This rapid succession of movements works the “stretch shortening cycle,” or SSC, says Blake Dircksen of Bespoke Treatments in New York City. “These movements produce a lot more power than a simple muscle contraction by itself,” he adds. “Think of the SSC as a built-in spring our body uses to use its energy. The stronger your spring is, the less energy it takes to move your body through space.”
In other words, if you add plyometrics to your workouts, you’ll soon be able to jump higher and run farther. Too good to be true? There’s science to back it up, with one study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology indicating that six weeks of plyometric training helped runners jump higher, increased their top speed, and improved their overall running economy.
But before you catch some air, there are a few things to take into consideration. First and foremost, you’ll definitely want to warm-up before treating your muscles like rubber bands. “Plyometrics are a potent form of exercise, meaning it doesn’t take much to produce a training effect,” says Dircksen. “These movements rely heavily on the muscle and tendon’s ability to store and release energy quickly, so be careful not to do too much too soon.”
Along those lines, make sure to soak up the movements as they occur. “When performing a plyometric movement, you want to focus on absorbing your landing,” says Sam Tooley, a New Jersey–based endurance coach. “When jumping you’re creating a ton of force and want to be careful on the come down,”
And lastly: Don’t fall into the social media comparison trap. “You may scroll through Instagram, see something cool, and decide to give it a whirl—this almost never ends well,” says Tooley. "Start easy and work your way up to more advanced movements."
Ready to lift off? Here are two great plyometric workouts to get you going.
For this workout from Dircksen, you'll need a yoga mat, a foam roller, and small bench or step stool.
Foam roller warm-up - Roll your gluteus medius, quads, and hamstrings for 25 seconds.
Do two rounds without rest.
- 15 bodyweight squats
- 5 squat jumps
Do two to three rounds, resting one minute between each round.
- 25 seconds of 3D double-leg hops
- 5 drop jumps
Gluteus medius roll - Lay on your right side, using your right forearm for support, with your right glute on the foam roller—you’re looking to get the muscle belly right on the center. Keeping your right leg straight, cross your left leg over your right, putting your left foot flat on the floor at your knee. Feel for a tight spot in the muscle. Stay on that spot, and rock forward and backward. Do not move upward and downward. Repeat on the opposite side.
Quad roll - Come down to your forearms with your stomach facing the floor. Place the roller under your hips. Keep your abs engaged to prevent overarching your lower back. Exhale as you roll all the way down to the tops of your knees. Inhale as you slowly roll up to your hips.
Hamstring roll - Sit on your mat and place the roller beneath your hamstrings. Place your hands behind you with fingertips pointing out to the side. Press your hands into the mat to lift your bottom off the floor. Continue pressing your hands into the mat and engage your core to rock yourself forward and backward, pushing the roller up and down the hamstrings, from just under the sit bones at the base of your pelvis to just above the knee. Breathe deeply, exhaling as you move forward and inhaling as you move backward.
Bodyweight squat - Stand with your feet at hip-width distance. Send the glutes back and lower down into a squat until your quads are about parallel with the ground. Press through the heels to return to stand.
Squat Jump - Stand with feet at hip-width distance. Send the glutes back and lower down into a squat until your quads are about parallel with the ground. Press through the heels to explode upward, landing back down in the bottom of a squat.
3D double-leg hop - Stand with your feet together. Start jumping up and down, then transition after five hops to five more forward and backward, then five from side to side, and finally, five twisting, jumping both feet to 3 o’clock, back to center, then to 9 o’clock.
Drop jump - Stand on a bench or small step stool with your feet together. Start to lean off the bench with one leg. As gravity takes over, land with both feet upright on the floor below. Immediately rebound, launching upward into a straight jump, then absorb the impact and stop for one rep.
For this bodyweight routine from Tooley, complete each move for 30 seconds before moving directly onto the next. Rest 30 seconds at the end of each set. Repeat each set once before moving onto the next.
- Alternating reverse lunge
- Shoulder tap
- Squat Tap
- Alternating lateral lunge
- Speed skater
- Alternating jump lunge
- Mountain climber
Alternating reverse lunge - Stand with your feet together. Step back with your left foot and lower into a reverse lunge, keeping your chest tall. Push through your left heel to return to stand; repeat on the opposite side.
Shoulder tap - Get in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Engage the core and, without swiveling your hips, tap your right hand to left shoulder. Replace hand on the ground and repeat on the opposite side for one rep.
Squat tap - Stand with feet at hip-width distance. Send the glutes back and lower down into a squat until your quads are about parallel with the ground. Tap your right hand to the ground. Press through the heels to return to stand. Repeat, alternating the tapping hand with each rep.
Alternating lateral lunge - Stand with your feet together. Take a large step out to the left. Lower into a lunge, sinking hips back and bending left knee to track directly in line with your left foot. Both feet should be pointing forward. Push through your left foot to return to stand; repeat on the opposite side.
Push-up - Start in a high plank position with shoulders directly over wrists. Keeping elbows close to the ribs, lower down into the bottom of a push-up position. Press back through the palms to return to start.
Speed skater - Stand with your weight on your right foot and your right knee bent. Lift your left leg off the floor behind you and jump laterally to your left by pushing off with your right leg. Land on your left foot, lifting your right leg off the floor behind you. Continue hopping back and forth. If needed, you can touch your back foot on the floor behind you for balance.
Alternating jump lunge - Start standing with your feet together. Lower down into a front lunge on the right foot. Engage the core and press through the right heel to explode upward, switching your feet in the process, landing in a forward left lunge. Repeat.
Mountain climber - Begin in a push-up position. Engage your core and keep your back neutral. Drive your right foot in toward the chest, keeping your foot flexed. Then, quickly repeat with the left for one rep.
High Plank Hold - Get in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Engage the core; hold for 45 seconds.