The 10 Best Plyometric Exercises For Explosive Power 

Plyometric training can be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with how to do plyometric exercises or even which exercises you should include in your plyometrics workouts.

Plyometric exercises involve jumping or bounding. 

This type of training builds speed, explosive power, agility, coordination, and strength by conditioning your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems to support rapid force generation.

In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best plyometric exercises for athletes of different levels to help you put together a plyometric workout that will meet your fitness needs and goals:

Let’s dive in! 

Lateral bounding, a plyometric exercise.

10 Plyometric Exercises For Explosive Power

Here are some of the best plyometric exercises to include in your plyometric training routine:

#1: Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a simple plyometric exercise for beginners.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand with good posture, with your arms down at your sides.
  2. Jump your legs out to each side while you simultaneously bring your arms up overhead toward one another.
  3. Seamlessly jump everything back to the starting position and repeat.

#2: Jump Squats

Jump squats, which are also called squat thrusts, strengthen all the major leg muscles, including the glutes, quads, adductors, calves, and hamstrings. 

Here are the steps for this one of our plyometric exercises:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your core, maintain a straight back, and keep your chest up and shoulders down.
  2. Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees and sitting your hips all the way back, jumping up as high as you can, and thrusting your arms up towards the ceiling.
  3. As soon as you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin again.

#3: Burpees

Burpees are a classic, challenging plyometric exercise that combines a full push-up with a jump squat.

To perform this total-body plyometric exercise:

  1. Squat down as described above.
  2. Keeping your back straight and your chest up, drop your palms to the ground in front of your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Load your weight to your hands and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in a push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes.
  4. Perform one complete push-up by bending your elbows and dropping your chest towards the floor.
  5. Press through your hands to return to the starting position and immediately jump your feet forward towards your hands so that your body is in a tuck position.
  6. Push through your hands and feet to stand up, swinging your arms so that they are straight overhead with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
  7. Jump up vertically as high as you can.
  8. As soon as you land from the jump, bend your knees into a full squat to begin the cycle again.

#4: Lateral Bounds

Many plyometric workouts include jumps that occur in the forward or backward direction, but it is also important to include lateral jumps in your plyometric training.

Moving in the frontal plane, which involves side-to-side motion (abduction and adduction), will help you strengthen your hips, ankles, and core muscles in a different way.

This can potentially help reduce the risk of injuries, particularly while playing sports or doing other strength training exercises.

This plyometric exercise helps improve the coordination between your legs and torso, which can help improve your deadlift performance and overall movement mechanics during full-body exercises.

Here are the steps for how to perform this lower-body plyometric exercise:

  1. Stand upright with good posture, arms at your side, chest up, shoulders down, core engaged, and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean to the right side of your body, loading your right leg and bending your right knee slightly.
  3. As quickly as possible, press into that right leg to shoot the left leg out to the left side of your body, bounding out to the left as far as you can.
  4. Bend the left knee as you land to cushion your landing.
  5. Reverse the movement to perform a lateral plyometric jump to the right.
  6. Keep jumping side to side, aiming to increase the distance for each jump as your fitness and mobility permit.

#5: Lateral Jumps

Once you have mastered lateral bounds, you can move to lateral jumps, which involve jumping both feet together side to side rather than one foot at a time.

The motion sort of resembles slalom skiing in a dynamic and explosive way. This is a challenging plyometric exercise to include in advanced plyometric workouts.

Here are the steps for how to perform this lower-body plyometric training exercise:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet close together, nearly touching if you are able.
  2. Swing your arms to the left as you lean your weight to the left side, lowering your left hip.
  3. Thrust your arms and your body to the right, springing off of the feet to jump as far as you can to the right.
  4. Use your arms and allow a soft bend in your knees to help decelerate your landing before thrusting your arms back up into the air to jump to the left.
  5. Continue jumping to the left and right as exclusively as you can. 
  6. Try not to rest or stop between jumps. Rather, transition seamlessly from side to side without resetting the exercise.

#6: Bounding

Bounding, or skipping with an exaggerated form by driving your knees up as high as possible, is a great conditioning exercise to add to your plyometric workouts.

You will strengthen all of the muscles in your lower body while also improving core control, ankle mobility, shoulder mobility and strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

Simply skip, but explode off of your forefoot using your calf muscles and arms to propel your body into the air as high as possible.

Do not focus on achieving a rapid horizontal velocity. Rather, the focus should really be on driving your body up as high as possible with each skip.

#7: Medicine Ball Broad Jumps

This is a weighted plyometric exercise. The resistance will increase the strength component and improve the ability of your muscles to generate more force.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start by standing upright, holding an 8-12 pound (3-5 kg) medicine ball straight overhead with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Without dropping it, thrust the medicine ball down towards the floor as you flex your hips and knees to prepare for the jump. 
  3. Explode off the balls of your feet, thrusting your arms in front of your body and releasing the ball ahead.
  4. Jump out as far as possible, striving to maximize your horizontal distance. Keep your trajectory at 45 degrees or less relative to the floor.
  5. Land softly with your knees bending to absorb the impact load of your body.

#8: 360-Degree Squat Jumps

One of the best plyometric exercises to increase rotational strength, power, ankle mobility, and agility is the 360° squat jump.

Essentially, you will perform jump squats, or squat thrusts, with a full 360° spin in the air before landing.

Use your arms to help propel you up and through the rotations by powerfully thrusting your arms into the direction of the desired turn.

Remember to land softly by bending your knees and immediately moving down into the next rep.

Beginners can start adding this exercise to plyometric workouts with a half-turn modification. Instead of trying to rotate a full 360° between each squat thrust, spin 180° so that you are facing the opposite direction.

As your explosive power and speed improve (such that you can jump up higher and get more time to turn and can simultaneously turn more quickly), you can start working towards the full rotation.

#9: Box Jumps

Box jumps are a great plyometric exercise for developing strength, power, precision, and technique for more advanced plyometrics.

Here are the steps for how to perform this plyometric leg exercise:

  1. Stand facing a plyo box, about two feet behind the box.
  2. Drop down into a bodyweight squat, driving your arms behind you.
  3. In one smooth movement, thrust your arms forward as you squat and jump up using the momentum from your arms and rising up from the squat to land on top of the box with both feet.
  4. Cushion your landing by bending your knees and allowing your arms to trail back slowly behind your body.
  5. Hop down or step down off of the box and repeat for as many reps as you can or you intend to perform.

#10: Plyometric Push-Ups

Most plyometric workouts focus on lower-body exercises, but there are some upper-body plyometrics, too.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start in a standard push-up position with your core and glutes engaged.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower your body as you would with a normal push-up.
  3. On the way up, press forcefully into the floor, exploding upward so that your entire upper body and hands are airborne, but your feet remain planted on the floor.
  4. Quickly clap your hands together once under your chest and then get them back into position on the floor to catch your body on your landing.
  5. Move directly into the next plyometric push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest toward the ground without touching down.
A person doing a squat.

The key to safe and effective plyometric training is to build up slowly.

The number of sets, reps, and plyometric exercises you should include in your plyometrics workouts will depend on your fitness level, the other types of training that you do, and the particular plyometric movements you select.

In many cases, it is best for beginners to start with just including a handful of plyometric exercises in other strength training workouts rather than doing a standalone plyometric workout.

Try each exercise for 30 seconds at first, and build up to 60 seconds or more.

Then, add a second and third set as your tolerance increases.

Give your body time to adapt to the impact stresses and neuromuscular demand of plyometric training before taking on 20- to 30-minute standalone plyometric workouts with many advanced plyometrics.

For another type of cardio plyometric training, check out our 30-day jump rope challenge here.

A box jump.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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