Q: What are the benefits of plyometric training?
Lee Boyce: Plyometric training refers to explosive compound movements, commonly done with bodyweight or very light loads such as plyo pushups, box jumps, and jump squats. The goal is to train for maximum force production in the smallest period of time, so reps are kept low and the intensity and effort is high. To train explosiveness, you have to perform each movement as explosively as you possibly can. That means leaving the ground.
Q: How do plyometrics help build muscle?
The body’s muscular system is made up of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers. The fast-twitch fibers are the largest, strongest fibers in our body. They are trained through heavy lifting, anaerobic efforts, and explosive movements. This is contrary to their slow-twitch counterparts, which are typically geared toward endurance, and aren’t as high in absolute strength.
Plyometric training focuses on increasing the strength and efficiency of the fast-twitch fibers. Translating this to the weight room for your heavy sets means greater involvement of your muscles’ strongest fibers for your lifts, which results in speed and strength gains.
Q: How do I use plyometrics in my training?
There are several ways to use plyometric training in your routine. Here are three:
1. Infuse them into your workout. At the beginning or end of workouts, add a “plyos” section by making a miniature workout that comprises only plyometrics. Remember to keep the rep ranges low so technique can be emphasized.
2. Use contrast sets. If you want to trick your muscles into overfiring, use contrast sets by doing a weighted regular lifting set in the gym, and immediately following it up with the same movement, plyometrics-style and unloaded, for the same number or reps (for example, barbell back squats for a 10-rep max, followed by unloaded jump squats for 10 jumps). During the jump squats, the muscles of the legs will still fire as though they have your 10-rep max on your back.
3. Make them their own workout. Why not substitute your own cardio or sprint day with a plyometric workout? The intense effort will yield plenty of metabolic stress and aid in the pursuit of fat loss. To keep your heart rate up, focus on less than 90 seconds rest between sets of work.