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Plyometric Exercises

High impact exercises to build power, strength and endurance

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Updated October 10, 2011

Plyometric training is an excellent way to burn more calories and build power, strength and endurance in the lower body. Safely incorporating these explosive, high impact exercises can add a depth to your program while increasing your stamina for other workouts and daily activities. Below are some examples of basic plyo-based exercises. Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort and make sure you learn the right way to add plyo exercises to your routine.

1. Squat Jumps

Squat Jump
Paige Waehner

Squat jumps are a good first exercise for the beginner plyo-er. Practicing this move allows you to get used to jumping and landing correctly, two things that can help you avoid injury. Remember, when landing from any kind of jump, land softly on the toes and roll through the heels. Avoid twisting as you land, keeping the knees in line with the toes.

Do it Right:

Begin with feet about hip-distance apart. Squat as low as you can, keeping the knees behind the toes and your abs engaged. Jump as high as you can, taking the arms overhead (optional). Land with soft knees and lower back into a squat, jumping back up immediately. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between

2. Plyo Jacks

Paige Waehner

Plyo jacks are a variation on the squat jumps above and, also, a variation on traditional jumping jacks. This is also a great exercise for easing into plyometric training and conditioning your body for more strenuous exercises.

Do it Right: Begin with the feet together and lower into a squat, circling the arms in front of you. Jump the feet out, landing in a squat and circling the arms up and over the head. Jump up once again, bringing the feet together and circling the arms back down. This should feel like a slow, yet powerful jumping jack. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between

3. Plyo Lunges

Paige Waehner

Plyo lunges take things up a notch, adding even more intensity to your plyo workout. The split stance challenges your balance and will also really challenge your hips, glutes and thighs. If you feel wobbly, hold onto a stair rail for balance until you've perfected the exercise.

Do it Right: Stand in a split stance, right leg in front and left leg in back. Bend your knees and lower into a lunge, keeping the front knee behind the toe. In an explosive movement, jump into the air and switch your legs, landing so that the left leg is in front and the right leg is in back. Land with soft knees, lower into a lunge and repeat, jumping and switching sides. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between

4. Burpees with Jumps

Squat Thrust
Paige Waehner

Burpees or Squat Thrusts are another advanced exercise that will challenge your legs and your heart. By going all the way down to the floor and back up again, adding a jump on the end, you'll feel your heart rate climb very quickly.

Do it Right: Begin standing and squat to the floor, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. In an explosive movement, jump the feet back, so that you're in a plank position. Jump the feet back in, stand up and jump. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between.

5. BOSU Squat Jumps

Paige Waehner

The BOSU Squat Jump takes the regular squat jump to the next level, adding much more intensity. You should be very comfortable using a BOSU before trying this exercise. A modified version would be jumping onto a small platform (like the top of a step) or the bottom step of a staircase.

Do it Right: Stand behind the BOSU and bend the knees, jumping onto the BOSU with both feet and landing in a squat. You can jump back down (more advanced) or, for a safer version, step off the back of the BOSU and then repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between. If landing with both feet simultaneously is too hard, go for a staggered landing, one foot at a time.

6. Side to Side Jumping Lunges

Side to side jumping lunge
Paige Waehner

Side to side lunges are another plyo-based exercise that will really challenge your quads, glutes and your heart, all at the same time. Because you're jumping from side to side, you'll want to take your time with this exercise and make sure you land into your side lunge without twisting the knee. Keep the knee in line with the toe to avoid knee injury.

Do it Right: Take the right leg out to the side as you bend the left knee, turning the body to the left in a runner's lunge. Touch the right fingers to the floor, if you can. Quickly jump up to shift the feet in the air and lunge to the right side, touching the left hand to the floor. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between.

7. Prisoner Squat Jumps

The Prisoner Squat is a variation of the jump squat, adding a little more core to the mix. By keeping the hands behind your head as you jump, you'll engage your abs to keep your body stable, making this a whole body plyo exercise.

Do it Right: Begin with feet wide and the hands behind the head. Squat as low as you can, keeping the abs engaged and the back straight. Jump as high as you can and land in a squat, remembering to keep the knees soft to absorb the impact. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between.

8. Long Jumps

Long Jump
Paige Waehner

Long jumps are a tough plyo exercise, forcing you to use all the power in your glutes, hips and thighs to power your body forward. This is a tough move and it requires power in the legs as well as core stability. Keep your jumps small at first to get a feel for the exercise and be sure to land with soft knees to avoid injury.

Do it Right: Stand with feet together and make sure you have plenty of space in front of you. Lower into a squat and jump forward as far as you can, landing with bent knees. Continue jumping forward for the length of the room or for 1-10 reps. Rest and repeat 2-3 times.

9. Froggy Jumps

Froggy jumps for cardio
Paige Waehner

Froggy jumps are one of the most challenging plyo exercises, taking you all the way from the floor to the air. You should practice easier plyo moves before you try this one and avoid it completely if you have any knee or back problems.

Do it Right: Squat to the floor, placing your hands in front of you (optional). In a powerful movement, jump up into the air and tap your heels together. Land with soft knees and make sure you keep your knees in line with your toes. Repeat for 10-60 seconds, repeating the exercise 1-10 times with 60 or more seconds of rest in between.

10. Lateral Cone Hops

Drew Kelly/Getty Images

This more traditional plyo exercise is great for increasing power and strength and building stamina in the knees and ankles. You should practice easier plyo exercises before trying this one or, to modify, try jumping over something shorter. You can also trying jumping over and landing one foot at a time or jumping forward over the cone for variations.

Do it Right: Stand about 6 inches away from a small cone on your left. Hope over the cone with both feet, landing on the balls of the feet with soft knees. Repeat the exercise, hopping over the cone to the right for 20 reps.

See more plyometric exercises.

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