Everything You Need to Know About Plyometrics (Plus Knee-Friendly Exercises)
If you haven’t been doing plyometrics—aka jumping exercises—the latest science will persuade you to add them to your routine. It packs a big
There are many ways to get a great sweat, but plyometrics have an X factor that a lot of other workouts don't: Making you super-sculpted and very agile.
Because plyometrics generally recruit the fast-twitch fibers in your muscles-the same ones you use for sprint speed-and train the nervous system to be more efficient at recruiting those fast-twitch fibers, the exercises are key for tapping greater force from your muscles. In fact, a new study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that female volleyball players who did twice-a-week plyometric workouts (25 to 40 minutes of plyo drills-for example, explosive moves like jumps) significantly improved their sprints, but those who did other conditioning did not. That means your plyo reps are doing double duty, making you firm up and faster too.
Here, the ideas you need to elevate your squats, lunges, and planks with these plyometric variations, below, from Jesse Jones, the program director for Basecamp Fitness in Santa Monica and other California locations. Swap them in as high-intensity intervals in your routine, or try the drills and videos on these pages to net all the plyo benefits. (Related: 5 Plyo Moves to Sub for Cardio (Sometimes!))
Knee-Friendly Plyometric Exercises
Yes, you read that right. "Plyometrics are one of the best ways to build the functional muscle strength around the joint, which helps support it," says Dr. Metzl, who is also a Shape Brain Trust member. Caveat: Stick the landing. If your knees cave inward as you land a jump squat or a burpee, build your butt and quad strength. Dr. Metzl recommends doing single-leg squats with a chair behind you, taking a seat for a split second and then standing up. (Use this single tweak to fix knee pain when you're running.)
Choose Your Shock Absorbers
Running is a plyo fest. "It's like a series of plyometric lunges," Dr. Metzl says. But the cushioning in your sneakers is up to you: An American Council on Exercise study says even übercushioned ones won't affect your speed, form, or energy expenditure. Try: Sketchers GOrun Ride 7 ($95; sketchers.com), Brooks Glycerin 16 ($150; brooksrunning.com), or Hoka One One Clifton 4 ($140; hokaoneone.com).
The Best Plyometric Training Gear
There's a world of plyometrics beyond burpees. Try these catch-air tools.
- Platform: Plyo boxes-from six inches and up-can boost your intensity. Try this quick drill from Becca Capell, the head trainer at iFit virtual training: Warm up with 1 minute of step-ups on a box. Then do 3 rounds of 10 box jumps, alternating with 10 side-to-side step-overs. (Here's how to master a box jump even if it feels impossible.)
- Jump Rope: Jumping rope can burn a blazing 13 calories per minute. Try Capell's rope mix: Do 3 rounds of 100 rope jumps and 10 modified (on knees) plyo push-ups; follow with 3 rounds of single-leg rope jumps, alternating 25 right and 25 left each round. (This 30-minute jump rope workout burns an insane number of calories.)
- Rebounder: Start with this fun circuit from Fayth Caruso, a master trainer for Bellicon rebounders. Do 60 seconds each of jump squats from floor to rebounder, plyo push-ups on frame, and sprinting in place. Then do 90 seconds of bouncing. Do circuit 4 times.
You'll Need Joint Fuel
Now you know plyometric drills done right won't cause joint pain. But eating your way to stronger knees can't hurt either-especially if aches are keeping you grounded. Athletes with exercise-related joint pain who took 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate a day reported a reduction in symptoms over the course of a 24-week Penn State University study. You can get the collagen-which builds up cartilage tissue in the joints-from fish, egg whites, bone broth, gelatin, or a collagen powder, says Susan Blum, M.D., the founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. (Or try this kiwi coconut collagen smoothie bowl.) Also get antioxidants from brightly colored fruits and veggies to protect joints from any oxidative damage that they might incur, she says.