Best Plyometric Exercises for Speed

Exercises designed to improve fast-twitch fibre activity and strengthen tendons and joints.

Check out some of the best plyometric exercises for speed according to Brian Klepacki.

Coach Brian Klepacki is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He shared a warm up routine to improve your running at Critical Bench, a website focused on health and strength that delivers many tips on how to get stronger, fitter and healthier with a YouTube channel with more than 1 million subscribers.

Improving speed holds paramount importance for individuals across various athletic disciplines and even in day-to-day activities. Enhanced speed contributes significantly to athletic performance, providing a competitive edge in sports such as sprinting, football, rugby, and athletics. The ability to move swiftly can be the determining factor in achieving success, whether it be outrunning opponents, reaching a ball before an opponent does, or making quick and agile manoeuvres on the field.

In addition to sports, improved speed has practical applications in everyday life. It facilitates efficient and timely completion of tasks, from navigating through crowded spaces to responding swiftly in emergency situations. For individuals engaged in fitness and recreational activities, increased speed can lead to more dynamic and engaging workouts, promoting cardiovascular health and overall well-being. Furthermore, enhancing speed often corresponds to improved agility, a quality crucial for navigating various physical environments with dexterity and precision.

lower body workoutsSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

What Are Plyometric Exercises?

Plyometric exercises constitute a class of dynamic movements designed to enhance muscular power, strength, and speed through rapid contraction and stretching of muscles. The fundamental principle behind plyometrics is the utilisation of the stretch-shortening cycle, where muscles undergo a quick lengthening (eccentric phase) followed immediately by a forceful contraction (concentric phase). This rapid transition from lengthening to contracting stimulates the neuromuscular system, enhancing the efficiency of muscle activation and recruitment. Plyometrics, therefore, contribute to improved athletic performance by developing the capacity for explosive movements essential in various sports and physical activities.

One key benefit of plyometric exercises lies in their ability to target fast-twitch muscle fibres, which are crucial for generating quick and powerful movements. Fast-twitch fibres are associated with high-force, short-duration contractions, making them essential for activities like sprinting, jumping, and rapid changes in direction. Plyometrics help train and activate these fibres, leading to increased force production and speed.

Moreover, plyometric training has been shown to improve the elasticity and responsiveness of tendons and connective tissues. The repetitive nature of plyometric exercises conditions the musculoskeletal system to efficiently store and release energy during dynamic movements. This not only enhances performance but also contributes to injury prevention by improving the resilience and strength of tendons and ligaments. Overall, incorporating plyometrics into a well-rounded fitness regimen can yield significant benefits in terms of explosive strength, speed, and injury resilience.

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With that in mind, let’s jump into Klepacki’s best plyometric exercises for speed.

Best Plyometric Exercises for Speed

Brian uploaded a video exemplifying a set of plyometric exercises tailored for speed athletes, including runners, sprinters, jumpers, and football players. These exercises aim to enhance speed by targeting the lower body’s plyometric capabilities, particularly the ankles and calves.

Before delving into the exercises, it’s essential to ensure a proper warm-up. Brian recommends using a foam roller for five to ten minutes and engaging in dynamic warm-up activities like high knees and skips.

Brian places a blue X on the ground using painter’s tape, suggesting that you can create a similar pattern on various surfaces such as turf or a basketball court. The exercises consist of 10 seconds of work followed by a 10-second rest, fostering explosive movements. Brian emphasizes that this isn’t a finite list; there’s room for creativity.

The first exercise involves side-to-side hops for approximately 10 seconds, aiming for quick and agile movements. Brian then demonstrates front-to-back hops, intensifying the burn in the feet. He showcases various combinations, including shuffles and box drills, encouraging viewers to be creative with their routines.

After the warm-up, Brian transitions to more dynamic plyometric exercises, requiring some space. He recommends performing these exercises on a field with a designated distance, ranging from five to 30 yards. The goal is to work at maximum velocity for optimal results. Brian emphasizes the importance of rest periods, suggesting a one-to-one or one-to-two ratio to allow muscles to recover and maximize energy for the next set.

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With the groundwork laid, Brian presents a selection of dynamic plyometric exercises to boost speed. These exercises include explosive jumps, lateral movements, and agility drills.

In a nutshell, these are the exercises Brian showcases in the video:

  1. High knees
  2. Butt kicks
  3. A skips
  4. Power skips for height
  5. Power skips for distance
  6. Bounding
  7. Lunge to high skip
  8. Alternating split lunge jump
  9. Long jumps
  10. Repeated long jumps

Brian encourages viewers to incorporate these exercises into their training regimen for improved speed, strength, and power.

Watch the full video below to see the exercises and how to perform them with the help of coach Brian Klepacki.

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Do you want to add more movements but have no idea what to incorporate? Here are 10 examples of traditional plyometric exercises:

  1. Jump Squats: Jumping explosively from a squatting position and landing softly before immediately jumping again.
  2. Box Jumps: Jumping onto and off of a box or platform to enhance lower body power.
  3. Burpees: A full-body exercise involving a combination of squatting, jumping, and a push-up.
  4. Lateral Jumps: Jumping laterally from side to side to improve lateral agility.
  5. Depth Jumps: Stepping off a box and immediately jumping vertically upon landing.
  6. Bounding: A series of long, exaggerated strides with powerful push-offs to cover distance quickly.
  7. Medicine Ball Throws: Explosively throwing a medicine ball against a wall or to a partner.
  8. Jump Lunges: Alternating lunges with a jump in between each lunge.
  9. Clap Push-Ups: Performing a push-up and explosively pushing the body up so hands leave the ground, allowing for a clap before landing.
  10. Squat Jumps: Jumping vertically from a squatting position.

These exercises target different muscle groups and movement patterns, contributing to improved explosive strength, power, and agility. When incorporating plyometric exercises into a training routine, it’s essential to start at an appropriate intensity level and gradually progress to prevent injuries and optimize benefits.

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