Have you ever done P90X or Cross-Fit? These workout routines involve a lot of plyometrics training, which can be safe if performed according to the following guidelines. If they are not done with caution, they can put you at high risk for injury.
WHO SHOULD DO PLYOMETRICS?
Plyometrics is most indicated for athletes. If you ever played sports in middle or high school, you likely practiced some plyometrics or jumping drills. This form of training increases your muscle power so that you can jump higher, farther and/or faster during the sports activities. So if you play or are training for a sport that involves running and jumping, you may benefit from plyometrics exercise. The purpose of plyometrics is not to increase your cardiovascular endurance; longer bouts of cardio training is required for that benefit. Similarly, plyometrics is not used to increase your muscle strength (resistance training would be required).
EXAMPLES OF LOWER BODY PLYOMETRICS:
1. Vertical jumping, either with both legs or single leg.
2. Squat jumping or lunge jumping.
3. Horizontal jumping, which may include jumping over objects.
4. Repetitive jumping/hopping in place or in multiple directions.
5. Jumping on/off boxes or steps.
HOW MUCH PLYOMETRICS IS SAFE PER TRAINING SESSION?
This depends on the intensity of the jumping. Higher intensity jumping drills should be done in smaller amounts. If you are new to plyometrics and are performing low-intensity drills, you should do no more than 80-100 jumps in each session. For intermediate levels, start with 100-120 jumps. Advanced athletes can do 120-140 jumps.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD PLYOMETRICS BE PERFORMED?
You can do plyometrics 1-3x/week; it is not safe to do so more than 3-4x/week. High-level athletes typically do plyometrics 4x/week. You should wait 2-3 days between plyometrics training sessions for sufficient and safe recovery time. Do not repeat lower body plyometrics drills on 2 consecutive days.
HOW SHOULD I WARM UP FOR PLYOMETRICS EXERCISE?
Start with some low-intensity standing cardio exercise, such as walking, marching, jogging, stairmaster, lunges or various footwork drills. Do so for 5-10 minutes, then do stretching as indicated for your sport or workout. Further warmups may be needed, depending on the intensity of plyometrics planned for that session. Plyometrics should be done toward the beginning of your workout, immediately after the warmup.
IS IT SAFE TO DO RESISTANCE TRAINING AND PLYOMETRICS ON THE SAME DAY?
If you are not experienced, avoid performing lower body strength training with jumping drills on the same day. Athletes often combine these exercises but with proper caution and guidance. Lower body plyometrics are most appropriate on a day that you do cardio exercise and/or upper body strengthening.
WHO SHOULD AVOID PLYOMETRICS?
High-intensity plyometrics are not safe for young individuals that are still growing, as it may cause the growth plates in the bones to close early. Individuals who weigh over 220 lbs. should avoid jumps from >18 inches and should perform fewer repetitions of all plyometrics. Older individuals should do plyometrics only as needed for sports and with extra caution (lower intensities, fewer repetitions). Consult your physician before beginning any plyometrics training.
Source: Baechle TR, Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2nd ed. 2000: Human Kinetics. Pages 428-440.