In nearly every professional sport, the ability to jump and accelerate explosively are critical to success. Whether you are a tennis player chasing down a ball, a basketball player trying to get the first step against a defender or a football player sprinting faster over short distances than everyone else, you need to jump higher and explode faster than your competition.
Strength training and workouts can get you there over time. But if you are interested in a change, plyometric training (also known as plyos) can go a long way toward strengthening your legs, glutes and jumping ability, while giving you a nice change of pace.
Attempt these polymeric exercises only if you're already in good shape. One recommended guideline: "you should be able to squat 1.5 times your body weight before doing plyometrics."
Here are some key plyometric exercises that NFL players perform.
The Box Jump
This may be the best known plyometric exercise. We saw J.J. Watt demonstrate it on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. The Box Jump is a simple yet effective exercise to strengthen your quadriceps and glutes.
To get the most out of this exercise, it is important to do it properly. Place a plyo box in front of you. Then squat and try to jump onto the box. Make sure that your feet land completely on the box.
Box jumping will generally improve your leg muscles, but you need to use your entire body to jump as high as possible.
On top of everything, safety is critical for the Box Jump. Always have someone next to you, ready to catch you if you miss the jump and fall. Never attempt to do this exercise by yourself. And never, ever jump off the box. Step off it.
RELATED: Box Jumps: Are They Really Worth It?
The Broad Jump
Whereas the Box Jump emphasizes vertical leaping, the Broad Jump emphasizes horizontal leaping.
Unlike the Long Jump, the Broad Jump does not allow for a running start. The only way to jump a good distance is to squat as hard as you can.
The Broad Jump has two variations. In the standard version, you jump as far as you can and keep jumping for a certain amount of sets, as fast as you can. The second variation performed by NFL athletes is the Band-Resisted Broad Jump. An elastic band provides resistance, pulling you back after you jump. Then you jump again with the band constantly fighting you.
The key point is that both jumps improve your leg strength and your overall jumping ability.
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
Plyometrics are generally designed to improve lower-body strength, but upper-body plyo exercises also exist. One main one is the Medicine Ball Chest Pass, designed to improve the explosive power of your arms.
As noted, the goal is to improve explosiveness as opposed to strength. Therefore, the weight of the ball is not as important as making passes as quickly as possible.
Grip the sides of the medicine ball with your hands, hold it close to you with your elbows extended, and then fling it forward as fast as you can. When your partner throws it back to you, catch it and immediately fling it again without holding onto it. As one guide to this exercise notes, this is a common mistake.
This exercise is ideally done with a partner, but it can also be performed against a wall.
NFL athletes can jump high and far. But the key jumping ability they need is to jump as quickly as possible using their fast-twitch muscles.
Lateral jumping is a simple plyo exercise that improves your ankle and calf muscles. Stand about 6 inches from a small obstacle, around a foot high. Jump laterally over the obstacle as quickly as you can, staying light on your feet. If you find this too easy, increase the size of the obstacle or hold a weight or a medicine ball over your head as you jump.
The goal is to improve your agility and reaction time. Make sure to bend your knees as you jump so that your entire lower body is involved, not just your feet.
With all these techniques, remember to take a holistic approach to strength and conditioning. Plyometrics are an essential element of many sports, but it's important to make sure your diet and general strength and endurance are already dialed in—and that you allow enough time for recovery—so you can take full advantage of this type of explosive training.
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