THE IMPORTANCE OF PLYOMETRIC TRAINING
If you’re a serious lifter, you’ve already figured out that bodyweight training deserves to play a role in your overall training program.
However, serious lifters and even performance athletes often don’t appreciate the importance of explosive, plyometric training to their workout routines.
We typically train at a slow, controlled pace. That’s good for certain applications, but we also need power training to be explosive so that we’re not just strong, but also functional and athletic.
Here are seven of the best explosive bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere (using just your bodyweight and a pullup bar) that you should start incorporating into your workout routine now.
I’ve included less-challenging “step-down” variations you can use to work up to the more difficult version. There’s no use hurting yourself or only squeezing out one or two reps, because you need more reps to get the benefit.
Choose the exercise variation that works best for you and your current fitness level.
BEST PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES
Let’s take a look at these seven explosive exercises one by one and their beginner variations.
We’ll start with a bodyweight powerhouse that hits your entire upper body including your core.
1) POWER PLANK UP
This bodyweight exercise is the perfect way to hit your triceps, chest, shoulders, and core at once. It’s great for training at home since it requires very little space and can be done either on your toes or from your knees.
Get in a plank position on your toes and elbows then explode up in one motion, driving up hard with your elbows, landing on your hands. You need stability in the shoulders, triceps, and chest, and adequate core strength to perform the move.
POWER PLANK UP STEP-DOWN VERSION
If you can’t do this as-described right now, use the elbow-knee starting position and build up from there. As you get stronger you’ll be able to get up on your toes to keep the progression going.
2) PLYO CHIN UP
All you need is a bar and an underhand grip to build “pull-through strength” with this awesome bodyweight exercise.
To do the Plyo Chin Up, you grip underhanded and release the bar at the top. You have to pull high enough to allow you to let go for a second. That develops “pull-through” strength.
This exercise could easily be confused with a Clapping Pull-Up. The big difference is the underhand grip of the Plyo Chin Up.
The underhand position for this chin up recruits your biceps and gives you that extra eccentric contraction when you re-grip the bar and slow down your descent before the next explosive concentric contraction.
PLYO CHINUP STEP DOWN VERSION
If you can’t do this extreme version with the full release, you can try the step-down version where one arm stays on the bar.
Use one hand to continuously grip the bar, maintaining control so you can let go with the other arm. Release one hand’s grip when you reach the top.
Work each side individually until you build up the strength to be able to release the bar entirely with both hands. You could do several reps in a row with the same side, or alternate hands.
3) GLUTE/HAM SINGLE LEG PLYO BRIDGE
Explosively train your glutes and hamstrings with this single leg plyometric exercise for the lower body and reduce the risk of hamstring pulls in the process.
This exercise is a plyometric variation of the bridge we often do. A traditional bridge would take you to a line parallel to the rest of your torso but would not add the explosive component.
For the plyometric variation, thrust through your hips enough to get ground clearance, and eccentrically control your glutes and hamstrings when you hit the ground, which activates those Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers.
GLUTE/HAM SINGLE LEG PLYO BRIDGE STEP DOWN VARIATION
Straighten your lower leg out a bit and just go for a little bit of clearance, even if it’s just 1″ off the ground.
This version is going to target a little more of your hamstring and a little less glute.
Work to get the glutes to take over to avoid hamstring injuries. If you allow the glutes to be dominant, it will work those glute/hamstring tie-ins.
4) PENDULUM PLANK
Build a solid, explosive core with this incredible bodyweight exercise.
From a plank position on your elbows, swing both your legs in a wide pendulum motion, side to side. Swing both feet far out to the left, push off with your toes and swing back to the right side. Swing back and forth, left-right-left.
Try to get as much clearance as you can without piking at the hips. Make sure you’re keeping your torso as steady as you can for core stability.
PENDULUM PLANK STEP DOWN VARIATION (SWIPERS)
The step-down version is called the “Swiper”. From that elbow plank position, use one leg at a time, returning to the midline on each rep instead of swinging all the way to the other side. Sweep left landing on the left foot, come back to the midline, then sweep right.
The Swiper creates a three-point plank position, so your forearms get the support of one leg. It alleviates a little bit of the stress on the core, but still makes a great exercise for explosive core strength.
5) THE HANNIBAL PUSH UP
Get back on your feet like a pro athlete with this next exercise that builds upper body explosiveness.
I train a lot of performance athletes: major league baseball players and MMA fighters who have to get off the ground fast. They can’t make a living laying on the ground.
The Hannibal Push Up is a little like the Superman push up but a little less showy and more functional. To do the Hannibal, press up hard so that your hands leave the ground, then try to touch your toes.
This upper body builder is one of the best ways to build bigger, explosive chest and triceps muscles at home.
Even the average guy needs to maintain that ability to get off the ground as fast as possible for the rest of their life or they’re going to be using a Life Alert.
HANNIBAL PUSHUP STEP DOWN VARIATION
If you’re unable to do the full Hannibal right now, leave your hands on the ground and swing your feet forward keeping your legs straight, similar to a pike. Touch the ground with your toes and then drop down for another.
You’re still going to get a lot of upper body work. Just the act of pulling your feet off the ground builds explosiveness.
6) ROLLING SQUAT BURPEE
This two-part exercise is a great way to train how to explosively get off the ground while building upper and lower body strength.
Get on your back with legs curled, knees to chest, then thrust your legs forward so that you roll up on your feet and then straight down into a burpee, then roll back down.
This is a progression from your back to your stomach to back to stomach using your bodyweight explosively.
ROLLING SQUAT BURPEE STEP DOWN VARIATION
If you can’t do the entire squat-burpee combo, just break it in half and do just the squat burpee part without the roll-up on your back.
Get down on the ground in a push up position, push off explosively like a burpee, and jump up to the squat. Alternate the burpee and squat position as quickly and explosively as you can.
Learn to get quick with your feet to get them back underneath you for the next rep.
7) 180° DEPTH TUCK JUMPS
Let’s hit our lower body one more time with our depth tuck jumps with a 180° twist.
The 180° Depth Tuck Jump demands that you have a little more control of your body in space, which is called proprioception. It also requires you to have enough explosiveness to execute the squat jump.
You can use a bench or a plyo box for this. Any sturdy elevated surface will work. You just need something that provides the right amount of height. Nothing crazy.
To do the move, step off the box so that you hit the ground naturally and cause an equally natural recoil. This stretches the quads and generates elastic energy. Then you do the 180° turn, change directions, and jump back up as fast as possible.
The space of time between the end of the lowering phase and the beginning of explosive ascent is called the Amortization Phase.
The amortization phase is the transition between centric lowering and explosive ascent. It’s not limited to jumping. Competition lifters train for rapid amortization phases in the chest and shoulder movements as well. We try to shorten the amortization phase in athletes to improve overall quickness.
DEPTH JUMP STEP DOWN VARIATION
If you can’t quite do the 180 turns you can work on depth tuck jump only. Step off with one foot, land, and quickly descend into that Amortization Phase and pop up.
Start with one leg for five to ten repetitions, and then switch to the other leg. You might notice a difference in the explosiveness of one leg over the other. It’s not uncommon to have a dominant side. Put in the work to equalize explosive strength between right and left sides.
Don’t think bodyweight means just doing as many push-ups or sit ups as you can. Use your own bodyweight in a challenging way and you can start building muscle without any equipment, in any environment.
These exercises aren’t easy to perform, but nobody ever got anything worthwhile by making it easy. Use the step-down versions as needed, master them, then move up to the more difficult versions.
If you’re looking to build a stronger more athletic and functional physique, we’ve got you covered. Check out our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which one is the best fit for your goals.
- The need to train with bodyweight is widely accepted and practiced, but not everyone appreciates the importance of power training with explosive, plyometric exercises in their workout routines.
- Plyometric training, like other bodyweight training, can be done from home, or pretty much anywhere.
- Professional athletes train explosively for performance, but plyometric exercises are useful to anyone for general health, physical fitness, and activities of daily life.
- These exercises are challenging. Step-down versions are provided as a way to work into the difficult versions while getting the benefits in the process.
- Rapid eccentric and concentric contraction of the muscle builds quickness and fast-twitch muscle fibers. The interval between eccentric and concentric contraction is called the Amortization Phase.
- These seven exercises work the upper body, lower body, and core. Some are more specific than others. For example, the Hannibal Push Up focuses on chest and triceps primarily, while the Rolling Squat Burpee hits upper and lower body.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.