Plyometrics Part 1: Building a Base

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We are often asked about plyometric training and how to incorporate it into a fitness routine.  Recently, one of our followers asked about a home based plyometric workout that includes some exercise and training for their dog as well.  With that as an incentive, we decided to write a series of posts on plyometrics starting with Part 1 that describes the benefits of plyometrics and how to prepare and condition your body for plyometric training.


What are Plyometrics?

According to Wikipedia, Plyometrics, also known as “jump training” or “plyos”, are exercises based around having muscles exert maximum force in as short a time as possible, with the goal of increasing both speed and power.  Plyometrics as originally defined included a transition from eccentric to concentric forces using a shock methodology.  For example, athletes would jump off of a box, land on the ground and immediately jump as high as possible (the shock component was when landing from the initial jump off of the box).

Often referred to as a “depth jump” or “box jump”, this technique is very intense and can result in extreme forces on the body.


Today, the term plyometrics, or plyos, generally refers to any jumping or explosive movement where the body propels off the ground.  Many people mistakenly assume that this is limited to jumping, which is not necessarily true.  Upper body plyo exercises are also readily used by advanced athletes.


Benefits of Plyometrics

Plyometric training is very intense and activates the fast twitch muscle systems. Plyos can provide many benefits including:

  • Increased muscle
  • Increased power and explosiveness
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Reduced body fat (due to calorie burring)


Risks of Plyometrics

Because of the potential for severe loading of the muscular skeletal system, including tendons and ligaments, intense plyos should only be performed by well conditioned athletes and under supervision (to teach proper form and rest/work sequences).  “Jumping” into a plyo program without the proper conditioning or instruction can result in an increased risk of injury.  We recommend starting with lower intensity drills and progressing as fitness and skill levels increase. Make sure to check with your doctor (and vet) if you or your dog plans on beginning plyometric training.


Pre-conditioning Tips: Seven exercises to prepare your body for Plyometrics

Before starting a plyo program, it is important to make sure that you have a solid strength base, strong core, and proprioception (balance) skills. Here are seven drills that can help build the foundation you need to begin a plyometric routine.  As an added bonus, you can do these with your dog!


Use these to prepare your body for plyometric and other more intense exercises.  Your dog can make a great workout partner during all of these moves.  Throughout the sequence in the following examples, Slimdoggy Jack was working on his commands.  He would move up and down in sync as I shouted sit, down, stand , etc. while working through the movements.


Lower Body Conditioning

Wall sits.  Drop into a squat with your back and glutes against the wall.  Slide down the wall until your upper thigh is parallel to the ground. You should be able to hold this position for a minimum of 90 seconds before you begin a plyo program.  Too easy?  Add weight on your lap.  Even better, use your dog (thank goodness Slimdoggy Jack is not a Newfie).

wallsit with dog

Wall sits with Slimdoggy


Body weight squats (not shown).  With core braced and glutes engaged, perform body weight squats, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Assuming no knee injuries, try to go deeper into the squat so that your butt is touching your ankles.   You should be able to perform a minimum of 50 reps in a row before beginning a plyo program. To easy? Try single leg squats (not shown), which will also work your balance skills.


Core and Upper Body Conditioning

Planks. With core and glutes engaged, assume a plank position (i.e. the top of a pushup).  Keep your core cinched in, visualizing your belly button coming up to the ceiling.  You should be able to hold this position, without sagging or losing the ab connection, for a minimum of 90 seconds before beginning a plyo program.  To easy?  Turn the plank into a birddog plank, by raising one leg and the opposite arm so that you are holding the position with one leg and one arm on the ground.

planks with dog

Planks with Slimdoggy


Back Extensions.  Using a glute ham bench or similar equipment, lock your legs and extend your body straight while engaging your core and glutes to hold your body parallel to the ground.  You should be able to hold this position for a minimum of 60 seconds before beginning a plyo routine.


Back extensions with Slimdoggy


Superman. If you don’t have access to a glute ham bench, try the superman (not pictured) on the ground.  Lying with your stomach to the ground, engage your abs and glutes.  Extend your arms forward and legs back while raising your upper and lower body off the ground as far as possible.  Keep the arms straight and legs locked.  Hold the position for a minimum of 10 seconds and repeat 5 times.


Pushups. Assume the plank position as described above. Keeping the core and glutes engaged, drop down as far as you can go, preferably until your chest touches the ground, and push forcefully back up to the start position.  To hard?  Limit the range of motion to smaller movements or do a wall pushup where you are more vertical to the ground.   You should be able to do a minimum of 10 pushups before starting a plyo program.

pushup with dog

Pushups with Slimdoggy


Reverse Pushups.  Sit underneath a bar and grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip.  Straighten your legs and then assume a reverse plank position by engaging your abs and glutes to align your body in a straight line.  Pull up until your chest touches the bar. You should be able to do a minimum of 10 reps before beginning a plyo program.  To hard? Bend your knees and push against the floor with your legs.  To easy?  Try chest to bar pullups (not pictured).

pullup with dog

Reverse pushups with Slimdoggy


Post workout euphoria (and belly rub)

postw workout with dog

Post workout euphoria with Slimdoggy


Stay tuned for the second part of this article which will provide some simple lower and upper body plyometric drills that you can do with your canine partner.

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  1. Great advice!!! My students HATE planks (and superman!) but many of them have confessed to me that when going to other fitness workshops (I get a lot of cyclists and ski instructors in my Pilates classes) they do planks! And they can hold the move better than others… 😉
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    • Yes! Pilates students usually dominate in these types of things. Strong core= strong body = athlete!
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  2. Those are excellent tips. I have a bad knee so have to be careful with squats, but the others I can do. 🙂
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