They’re not the standard weight-training method, and they’re not your standby cardio. But plyometric exercises are a potent force for fat loss and a better booty. Plyometric exercises enhance your muscles’ ability to produce maximum force in minimal time, which means using gravity and reaction forces to generate faster-than-normal muscle contractions. If you stand on top of a box, drop down to the floor and in a split second bounce off the floor to go back up onto the box, for example, that’s plyometrics. Incorporating plyos into your workouts can boost strength levels in a very direct way, so plyometric exercises are a no-brainer for boosting athletic performance.
More indirectly is how plyos can help the average gym-goer burn more body fat for a leaner physique. “Working the energy systems associated with anaerobic training via plyometrics will generally convert body fat to lean body mass by virtue of the amount of work that can be accomplished,” says Donald A. Chu, Ph.D., CSCS, co-author of Plyometrics (Human Kinetics, 2013). It’s so physically demanding that it requires many more calories for your body to get back to homeostasis, thus producing a huge fat-burning effect.
So if you’d like to increase fat burning, then you’ll want to add plyos to your current gym routine. Here’s one plyo workout recommended by Chu, consistent with his guidelines and suggested set/rep counts, that will help you with your fat-loss goals. The bonus: Plyos will help improve your performance in your weight training and virtually any sport, from soccer to tennis to beach volleyball.
Plyo Lower-Body Workout*
Note: Beginners to plyometrics perform half the recommended sets or only three of the exercises.
*Do this workout separately from a lifting workout. Warm up beforehand by jogging, jumping rope, skipping or doing lunges, and by doing a few practice reps of the workout exercises at lower intensity.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down to approximately half-squat depth while swinging your arms back behind you, then explosively jump out in front of you as far as possible while swinging your arms forward. Upon touching down, immediately go into the next jump.
Hurdle Hop or Tuck Jump
Space out about six hurdles or other barriers (12 to 42 inches tall, depending on fitness level and ability). Stand in front of the first hurdle and explosively jump over it off both legs, keeping your feet close together throughout the jump and pulling your knees up to clear the barrier. Land softly and go right into an explosive jump over the next hurdle.
The tuck jump is an equipment-free option. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, jump up as high as possible and bring your knees up toward your chest. Land softly and go immediately into another tuck jump.
Box-to-Box Squat Jump or Olympic Hop
Set up a row of three to six plyometric boxes spaced a few feet apart. The boxes should be anywhere from 12 to 42 inches high, depending on your fitness level and athletic ability, and all should be the same height. Stand in front of the first box and drop into a full squat with your hands clasped behind your head. Jump explosively up to the box and land softly on top of it in a full squat position. Staying in that position, jump down from the other side of the box and immediately go into a squat jump up to the next box, continuing down the row in this manner.
The Olympic hop is an equipment-free option. Start in a full squat with your hands behind your head. Perform continuous small hops forward with minimal hip and knee extension (more or less maintaining the squat position) for a distance of 10 to 20 yards.
Standing Triple Jump
With your feet shoulder-width apart, perform a standing long jump, landing on only one foot. Immediately jump forward off that leg and land on the opposite foot. Jump forward off that leg and land safely on both feet. That’s one rep. Stand up, reset your feet and repeat the triple jump, either in the same direction or back the opposite way (depending on floor space).
Place two cones (or other markers) 4 to 5 feet apart. Start with your knees slightly bent and feet together, standing just inside one of the cones. Jump laterally off the outside leg, swinging your arms in the direction you’re moving to help propel you, and land with the opposite foot just inside the other cone while allowing the leg you just jumped off to swing behind you (like a speedskater). Immediately repeat the motion in the opposite direction to jump back (off the outside leg) to the starting cone.