Don’t fear plyometrics, they’re just hops, skips and jumps

Clients’ eyes get wide with fear when I tell then they will be doing plyometrics as part of their workout. 

Plyometrics don’t mean something superhard. It’s just another word for jumping and hopping. 

Plyometrics use the muscles’ natural elasticity to assist in force production. This is why you inherently squat before jumping onto a box or get a "running start" before trying to slam dunk a basketball, something I was never good at. For a more in-depth explanation of plyo, see my earlier column 

Exercises should only be advanced into plyometrics when a person’s form is good enough to handle them. If your squat isn’t where it should be, then you shouldn’t do a box jump. If your form on lunges is lacking, then don’t try a split jack. If you’re still trying to get all the knots out of your calves with the foam roller, then hold off on the hopping for a little longer. 

You could make whatever posture and form issues you have worse by progressing exercises too soon. Be sure to earn the progression by mastering the basic exercise first. 

The exercises I’ve chosen for today are two I use regularly. 

Square hops simply have you hopping from square to square. It sounds easy, but there is more to it than you might think. The toes, ankles, knees and hips all need to be aligned. The core will have to be tight. The landing needs to be soft so the lower back doesn’t absorb the kinetic energy. If you’re performing them at a quicker pace, then your landing has to also double as the loading for the next hop. 

For some, this exercise will take lots of energy to perform. For others, accuracy may be an issue. 

Though this exercise is performed fast, speed can only be gained by increased control and muscle memory. 

Split jacks are an advanced form of lunges. They too require proper form and control. Essentially you just jump from one lunge position and land in another lunge position. 

 If you think about it, a bunch of things need to happen in a short amount of time. From first jump, the feet switch places in the air, the body needs to stay in alignment, the landing needs to be soft and the muscles need to use that landing as a loading of energy for the next jump. If you’re not in control, then something could go wrong and you could pull a muscle or fall. 

Before trying split jacks, be sure that your iliotibial and tensor fasciae latae bands on the outside of your legs are in good condition. If you still feel severely tender knots when foam rolling them, you may want to hold off jumping for a while. 

These movements can help athletes in many sports improve their game and prevent injuries. They create tendon strength and increase neuromuscular control. 

I often use square hops to help soccer and tennis players develop ankle and knee strength. Split jacks are good for field sports, too. They help develop explosive power in the legs and aid in the body’s control of its movements. They are good for football players, wrestlers and volleyball players. 

Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. You can contact him at Before beginning any exercise program, consult your physician. 

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