Every year, more and more exercise videos, gimmicks and products hit the market. With ever-changing research, this is not always a bad thing. What we thought was “right” 30 years ago may be completely different today. With that said, there also are a lot of things related to fitness that we KNOW are not appropriate for many demographics (despite what popular media tells us). One of these things is plyometric exercise.
First, let’s get one thing straight: plyometric exercise is not simply “jumping”. The purpose of plyometric exercise is to increase the power of subsequent movements by using both the natural elastic components of muscle and tendons, and something called the “stretch reflex”. Many programs try to incorporate “plyos” into their weight loss programs. This is not only dangerous but can be very irresponsible. Fitness professionals must be educated on the purpose of plyometric exercise before encouraging general population (non-athlete) clients to engage in these activities.
Plyometric drills involve maximal effort to improve ANAEROBIC POWER. Complete and adequate recovery time is required in order to maximize effectiveness. Drills should NOT be thought of as conditioning, but as explosive training. Because, by their nature, plyos are high quality/low quantity exercises, maximal calorie expenditure is not possible. These factors rule out the effectiveness of plyometric exercise for weight loss.
Program length, volume, and progression; as well as the individual’s age, strength, medical history, and experience should be taken into account before starting a plyometric training program. For lower body plyos, an athlete’s squat should be at least 1.5 times his or her body weight before implementing plyometrics. For upper body plyos, an athlete’s bench press should be at least 1-1.5 times the athlete’s body weight before implementing plyometrics. Most people looking to improve their overall body composition cannot safely reach these marks; thus, putting them at an increased risk for injury when attempting a plyometric training program.
In addition to the individual’s physical characteristics; landing surfaces, training area, equipment, footwear, and proper supervision all must be taken into consideration when attempting plyometric exercise. Home alone in your living room is not a safe or effective environment for this mode of exercise.
“Plyos” in weight loss:
That said, this does not mean jumping in a conditioning setting is an unsafe or ineffective way to train. Jumping allows you to eliminate the deceleration that takes place at the top of a movement (during a squat, lunge, push-up, etc.), thus activating a greater number of muscle fibers. Activation of a higher number of fibers means more calories burned. But as soon as your heel comes into contact with the ground, the movement is no longer explosive and is not considered “plyometric.”
Your focus while conditioning should not be the development of power. You should focus on a full range of motion, safe jump heights, soft landings, and continuous movements with minimal breaks. This is much different than what we view as “plyometrics.”
Due to its explosiveness and the inability of non-athletes to perform it properly, plyometric exercise is not a safe modality to incorporate into your weight loss program. Understanding your goals is an important step to keep yourself and others safe on the workout floor!