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Plyometrics: A Fat Burning Workout?

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Plyometrics is used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, often with the goal of increasing the height of a jump.

Plyometrics is a method of training used to increase power through jumping, bounding, and hopping exercises as a means to improve athletic performance. The intention of plyometrics is to build speed and strength – to generate the most amount of force in the shortest amount of time.

The muscular mechanism of plyometrics occurs when the muscle shortens, the concentric contraction, and is immediately followed by the muscle lengthening, the eccentric contraction. The muscle under tension can react with an explosive contraction due to stored energy, and can dramatically improve muscle response time.

In order to successfully realize the full benefits of plyometrics, one should understand the guidelines which pertain to completing a plyometric exercise. The “loading” of the muscle, also called the stretch, needs to be very quick. For example, in a push up to clap, the stretch would be when you land on your hands, slightly bent. The subsequent and powerful contraction which occurs afterwards is the quick push up to clap.

Because plyometric exercises utilize fast motions, it is easy to mistake it for aerobic training.  However, it is not a substitute for cardiovascular and fat burning exercises. Plyometrics focus on improving the fast twitch muscle fibers allowing for increased power, and are not the ideal calorie burning workout for the general population.

As with any type of advanced fitness training, it is important to utilize your entire body for stability, avoid using stiff joints, and allowing energy to travel smoothly through your limbs. If exercises are performed without proper technique, overuse injuries may occur.

Here are some examples of upper and lower body plyometric exercises and the corresponding related sport in which training will benefit.

Chest Passes – You can perform this exercise with either a partner or against a wall. Holding a medicine ball at chest level with arms bent, quickly bend arms and fully extend, throwing the ball either at your partner or wall and catch. Perform the same sequence of as quickly as possible without effecting form. This exercise is great at increasing upper body strength for sports such as basketball.

Jump Squats – Begin this exercise is the squat position, legs shoulder width apart and knees bent. Arms should be behind your ears. From the squat, explode upwards by driving your legs upwards into a jump, maximizing the time you are in the air. When landing, be sure to bend your knees for shock absorption and lower back into the squat. Repeat sequence of exercise for allotted repetitions. This exercise builds lower body strength for sports such as volleyball or running.

Many everyday activities such as running or throwing are in fact very simple plyometric exercises. Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless. 


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