Plyometric Jump Training Exercises

Plyometrics build strength and power in your glutes, quads, and calves

When you think of hopping, skipping, and jumping, you may immediately conjure up images of joyful children scampering through a field of daisies. However, increasingly, you may see adults using these basic movement skills as part of a hardcore athletic training program called plyometric exercises. Essentially, these exercises combine force and speed through a variety of movements to build muscle power.

Elite athletes have used these basic bodyweight moves for decades, but we can thank the popular CrossFit programs for bringing these 'old school' drills to the masses. The beauty of jumping (and other plyometric exercises) may just be in its simplicity. Anyone can do it, wherever you are. It's progressive, and you can add endless variety depending upon how high you jump, how fast you jump, what direction you jump, and whether you jump with one or both feet at a time. 

What Are Plyometric Exercises?

Plyometric exercises alternate between concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. In other words, you build up energy in your muscles with resistance and then release it, shortening and lengthening the muscles. Examples include squat jumps, kicking, pushups, or burpees.


Watch Now: How To Do Squat Jumps

Jumping is generally safe, provided you pay attention to your body and your surroundings. If you haven't done any sort of plyometric drills or don't regularly do sports or activities that take both feet off the ground at once (running counts, walking and the elliptical don't), take some precautions by starting very slowly and building up your jumping skill.

Jumping Safety

If you aren't accustomed to impact exercise, you run the risk of getting injured if you start too aggressively with jumps or rebounding. Beginners are advised to start on a soft, flat surface, such as a grass playing field or a cushioned mat or floor. Begin with several weeks of progressive training to slowly build the skill and endurance necessary for more aggressive jumping drills. It's also recommended to work with a coach or trainer if you are new to plyometric training.

Jump Rope

jump rope plyo exercise
jump rope plyo exercise.

Lisa Stirling / Getty Images

An easy way to get started with plyometrics is to begin with a childhood favorite—the jump rope. Using a jump rope gives you a simple way to condition the muscles used for plyometrics as well as get you comfortable with the coordination required for more powerful plyometric bounding. This simple move gets you in shape for more intensity down the road.

If you don't have a jump rope, you can easily fake it, and just jump up an inch or two as though you are jumping rope.

Jump 30–60 seconds at a time, take a short break, and repeat 3–5 times. Do this every day for a week and you'll be ready to move on to the next plyo move.

Squat Jumps

Land a jump
Land a jump.

Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

Squat jumps require a bit more conditioning and a little warmup to avoid injury. After jumping rope for about a minute, settle into a ready position with your feet about shoulder-width, knees relaxed and bent, and elbows bent at about ninety degrees. Have hands out in front of your body.

Get ready to do a full squat jump by dropping your butt back, bending your knees, and sinking down into a squat. In one quick motion, you will rebound your body straight up into the air and land with soft knees to absorb the impact.

The squat jump is great because you can modify the intensity by changing how high you try to jump, how quickly you repeat the jump, and how many jumps you do in a row. You can go for a specific number (15 full jumps, for example) or you can go for time (jump for 30 seconds). You can also add lateral plyometric bounding to your routine. Mix it up as you get stronger, and always stop if you feel any unusual twinges, pains, or fatigue.

Box Jumps

Box Jumps
Box Jumps. Getty Images

To really up the ante for plyometric skills training, you can add box jumps to your routine. Start with a fairly short box (between 12 and 24 inches high) and build up slowly over time. You can step or jump down depending upon what is safest for you. You may never reach the insane 64-inch box jump of an advanced CrossFit athlete, but you may achieve a new personal best.

Essentially, to perform this move, stand in front of a box in a squat position, and jump up onto the box (or step or other raised platform). Once you are on top of the box, either step or jump back down. Repeat for your desired duration of time or repetitions.

Lateral Hopping Drills

a woman jumping on one foot

Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm / Getty Images

The next level of plyometric exercise involves the hop. Start by simply hopping on one foot for a set duration and number of repetitions. Then, switch to the other foot. By jumping on one foot you are increasing the effort, as well as increasing the impact, so be sure to do this on a safe surface. Avoid concrete and uneven terrain. Aim to land softly and securely when you do this move.

You can modify the intensity by varying the height of the jump, and by varying the direction. To increase agility, for example, you can hop forward and back and side to side. It's not as simple as it may sound. If you are practicing hopping drills, be sure to work both legs.

1 Source
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  1. Slimani M, Chamari K, Miarka B, Del Vecchio FB, Chéour F. Effects of plyometric training on physical fitness in team sport athletes: A systematic reviewJ Hum Kinet. 2016;53:231-247. doi:10.1515/hukin-2016-0026

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.