Reader Response: Plyometric Exercises for Everybody

jumpNot 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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