By Lindy Olsen. Model: Jody Viglione. Images By Dallas Olsen.

For better performance, stronger legs and an even slimmer figure try the power of plyometrics. In its most basic sense, plyometric training involves loading up a muscle by stretching and then contracting it rapidly. Th is is exactly what happens to your muscles when you bend your legs to squat (the eccentric, or stretching, phase), then immediately push off into the air (the concentric, or fl exing, phase). But these explosive actions shouldn’t be reserved just for championship competitions – plyometrics can enhance your own training program, leading to stronger, more powerful muscles, all while shaping your body.

Get To Know Plyo
The aim of plyo is to generate the strongest contraction possible in the shortest amount of time – like stretching and shooting a rubber band across the room. “Plyometrics are used to develop and enhance explosiveness in athletes to improve sports pecific skills and performance,” explains Jim Smith, CSCS at dieselsc.com, adding that when plyo is done correctly, it is highly effective at developing speed and power.

No Bones About It
But don’t disregard this training method as a tool used strictly by Olympians – the results that it elicits are applicable to the average person, too. Your bones, for one, will thank you; a study in the World Journal of Sports Sciences found that athletes who participated in a plyometric program saw an increase of bone mineral density of 13% to 19%. Th e same researchers also found that plyo reduced the rate of bone injuries by 42%, a bonus that benefits athletes and average exercisers alike.

Boost Your Burn
Because of its high intensity, even advanced exercisers shouldn’t perform plyo for more than 10 to 15 minutes two times per week, according to Cathe Friedrich, Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and star of more than 170 fitness DVDs. But these short sessions create an after-burn effect that can cause you to burn calories for hours after the workout itself. And plateaus? Forget about it! Th e unexpected nature of jump training forces your body out of its comfort zone, creating a metabolic disturbance while causing your muscles to react differently than they would during a typical cardio or weight-training session. And here’s one more benefit: “Plyo enhances the shape and definition of the muscles, most notably the glutes,” adds Friedrich. “It really helps shape, rather than bulk up, the butt.”


Why does Oxygirl, Jody Viglione, include plyometrics into her workout routine?
“I love including plyometric exercises in my workouts as they cause signifi cant lean muscle and strength gains to the legs in a more functional and effective way than ordinary resistance exercises. Unlike my weight training, which solely focuses on size and tone of muscles, plyometrics help to improve the power and force produced by the muscles of the legs. And let’s not forget the high calorie burn that plyo exercises produce. So not only do I get a high calorie burn in my workouts, but the increased muscle mass increases my metabolic rate in the long term. I also get a great satisfaction from doing plyometrics as the intensity of the workout makes me feel euphoric! If you’re not currently including plyo exercises in your routines, then I encourage you to try them. However, you should introduce them slowly and perfect your technique. Working on your ability to perform these exercises well, with good form and technique will prevent injury to yourself. Once you have built your strength up to do plyo’s correctly, you can go on to include them on a regular basis. Say goodbye to plateaus!”

Your sky-high plyo plan
Start with a warm-up. “Th e warmup should include dynamic, full-body movements that focus on your ankles, hips, knees and upper back, to improve your mobility and activate your muscles,” says Jim Smith, CSCS. Try motions like arm swings, squats and jumping jacks. Practice each move slowly to get the mechanics correct before going all out. Do all reps for each exercise in a row with no rest in between. If you are doing more than one circuit, rest for the suggested number of minutes before repeating from the top. Go all out. Move as hard, as fast and as high as you can for each rep. Never lock your joints. Land softly, absorbing the impact with your muscles.


 One-Legged Forward Hop

Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

Set Up: Stand on one leg with your arms extended at your sides.
Action: Bend your standing knee, then extend your leg forcefully, pressing through the ball of your foot to propel yourself upward and forward to hop. Land on the ball of your foot, bending your knee to absorb the impact, then immediately repeat. Repeat with the other leg.
 
 Tuck Jump

Target Muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius

Set Up: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Action: Sink halfway into a squat, reaching your arms behind you, then extend your legs and explode into the air, bringing your knees up toward your chest in midair. Straighten your legs, landing softly on the balls of your feet, and immediately repeat. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get it the first time; jump as high as you can and bring your knees forward as much as possible.
 
 Star Jump

Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, leg abductors

Set Up: Stand with your feet close together and arms extended at your sides. Action: Bend your knees to lower into a half-squat, then leap into the air, lifting your arms and straightening your legs to make a star shape at the highest point of the jump. Bring your arms back to your sides and your legs together prior to landing, keeping a slight bend in your knees to absorb the impact. Repeat immediately.
 
 Burpee

Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, deltoids, abdominals

Set Up: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Action: Squat down and place your palms on the ground. Quickly jump your feet back, extending your legs into push-up position, then immediately hop them back between your hands. Quickly extend your legs and explode into the air, reaching your arms above your head as you leap. Land lightly and repeat without rest.
 

 Box Ski Hop

Target Muscles: glutes, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, obliques

Set Up: Stand to the side of a small box or block with your arms at your sides. Action: Bend your knees slightly to load the muscles, then hop over and to the side of the box, landing lightly on the balls of your feet. Use an even cadence to leap from side to side as if skiing, and use your arms to generate upward momentum. Repeat