With lockdown still in full effect and gyms remaining closed, it’s become harder and harder to make, and maintain, gains in both strength and size. At home workouts have become the norm and, for those without weights or any other type of equipment, it can be difficult to find exercises that can replicate the effects of going to the gym. One of the most difficult muscle groups to gain strength and size in at home is the legs.
When you think of getting big legs you think of the leg press, heavy loaded barbell squats, leg curls, Romanian dead lifts, and various other exercises where you load up the weight and rep it out. This is, admittedly, hard to replicate at home and can be discouraging when you aren’t able to make progress in the areas that you want to. There is, however, one type of workout that requires little to no equipment, can be done at home, and generates a ridiculous pump in the legs. The workout I’m referring to is Plyometric training and, while it is often overlooked, it is an extremely effective type of leg work out that also positively impacts many other areas of your body.
Keep reading to find out more about what plyometrics is, the benefits of doing plyometrics, the types of exercise you can do, and how incorporating it into your fitness routine can make a positive impact on, not only your legs, but your entire body!
What is plyometric training?
Plyometric training is a functional training method that involves the use explosive and dynamic movements, such as squat jumps and box jumps, with the intention of exerting maximum force over a short space of time. This type of training develops the ability of muscles to produce high levels of force quickly and effectively and is a great way to develop strength and mass, as well as being an extremely effective anaerobic/cardiovascular workout.
If you have played any type of sport it is likely that you have encountered plyometric training in one form or another, but it is not exclusive to athletes. This type of workout can be done by anyone of any fitness or experience level and anyone will be able to reap the benefits of it. Plyometric training is, however, physically taxing so caution should be used when performing these exercises for the first time, with extra emphasis being placed on proper form. Additionally, this type of workout involves a great deal of impact which can affect your joints and ligaments, and therefore, should only be done 1-2 times a week in order to achieve the most benefit and reduce the risk of injury.
What are some benefits of plyometric training?
As previously stated plyometrics uses explosive and dynamic movements to exert maximum force in a short space of time. What this results in is increased speed, muscle strength and power, muscle size, better balance and stability, fat loss, and increased jumping ability (vertical jump).
Incorporating plyometric training into your regular leg and strength program will allow you to achieve your full potential in terms of raw power and muscle mass. It also increases your overall athletic ability, endurance, and fitness levels which will positively impact your training and workouts in other muscle groups.
Furthermore, plyometric training is difficult and interesting which, in a boredom filled lockdown with basic and repetitive home workouts, can be a welcomed change of pace for most people while simultaneously improving fitness and athletic performance.
What are the best plyometric exercises for legs?
There are many plyometric exercises designed specifically for legs. Some of the best exercises for beginners include, but are not limited to, squat jumps, box jumps, and jumping lunges.
To properly perform a squat jump, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Perform a squat, executing proper form and going as deep as possible. Once at the bottom of the movement, explode upwards, propelling yourself as high into the air as possible. Land softly with both feet at the same time. Immediately repeat the process, keeping proper form all the way through (going quicker doesn’t mean quicker gains so take your time!).
Box jumps are a great exercise and are a staple in plyometric training. In order to perform this exercise, you need a box (or anything else that is solid and strong enough to take your weight) that is at least around knee height. More experienced people can use boxes that are greater in size, but beginners should stick with knee height until they get more comfortable. To execute a box jump, stand in front of the box and perform a squat. Explode upwards onto the box and land softly with both feet on the box. Complete the movement by standing straight up and stepping down from the box (not jumping down!).
The best part about box jumps is that there is a great deal of variations of this exercise that you can do once you are more comfortable with its mechanics. The obvious variation is increasing the height of the box. Once your legs become more powerful, you will be able to jump higher and with more force. Adjusting the size of the box is an excellent way to challenge your leg power and improve your vertical jump.
Other variations involve adjusting the direction and approach of your jump on to the box. This can come in the form of lateral box jumps, kneeling box jumps, one legged box jumps, etc. These are difficult and more advanced movements that work your legs in many different ways and should only be attempted when you are able to do regular box jumps properly, or under the supervision of a trainer or more experienced training partner.
This movement combines the traditional leg exercise of lunges with an explosive element at the end. This puts increased pressure on the legs and results in an intense burn and pump. This exercise can be performed in one of two ways. Either one leg at a time or alternating between both legs. Either way the execution of the exercise is the same. To perform the jumping lunge, get into the lunge position and, when at the bottom of the movement, jump straight up as high as possible landing softly in the same position. Immediately repeat the movement and perform the exercise on both legs. To do the alternating jump lunge, switch your front and back legs when you jump and perform the exercise on the other leg when you land. Both methods are effective and can be performed with body weight or with weights.
(Image by WomansHealthMag)
Creating a plyometric workout routine
In addition to the exercise named above there are a great deal of exercises that you can do at home to incorporate into your workout schedule. There is a lot of information out there so do your research and gradually increase the number of exercises you perform. If you are new to plyometrics its ok to start off with the exercises mentioned above and, when you are more comfortable/experienced, adding in different and more challenging exercises. We recommend doing 3 sets of each exercise with 8-10 reps. This can be done either in a circuit format where you perform one set of each exercise in a row and repeat the process three times, or simply as individual exercises – its entirely up to you!
Before starting this workout, it is important that you warm up properly to ensure that you are able to perform these exercises to the best of your ability and reap the most benefits. Warm up exercises can come in the form of jumping jacks, skipping rope, or jogging in place. Do a couple of sets to ensure that you are sufficiently warm!
Legs are a tough muscle group to grow, and at home leg workouts never really measure up to the lifting weights in the gym. But with plyometric training you have an effective and challenging addition to your routine. Step up your at-home leg workout game by incorporating plyometric training. Extremely underrated and underutilised but extremely effective, plyometrics are an excellent way to increase leg mass, power, strength, speed, and explosiveness. By adding plyometrics to your workout regimen you will see improvements in, not only your legs, but your overall athletic ability and performance.