Plyometric Cardio Circuit Exercises

Three muscular athletes doing jumping squats

Add a little fun and challenge to your circuit routine with plyometrics, or jump training. These moves combine quick successions of stretching and contraction to help you train for sports or any activity that requires you to explode from the ground.

Plyometrics are no joke — they require a ton of effort and athletic skill. But when done right, plyometrics strengthen muscles, increase your vertical leap and teach your joints to manage impact. Incorporate a few into a comprehensive circuit workout that also includes exercise stations that hone agility, proprioception and strength. These particular exercises are great for a circuit because they require minimal equipment and take up little space.

Plyometrics should only be incorporated if you already have a fitness base and are ready to progress. If you have joint issues, pass on these exercises.

1. Squat Thrust

The intensity of the squat thrust creeps up on you. It builds power in your thighs, stability in your core and flexibility in your hips.

HOW TO DO IT: Begin in the top of a push-up position. Jump your feet forward into a wide squat with your arms overhead. Place your hands back in the floor and jump back to the plank position. Repetitions come in quick succession.

2. Lateral Bounds

Lateral bounds train some of the smaller, lateral muscles of your hips to become more stable.

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees bent into a partial squat. Lift your right foot to power over to the right side, covering 4 to 5 feet. Land with a softly bent right knee. Immediately ricochet to the left, landing on the left leg with knee bent. Continue to bounce laterally back and forth for the duration of the circuit.

3. Box Jump

Box jumps are a classic plyometric move. Start with a box only about 8 to 12 inches high and progress up as your power and vertical leap improve. A sturdy bench, specially made wood or metal plyometric box or set of steps can work.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, facing the box. Bend your knees and drop your hips back into a mini-squat. Immediately push off your heels and swing your arms to explode up onto the box surface. Land softly with bent knees. Step off the box with control. Repeat several times in quick succession.

Pushup workout in gym

4. Plyometric Push-up

Plyometrics usually emphasize muscles of the lower body. However, the plyometric push-up challenges your chest, triceps and shoulders. Modify the exercise by performing it on your knees.

HOW TO DO IT: Get into the top of a push-up position with your core engaged. Bend your elbows into a push-up and push up explosively so your hands leave the ground and you can clap before bending the elbows back down into the bottom of the push-up. Repeat several reps in a row.

5. Jump Lunge

Jump lunges are sometimes called "plunges" or "split jumps." The exercise helps you gain balance, power and sculpted thighs.

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet in a split stance: one foot forward and one back, feet about 3 to 4 feet apart. Bend into the front knee and immediately jump up and switch your legs in the air, so that the front leg is now in back. Land at the bottom of a lunge with your knees bent. Repeat the alternating legs quickly for the entire circuit.

6. Single-Leg Hops

Hone each leg independently with single-leg hops. With this exercise, your stronger leg can't take over and do most of the work. You'll build thigh and glute strength as well as target smaller muscles in your calf and the ankle joint.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on your left leg with the left knee bent; your right leg is bent and lifted off the floor. Hop to the left, landing on the left foot. Immediately hop back to the right, still on the left foot. Keep your knee slightly bent throughout to absorb the impact.