Plyometrics is a form of exercise that utilizes bursts of small, sudden movements, such as quick jumps, in order to use the muscles to their maximum abilities in the shortest time frame as possible. It tends to be used primarily as a means to increase athletes’ abilities to jump higher or take off faster from a standing position. Plyometric cardio is an exercise regimen which incorporates traditional plyometric movements into an aerobic exercise routine as a means to reduce the percentage of body fat.
Plyometric (plyo) cardio routine movements are thought to utilize the muscles in three main ways. During the first phase of the movement, a person generally bends his or her legs in preparation for a sudden jump or other swift movement, and the body begins to make potential energy, or energy that is stored for movement that body knows will typically occur within a short period of time. In the second phase of plyometrics, a person begins the process of using that potential energy and changes positions to transition into the actual movement. This phase, often referred to as the amortization phase, tends to be very short or nearly immediate and is often as simple as the change from a person bending his or her legs in preparation for a jump to the transition for the actual push off the ground with his or her legs. The final phase is when a person uses all of the potential energy and performs the plyometric exercise.
One of the most common movements used in plyometric cardio routines is often referred to as plyo jumps. Plyo jumps are performed by a person standing with his or her legs together before bending the lower body into a squatting position. From the squatting position, a person may then jump into the air as high as possible before landing back into the original position. The jumps are performed immediately after one another with no rests between each one. People who are beginners at plyometric cardo may perform the exercises for 10 seconds, while more advanced exercisers may continue for up to one minute.
Another exercise that may be performed during plyometric cardio is a version of the plyo jump, but a side-to-side variation. A person positions a small step or box on the floor and stands on one side of it. He or she then lightly squats, then jumps sideways over the step or box to land on the other side. The exercise is then immediately repeated on the other side of the step or box.