Implementing lower body plyometrics into an athlete's training plan is one of the best ways to improve explosive power and all-around athleticism. By enhancing an athlete's power, the athlete can jump higher, run faster, and change direction rapidly. Additionally, athletes will become more durable during athletic movements due to improved tendon strength and joint support.
At Westside, we understand the importance of plyometric training when focusing on athletic development. By combining high-force exercises such as squats with high-velocity exercises such as jumps and sprints, the athletes we work with rapidly improve their power output, athleticism, and durability. However, it is essential to properly prepare athletes for the demands of intermediate and advanced-level plyometric exercises.
Depending on the trainee, executing a preparatory lower-body plyometric training program may be necessary before moving on to more demanding exercises. No two individuals are the same, and if we were to apply a one-size-fits-all plan when implementing plyometric exercises, we would ultimately increase the risk of program failure or injury to the athlete.
Below, we will cover a few beginner-level plyometric exercises to build the strengths and skills necessary to move on to more advanced exercises.
Start Moving like an Athlete
When beginning plyometric training, it is vital to start building the capacity to move like an athlete. Whether an athlete is new to training or returning to sport from voluntary layoff or injury, it is important to build or rebuild foundational skills if there has been considerable time off from training. These movements are intended to be relatively low risk while adequately preparing the athlete to move on to more demanding exercises.
Here are three lower-body plyometric exercises to begin building base-level strength and skill:
Galloping – athletes will begin this exercise in the standing position, with one leg leading the other. We will initiate the movement by pushing off the back foot, keeping the ankle rigid. Then, we project the hips forward while carrying the back foot slightly behind the hips. We will then land on the lead foot before using the back foot to continue bounding forward.
We will typically execute 2-4 sets of 10-12 reps using each foot when performing this exercise. This exercise aims to achieve fast extension of the knee and ankle while continuing to project the hips forward.
Pogo Jump – when performing this exercise, athletes will focus on ankle flexion while limiting the amount of knee flexion and extension. Dorsiflexion must be achieved during each rep to allow the ankle to endure ground contact and initiate rapid takeoffs. Essentially, this exercise is jumping in place, primarily emphasizing ankle flexion.
We will execute 2-4 sets of 10-12 reps when performing this exercise. We want to focus on short ground contact time with rapid takeoffs.
Lateral Bounding – to begin this exercise, athletes will start in a bent-knee athletic position like the starting stance of a football linebacker. Once this positioning has been achieved, athletes will push off the outside of the foot to leap horizontally to a specific distance. During each jump, athletes aim to achieve the prescribed distance with efficient horizontal power output.
Once the initial leap has been performed, athletes will land on the opposite foot, with the following foot helping the landing, and repeat the movement to return to the initial starting point. This exercise aims to prepare the adductors and abductors for explosive athletic movements. We will execute 2-4 sets of 8-10 reps when performing this exercise.
Plyometric Exercise Programming
Now that we have a few basic lower-body plyometric exercises to introduce into the training plan, we must ensure these exercises are programmed correctly. Fortunately, adjusting a Conjugate-based training plan to include plyometric training is simple.
We will perform two lower body training days each week: max effort lower and dynamic effort lower. These are the training days in which athletes should perform lower-body plyometric training.
We often perform 40 jumps per plyometric training session to ensure adequate training adaptations. However, with those new to plyometric training, the number of jumps per session may need to be adjusted depending on the athlete's fitness or the difficulty of the exercise being performed.
For instance, an athlete who can perform 40 total pogo jumps without issue may struggle to achieve 20 total seated box jumps. Knowing this, it is vital for a coach to properly evaluate an athlete before providing guidelines on plyometric training volume.
Inappropriate levels of plyometric training volume will lead to an athlete being underprepared or overtrained, so it is essential to ensure that training volume is optimal for each athlete.
Here is an example of beginner-level plyometric training added into a max effort lower training day:
Squat – work up to a top set single rep.
Pogo Jumps – 4 x 10-12
Romanian Deadlift – 4 x 5-8
Goblet Squat – 3 x 12-15
Reverse Hyper – 4 x 15-20
Standing Abs – 4 x 15-20
Here is an example of beginner-level plyometric training added into a dynamic effort lower training day:
Box Squat – 12 x 2 @75%
Galloping – 4 x 12-15
Bulgarian Split Squat – 4 x 10-12
GHD – 4 x AMRAP
Reverse Hyper – 4 x 15-20
GHD Sit-Ups – 4 x 15-20
As you can see, we simply perform the plyometric exercise immediately after the main exercise. This ensures the athlete is appropriately warmed up and neurologically stimulated to allow for high power output during the plyometric movements. However, if athletes choose to, plyometric exercises can be performed before beginning the main exercise of the day.
If an athlete chooses this option, we recommend performing an adequate warm-up to ensure the athlete is properly prepared for the exercise.
Becoming a Better Athlete
The Conjugate Method is focused on building a complete athlete. No matter the training goals or sport, we can modify training to ensure that practically any desired athletic outcome is achievable. Unfortunately, many individuals wrongly believe that our methodology is merely a program for geared powerlifting.
The truth is that the Conjugate Method is the most advanced athletic training methodology in use today.
Instead of considering Conjugate a training program, consider the Conjugate Method a training operating system. Using this operating system, we can create a near-infinite amount of training programs to deliver a variety of training adaptations and outcomes.
Whenever you hear someone say, "We have taken different parts of the Westside Conjugate Method but changed things and added our more sport-relevant ideas," just know they have a limited understanding of the Conjugate Method.
Louie amassed 50+ years of training in his lifetime, much of that time spent performing what can now be considered field research relating to the Conjugate Method. Over those years, many different approaches and strategies have been formulated, depending on the situation and athlete.
Unless these coaches learned directly from Lou, it can be challenging to imagine an individual would have the understanding or capability to modify a methodology they lack a complete understanding of.
If you are an athlete looking to improve your performance, trust that the Conjugate Method, defined by Westside Barbell, is the only training method you will ever need. No matter your sport, situation, or competitive goals, we can develop a comprehensive training plan to deliver rapid results.
No method can compare in terms of customization and efficiency. Sports competition is a dynamic environment, and it is important to select a method that can account for and train for all the demands related to it.
To become a better athlete, use the best training method: the Conjugate Method.
Simmons, L. (2007). Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Westside Barbell.
Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.
Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics