Plyometrics can be beneficial for both athletes and general fitness clients. It can also be harmful. Let’s review the definition of plyometrics, who it’s appropriate for and how to apply plyometric exercises safely.
“Plyometrics can be thought of as exercises that train the fast muscle fibers and the nerves that activate them, as well as reflexes, and include a variety of hopping, jumping, and bounding movements” (William P. Ebben)
Plyometric exercises are designed to improve speed, power, and function of the nervous system. In the definition alone one can see these exercises are meant for everyone, not just athletes. All of your clients would benefit from improvement in their power, reflexes and a higher functioning nervous system.
I believe that occasionally trainers underestimate their client’s physical ability for fear of hurting the client and implicating themselves in the process. This is reasonable and all of us do it from time to time. But, Plyometrics can be such a great addition to your client’s routine if applied appropriately.
I know I am currently preaching the universal accessibility of these exercises, but they do come with their own set of prerequisites. I would never suggest a trainer put their 90-year-old client on box jumps when they are still working to easily move out of chair. However, if you have been working with someone and know that they have foundational knowledge and fitness level, why wouldn’t you be giving them this challenge?
Benefits of Plyometrics for non-athletes
1) Improves coordination
2) Improves nervous system functionality
3) Supports bone and joint health
4) Greater intensity in less time, more effective training sessions
5) Stimulates metabolism 24-48 hours after a workout, supporting weight loss
6) Plyos improve strength and efficiency of fast twitch fibers, meaning a greater recruitment of the body’s strongest fibers during resistance training
7) Plyometric training may enhance neuromuscular function and prevent knee injuries by increasing dynamic stability
8) Improves all over fitness and boosts confidence (Everyone feels like a boss after a really tough Plyo workout!)
Because you are working one on one, it is a perfect time to introduce Plyometrics. You will be able to give them proper alignment and execution cues, watch their form and know for sure that they are performing properly.
- 1-2 days between Plyo training sessions
- Work with non-fatigued muscles at the beginning of session
- 50-80 total reps for beginners, up to 150 total reps for more advanced clients
- Low reps, high intensity – no more than 10 reps per set
- Looking for quality not quantity
- High-intensity Plyo circuits like Tabatas. Plyometrics are meant to be done with maximal effort and force in the least amount of time. Performing Plyos in this manner leans more towards general conditioning and increased risk of injury
- Working on uneven surfaces, especially for beginners
- Too long of sessions. For general public keep a Plyo training session under 30 minutes. Plyometric training is largely neurologic, a client shouldn’t be left gasping for air.
There are many methods to exercise. Providing variety to your clients in an appropriate chain of progression is part of what makes a smart personal trainer. Understanding the modalities you teach thoroughly and knowing how to regress or progress them for each client is where you find true success.
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1) “Trainer Q&A: What are the benefits of plyometrics?”, Men’s Fitness, https://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/trainer-qa-what-are-benefits-plyometrics
2) Chimera, Nicole J. et al. “Effects of Plyometric Training on Muscle-Activation Strategies and Performance in Female Athletes.” Journal of Athletic Training 39.1 (2004): 24–31. Print.
3) “Plyometrics: The Best Combo Of Cardio And Strength Training?”, The Huffington Post, March 19, 2013, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/plyometrics-fitness-cardio-exercise-strength-training_n_2900911.html
4) “Plyometrics: Using Plyometrics with Other Training”, human-kinetics, http://www.humankinetics.com/news-and-excerpts/news-and-excerpts/using-plyometrics-with-other-training
5) William P. Ebben, PhD, CSCS,*D, “Practical Guidelines for Plyometric Intensity”, NSCA’s Performance Training Journal