Walk into any HIIT class or CrossFit box and chances are you’ll be asked to do a variation of a plyometric jump. Box jumps, frog leaps and tuck jumps help you improve your VO2 max (speed), flexibility and range of motion. But that’s not all. Their explosive power works your entire body, while getting your heart rate up.
Kat Ellis, head trainer and instructor at Uplift Studios in New York City, says, “Plyometrics are a mix of stability and strength, and create a strong foundation for doing explosive weightlifting moves like the clean and jerk and snatch.”
But if you’re not nailing down the form of these moves properly, you can risk injuring yourself and cause strain on your joints. That’s where tempo training comes in. Modulating movement based around a tempo allows the body to activate fast twitch muscle fibers and to learn to distinguish the difference between speed and power, Ellis explains. “The body finds a moment of explosive activation. For example if you’re doing a push-up, concentrate on lowering the chest down for three seconds and pushing back up to a plank in one. The tempo, is 3-2-1, push.”
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Plyometrics help develop core strength and joint stability, too. “Tempo training forces you to slow things down. You’re regressing the exercise to make sure your whole body is truly engaged,” Ellis explains.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, plyometrics are broken down into three phases: the eccentric phase, the amortization phase and the concentric phase. Take the box jump, for instance. The eccentric phase is when you’re in a half-squat position with your knees bent. When you drive from your heels to jump, that’s the amortization phase. The concentric phase is when you finally land on the box and release the energy and tension in your muscles. With that said, take Ellis’s lead, as she breaks down these three popular jumps.
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Bust a Move: 3 Plyometrics Exercises, Broken Down
1. Frog Leaps
How to: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart with your toes slightly turned out to the sides. Raise your arms at your sides with your hands overhead and palms facing forward (a). Sit into a deep sumo squat with your butt back and down so your weight is evenly distributed from your arches to your heels (b). Press up from the squat and lift your right leg up to hip height, bending your right knee (c). At the same time, engage your right oblique muscles so you bring your right thigh towards your right elbow (d). Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side. Alternate for five reps on each side.
How to: Sit back into a deep sump squat position with your hands overhead together and palms facing forward (a). Driving from your heels, jump up, bending your knees so your thighs touch or brush up against your thighs (b). Land softly into a sumo squat before jumping again (c). Do five to eight reps.
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2. Tuck Jumps
How to: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart with your toes facing forward (a). Sit into a squat with your arms at your sides raised to shoulder height, palms facing each other (b). As you stand up from the squat, lift your right leg to hip height with your right knee bent (c). At the same time, place one palm on top of the other to meet your right knee. Repeat on the left side (d). Alternate for five reps on each side.
How to: Start in a squat position with your arms at shoulder height and palms facing each other (a). Jump up as high as you can, driving your knees towards your chest, almost touching the palms of your hands (b). Re-extend your legs to land softly on the ground (c). Do five to eight reps.
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3. Box Jumps
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How to: Stand behind a box or step with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees (a). Step one foot at a time onto the box, keeping the slight bend in your knees, and then step back down one foot at a time (b). Do five reps.
How to: Stand behind a box with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees (a). Jump onto the box with both feet, landing with your knees slightly bent (b). Jump back down and repeat for five to eight reps. Note: If you’re doing this move in a CrossFit WOD, standard technique is to straighten your legs at the top of the box, standing tall, before hopping or stepping back down.