Plyometric exercises complement your lower-body strengthening routine by enhancing leg strength, coordination and balance. Also known as jump training, plyometric leg exercises involve launching and landing to challenge the muscles of the legs. You'll experience improvements in sprinting ability, jump height and agility.
Plyo workouts are anything but easy, however. Make sure you've been strength training regularly and that you know how to land when incorporating this jump training.
The best plyometric exercises for your legs are based off standard movements, such as squats and lunges, so you can maintain proper alignment and biomechanics to avoid injury and get the most muscle-building and power benefits.
Always warm up prior to engaging in plyometric leg training. Do each exercise for about 30 seconds, attempting to achieve as many reps with good form as is possible for you.
The squat jump, or jump squat, adds propulsion to the basic squat. This is a basic plyometric exercise for your legs and the perfect place to start exploring this style of training.
To perform the move: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and bend your hips and knees to lower into a squat position. Keep your arms alongside your hips.
Inhale and explode off the floor as you straighten your joints and swing your arms up toward the ceiling. Land immediately back down in the starting squat position.
Jump lunges are based on a standard lunge, or split squat, position. The quick switch of your legs while in the air helps you develop neuromuscular reaction time as well as build power and strength.
To perform the move: Stand in a lunge position with one foot staggered in front of the other; keep the legs parallel as if they were on railroad tracks. Bend the front knee so it aligns over the front heel as you lower into the lunge position. Push your feet off the floor to jump up into the air and quickly switch feet, so the opposite foot is now in front with the knee bent.
Box Jumps and Depth Jumps
Box jumps involve launching from a squat onto a sturdy elevated box or platform. Start with a relatively manageable height of 12 inches, and advance to higher boxes as your ability improves. Some athletes do box jumps onto surfaces of 3 feet or much higher.
To perform the move: Stand in front of the box with your feet hip-distance apart. Squat down and explode up to land on the surface with your feet still hip-distance apart and your knees bent. Return to the floor to repeat.
Depth jumps are an advanced form of box jumps that have you jump off the box as well as onto it. Your muscles use the force of a solid landing and turn it into elastic energy that is then converted into a contraction so you can jump back up.
Developing this energy usage helps you move explosively during sporting events. Master depth drops before performing depth jumps, meaning you get comfortable with jumping off the box and ending on the floor with bent knees and hips to absorb the landing.
To perform the move: Stand on the box and soften your knees and hips. Step off and land on both feet with your hips and knees bent; immediately jump back up to return to the surface of the box.
Lateral bounding develops your ability to move and absorb impact when going side to side, rather than just front to back. Train this directional movement to develop your stabilizing muscles and counteract the very linear nature of many sports.
To perform the move: Stand with your feet wider than your hips. Bend your right knee and hip; put all your weight into the right glute and push off to land on the left leg. Make sure when you spring onto the left leg that the knee and hip bend to absorb the impact. Continue to bound back and forth between the legs for the entirety of your set. To add variety, travel forward as you bound side to side.