Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Oct

Reader Response: Plyometric Exercises for Everybody

1850215211 25e7dc24ffNot too long ago, we ran a story about how to incorporate plyometric exercise into your fitness round-up, but warned that because of the explosive nature of plyo exercises, this one was probably best left to those that were in the upper fitness brackets (and free of any sprains, strains or other injuries!).

This post elicited feedback from Mark’s Daily Apple reader, Barry, who wrote:

I’ve been reading your site for almost a year and have adopted a Primal eating style. Before doing so I was out of control having ballooned to almost 350 lbs. I haven’t gone 100% Primal so the weight is coming off slowly. I am now down to 300. My goal weight is 200 lbs. For activity I have been walking and doing some light free weight activities. It is about all I can muster. I read your Primal Plyos posts with fascination and can’t wait until the day comes that I too can do beach sprints, but for now I am limited. What is a 300 lb person to do for exercise? Hint: I can’t jump or sprint like Grok.

First of all, congratulations, Barry, on making it this far. Your weight loss to date is a huge achievement and we commend you for adopting – and sticking to – the Primal eating style. As we say, the diet will produce 80% of your results. Also, the long walks and free weights is a great place to start. But if you want to up the ante a bit check out these plyo exercises…

Lower Body

Double Footed Criss-Cross:
Trade in hops for double footed jumps and you’ll reduce the amount of strain on the knees and decrease your risk of injury.

Take two strips of athletic tape (or duct tape…but athletic tape won’t leave any sticky residue), and lay it out on the floor in a cross pattern. With both feet together, jump from side to side for 10-20 reps each side. Then, do double foot jumps from front to back for 10-20 reps. Finish up with double foot jumps in each quadrant for 10-20 jumps.

Cone Drills:
While not technically a plyometric exercise in itself, this exercise will get you used to switching quickly between movements as well as improve coordination – both of which are important for safe plyometric workouts.

Stand, feet facing forward, and lay out 4 cones on the floor so that they form a semi circle in front of you. The goal here is to go through the cones (1-4) tapping alternative feet on the cones as you move through (so left foot taps cone 1, right taps cone 2, left taps cone 3, etc…). Start slow to gain familiarity with the cones placement and then pick up speed, being sure to tap the cones lightly so as to not move them or tip them over. Perform 10-15 reps, tapping cones 1-4 and then repeating 4-1.

Power Side Lunges:

This side lunge variation, which keeps feet firmly planted on the floor, is great for those who want to tone their lower body without straining the knees or lower back.

Grab two cones (or tall water bottles) and stand with your feet spread far apart (shoot for three foot distance or more). Place each cone so that it stands up close to the outside, top of each foot. The goal here is to side lunge down – keeping knees facing forward at all times – to touch the cone and then push back up and go over and touch the other cone. As with all lunge and squat exercises, you want to make sure that the knee with the bend is not going over the front of the foot, so be sure to sit back as you are doing these lunges. Complete 10-20 reps on each side. Note: If getting down to touch the water bottles proves too hard, sub them out for a low bench or chair – what’s important here is the power you use to move from side to side as opposed to the height that you get down to!

Upper Body

Shoulder Shifter:
This easy plyo move not only tones the shoulder, back and abs, but also teaches excellent control.

Grab a weighted medicine ball (anywhere between 3 – 8 lbs should do) and stand with the ball in front of you, at hip height. Feet should be facing forward, roughly hip width apart and your knees should be slightly bent. On the first count, rapidly raise the ball, stopping when your hands reach shoulder height. Hold for one count. Return to initial position for one count. Repeat for 15-20 reps.

All Hail the Halo:
This plyo movement will teach your body how to move in somewhat unexpected directions (as well as provide a nice little ab and back workout!)

Take a weighted medicine ball (anywhere between 2 and 5 lbs will work) and stand with feet facing forward, hip width apart and your knees slightly bent. Raise the medicine ball over your head. This is your starting position. Move the ball to form large circles over your head taking about 2 seconds for each rotation. Be sure that when you are doing this exercise, it is only your arms and shoulders that are moving and not your torso. Perform 10 rotations clockwise, pause, and then perform 10 circles counterclockwise.

Thrown Off:
A wonderful exercise for the entire body, this move will especially target the muscles in the arms, shoulder, chest and core.

Grab that weighted medicine ball one last time and stand with feet facing forward and hip width apart. Your starting position for this exercise is a subtle squat, so bend your knees and push your butt out until your legs are at about a 145 degree angle from the floor. Grip the ball with arms slightly bent and hold it at knee level. Power the ball up quickly, stopping with arms extended straight over your head and legs straight. Return to start position. Repeat for 10 reps. As in most exercises above, do more than one set if you can manage it.

Tips and Tricks

Whether you’re just starting out on your fitness journey or temporarily sidelined due to an injury or illness, there are always always things you can do to stay active.

Working out in a pool, for example, is minimally jarring to the joints and bones, and provides an environment where you can test-drive various kicks, jumps, and other plyo moves with minimal safety risk (bar drowning of course!)

In addition, while we suggested plyometric exercise as an adjunct or simply an alternative to your regular workout routine, there are certainly many merits in “conventional” exercise. Early man, for example, walked all the time. In fact, he walked everywhere…for food, for shelter, maybe even for fun. To replicate this, just make sure you’re walking for a long time (at least an hour) and walking frequently. Is it the most entertaining activity in the world? Probably not. But if you’re nursing an injury or just starting out on your fitness journey, walking is easily one of the best ways to exercise (and it’s free!)

I guess what we’re trying to say is that as long as you’re moving, you’re doing great in our book – don’t get bogged down with visions of complicated box jumps and other extreme plyo moves. We promise, if you keep up the good work, that day will certainly come.

laurenatclemson Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Upper Body Primal Plyos

Lower Body Primal Plyos

10 Primal Exercises for Elder Apples

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Walking is far from boring for me! I have always hated jogging long distances as it is so boring but since I started walking an hour per day during my lunch hour, I have learned to love it! It offers a great chance to destress. I get some fresh air, some sunshine and some time to just think about the things that I want to think about. The time goes so fast on my walks that before I know it, 1hr and 4 miles have gone by and I wish that I could keep going! I dont know what it is but walking for me is FAR less boring than jogging. Sometimes, friends and co-workers join me for the walk as well and we can chat, which would be much more difficult if we were running. My main issue is with jogging, sprints are still fun and far from boring too of course ;-)

    Son of Grok wrote on October 23rd, 2008
    • I feel the exact same way!!! I walk to and from work each day (about 5 miles in total) and take lunchtime walks but long walks at the weekend. I used to run but gave up about a year ago because I just found it so very boring. I kept concentrating on the time and the distance and making sure I get to the end of the run. With walking I just drift off and daydream, destress and think about everything going on in my life. :D

      Andreea wrote on July 25th, 2013
  2. Hey Mark – how about some videos of these exercises? I’m sure you’d welcome the opportunity to climb into your gym gear and show us how it’s done ;-)

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  3. Methuselah – I have some video ideas up my sleeve and am planning on doing some in the future. In fact I’d like to start doing vids on a fairly regular basis. Check back in coming months for video content. Cheers!

    Mark Sisson wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  4. Hey Mark,

    I just had a question regarding the long walk (at least an hour) idea. I’m about to shift my commuting to almost exclusively walking, which will be about 30-35 each way. That, plus my additional walking around campus (going back to school to do my PhD!) and walking to my gym I’ll be walking 1-2 hours a day on the weekdays. Even if it’s split up into 20-30 minutes chunks, it’s still as effective, isn’t it?

    Jennifer wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  5. Jennifer, it sure is. That’s perfectly Primal!

    Mark Sisson wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  6. First things first…. Way to go Barry! You rock man. About 7 years ago, I lost 60 pounds, half on a crappy diet and half on a more reasonable one. So all I can say is that if you listen to Mark you’re not only gonna lose that weight but you’re gonna do it in a way that is much safer than if you did it on your own like I did.

    Mark, I want to start incorporating more plyos into my routine. The lower body moves won’t be a problem because I’m always looking for exercises for your legs that don’t involve weights. How would you recommend I add in the upper body plyos to compliment a weight regiment consisting of one or two body parts a day, 3 sets a body part and about 8-10 reps a set?

    Thanks for the help!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  7. I’d also like to see videos of these exercises. They’re especially good for athletes.

    Donna wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  8. Andrew R –

    I’d check out this post we did awhile back:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/10-primal-plyos-for-the-upper-body/

    Do 2-3 exercises from the list 1-2 times/week to round out your routine. Mix it up for muscle confusion and to keep things interesting. Thanks for the comment. Keep ‘em coming.

    Mark Sisson wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  9. Just a tip: If you don’t have a medicine ball, something like a water bottle (or an orange if the weight needs to remain really low) works well for that added weight.

    And I agree with Son of Grok! I think walking is the best and, one of the most fun, forms of exercising!

    Holly wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  10. Donna –

    Here is a version of the side lunge:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg1daTnKKmQ&feature=related

    Aaron wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  11. Thanks Aaron,
    I did check it out, great for coordination and balance!

    Donna wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  12. Hey Mark,

    Speaking of muscle confusion, you’ve got to check out this post by Rusty over at Fitness Black book, it’s really interesting and it definitely got me thinking with regards to recommending different exercises for different experience levels! That is definitely something that I sometimes forget when recommending workouts to others.

    http://fitnessblackbook.com/strength-training/muscle-confusion-a-quitters-approach-to-lifting/

    Thanks again for the plyos, I’m trying them tonight!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on October 23rd, 2008
  13. Another vote for videos. I often have difficulty visualizing the movements in your posts.

    Thanks.

    Kevin wrote on October 25th, 2009
  14. I’m having a hard time understanding the ‘thrown off’ exercise, Google doesn’t seem to know about it either.

    Craig wrote on January 24th, 2010
  15. The throw off: do a quarter squat, hold the medicine ball in both hands and let it hang down between the knees. Straighten the legs and raise the ball over your head while keeping arms straight.

    Greg B wrote on January 24th, 2010
  16. I tried doing plyometric exercise. I saw a lot of improvements with my jump and my leg strength.

    jump program wrote on October 21st, 2010

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