In the 1970s Eastern European athletic coaches began to experiment with a training protocol known as “jump training”. The training began to pay dividends almost immediately, with Eastern European athletes excelling in athletic competitions. The term “Plyometrics” (meaning “measureable increases”) was actually coined by an American coach called Fred Wilt in 1975.
Plyometrics became very popular in athletics coaching, and by the 1980s other sports were beginning to see the benefits of integrating it into training. For the next few decades, plyometrics grew and grew in sporting circles, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it began to become popular with non-athletes.
With the rise of Crossfit and the increasing popularity of strength and conditioning among regular gym goers, plyometrics is becoming more and more mainstream. In some ways this is a very good thing, there are many benefits to incorporating plyometrics into your training. But with more and more people doing it without coaching, a lot of bad technique, and dangerous recreations are occurring.
What many people don’t understand is that plyometrics is a very intense form of training, that can put your joints through a lot of pressure. You might not feel this while performing the exercises, but you will definitely feel them the day afterwards. Some coaches are of the opinion that until you can barbell squat 1.5 x your own body weight, you should not be performing plyometric exercises!
This is a little extreme, but you get the idea. If you are completely new to the gym then plyometrics training is too advanced for you. It will cause injury either acute (immediate injury whilst performing an exercise) or chronic (injury that occurs after a lot of repetition). But a lot of gyms and personal trainers use plyometrics immediately, with no thought to the consequences.
You will frequently see box jumps, depth jumps, and other plyometric exercises thrown into circuit training. This is not how they should be used. A proper plyometrics program can be followed by anyone with at least 4 months of training under their belt (and no injuries), but it should be treated like you would a barbell deadlift.
Don’t rush it, don’t superset it with other exercises, and give yourself lots of rest. Make sure that you know exactly how to perform exercises such as box jumps, and check out videos and articles online that will show you how. Because if used properly, plyometrics can make a huge difference to your overall fitness, and to your sporting performance.
Benefits of Plyometrics
Plyometrics training has been shown to improve strength and power, a 2016 study by McCormick et al on female basketball players found that plyometrics led to a significant improvement . It has also been shown to increase agility , and acceleration . Making it a fantastic choice for team sports like field hockey, football, soccer, or even for you obstacle course runners out there!
Plyometrics can also be useful for improving sport-specific skills, for example Fletcher & Hartwell (2004) looked at the effect of a combination of weights and plyometrics on golfers’ drives . The study found that this combo led to a significant improvement in both “club head speed” and “driving distance”. Other studies have looked into the many benefits that plyometrics has for runners, and there are also benefits for regular gym goers. Increased strength and power can carry over to improved one rep maxes in free weight and resistance machine exercises. Also in powerlifting and particularly Olympic lifting.
 McCormick, B., Hannon, J., Newton, M., Shultz, B., Detling, N., Young, W. 2016. The Effects of Frontal- and Sagittal-Plane Plyometrics on Change-of-Direction Speed and Power in Adolescent Female Basketball Players International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 11: 102-107
 Ramachandran, S., Pradhan, B. 2014. Effects of short-term two weeks low intensity plyometrics combined with dynamic stretching training in improving vertical jump height and agility on trained basketball players. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 58(2): 133-136
 Lockie, R., Murphy, A., Callaghan, S., Jeffriess, M. 2014. Effects of Sprint and Plyometrics training on field sport acceleration technique. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(7): 1790-1801
 Fletcher, I., Hartwell, M. 2004. Effect of an 8-week combined weights and plyometrics program on golf drive performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18(1).