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Hardcore Cardio: Are Plyometrics Right for You?

Burn fat and tone muscle with the latest fitness craze hitting the workout world; Plyometrics!

Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor Melanie Douglass shares why plyometrics are so popular in the fitness world.


Plyometrics are a group of exercises based on one thing: jumping! They are fun, energetic, and done in short durations (like 10 seconds to 10 minutes). Plyometrics can actually accommodate all fitness levels, because you can start with the babiest of jumps (barely lifting off the floor) and work up to more advanced moves as you build strength and stability.

Why do plyometrics: because you'll burn more calories as your muscles and joints to work together in a more efficient way. Plyometrics improve lower body muscle tone along with total-body strength, power, and joint stability (with careful attention to proper form). They may not be fore everyone, but if you're looking for a fun, explosive way to burn calories and shape-up your legs, this is one great way to go.

How plyometrics work: these types of exercises maximize the "stretch reflex" of your muscles. After the first jump, you land, the muscle quickly lengthens, then must quickly contract again for the next jump. This leads to more muscle length at the beginning of the move; therefore more power, strength and range of motion. Plyometrics can potentially lead to injuries if done improperly, but conversely, can reduce the risk of injuries when done properly. This is because the muscles supporting joints are stronger and the muscles are trained to better absorb and manage the impact.

Proper form for plyos: it's important when you land from a plyometric jump that you do 3 things:

1) Land on the ball of the foot and roll naturally back through the heels.

2) Land with bent knees.

3) Keep knees and toes forward, never twist or collapse knees inward when landing

You've probably seen or heard of advanced plyometric moves from all the extreme workouts on home workout DVDs, in health clubs, and in sports- training facilities (like plyometric jump boxes). Here are five exercises to try at home. These are Level 1 movements, but you can make them harder by jumping higher or jumping over a taller object.

#1: Vertical Jump

- Knees front, shoulder width apart

- Lower down, pressing hips back and keeping knees behind toes

- Jump straight up, reach arms overhead

- Land soft, ball of foot roll to heel

#2: Lateral Hops

- Feet together, toes forward

- Jump to the side

- Start with narrow jump (~1 foot), work wider (~2-4 feet) and drop lower as you progress

- Land ball of foot, roll to heels, knees bent

#3: Scissors

- One leg in front of the other, toes forward

- Jump up and scissor switch legs

- Land soft, front knees should NOT push past the toes, keep knee over toes/ankle

#4: Box jumps

- Find a stair, step deck or a stable plyo box

- Stand ~1 foot behind it with feet shoulder width apart, toes forward

- Jump up, land on the box with bent knees, hips back and soft land

- Step down (level 1) or jump back (2)

#5: Snowboarders

- Step (level 1) or squat (level 2) to the right side, about 2' out, then come center and squat out to the left side

- Touch the floor as you step out to side and drop the hips low, pushing weight back through your heels

- Level 3: Jump straight up, turning 180 degrees to face other direction, land soft, jump straight up again and turn back 180 degrees

- Land soft, ball of foot to heels, knees soft


For more info: melaniedouglass@gmail.com

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