You know we love a good box jump, the plyometric move that turns your lower body into a powerful, explosive machine. But your plyo-training can, and absolutely should, expand to your upper body, too.
“Plyometric exercises are extremely important for the upper body because they take advantage of our ‘stretch-shortening cycle,’” says Bryan Lang, a physical therapist, strength coach, and orthopedic clinical specialist. “It’s the concept of using your muscles and tendons like a spring. As the spring gets pushed down, there’s energy generated to push the spring back up. The same is true for upper-body plyos: When you land back down from a clapping push-up, your muscles build energy to spring back up as you slow your body’s descent to the floor with your hands, forearms and shoulders.” Lang explains that this type of training can help strengthen your tendons and muscles to absorb repetitive, high-level tasks, reducing the risk of damage to the shoulders.
But beyond the potential for injury prevention, upper-body plyos also have a performance-enhancing effect. “Plyometric exercises are designed to boost power, which is a combination of speed and strength,” says Richard Wilcock, a studio owner and strength coach. “These exercises offer a massive benefit to most athletes, but they can also help you push through training plateaus in exercises like the bench press, pull-ups, and dips, by recruiting and training muscle fibers to give more explosive power.”
Of course, Wilcock adds that plyometrics are a fairly advanced form of training, so it’s important to have a solid baseline of strength before incorporating them into your workout. He also says that because plyos are so tiring — eliciting a response more like what you’d feel after running a sprint than a typical resistance-training exercise — you should choose just a couple moves and add them to the end of your workout so the exhaustion you feel won’t affect the rest of your session. The following exercises are good options to try if you’re just starting out.