Campus Life

Go ahead, cross the line Plyometric workouts give cardio and strength training

4755 plyo
photos by eduardo sverdlin-lisker PHOTOILLUSTRATION BY JESSICA L. WASS­­­ —THE TECH

Looking for a full-body workout to do at home? Plyometric circuits offer intense combinations of cardio and strength training and can be done in 10–15 minutes every day. So the next time you’re looking for a change of pace at the gym or a tough at-home workout, consider incorporating some or all of the drills in this circuit.

Why Plyometrics?

Athletes incorporate plyometrics into their weekly routines for several reasons. Like core exercises, they promote total body stability and strength. These versatile drills build fast-twitch muscle fibers, which improve quickness, ability to change directions rapidly, and coordination. Even better, they can be customized for a sport-specific workout that will improve your fitness both on and off the field.

The Circuit

This circuit will be as challenging as you make it, so start small and try to work up to doing the exercises faster, for longer stretches of time before stopping, and/or with shorter rest intervals. The duration and rest periods given are only suggestions, and can be modified to suit your purposes. You should go at a speed where you feel challenged, but never lightheaded or dizzy, and certainly never in pain. It should be fun!

Safety Tips

When doing these exercises, make sure you are in control. No flailing! When doing the moves, you should try to execute them as quickly as possible while maintaining good form. You should look as dignified as possible. If you become too exhausted to do the move correctly, take a minute to rest and try again. If you are still too tired, stop for the day. It’s better to try again when you are feeling fresh.

Be sure to wear athletic shoes when doing these exercises (running, cross-training, indoor, tennis – no flip-flops!). You can do permanent damage to your feet and joints by jumping around barefoot on hard surfaces – yes, even carpet.

Especially important note: when jumping/hopping/stepping, be sure to land softly. This means your footsteps/landings should be very quiet — the whole gym should not be able to hear you! The point of this is to protect your joints. By slamming your feet into the ground, you are not only jarring your knees, ankles, and spine, you are also landing with hyper-extended knees. The dangers of landing this way range from pulled muscles and tendons to torn or damaged soft tissues in your knee joints, among other things. So don’t do it!

To land more quietly, you should try to “give” with your knees as you land. Think of your lower body as a spring. When you land, you should have your weight on the balls of your feet (never heels!) and allow your knees to bend to absorb the impact. If you’re unsure of what this looks like, ask an athletic friend to demonstrate the difference. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to worry about it.

As always, a good workout will make your muscles feel sore afterward, but it should never be painful. So if something hurts, stop immediately and consult one of the athletic trainers at the Z-Center.

This cycle can be repeated as many times as you like during a single workout. You can build up to the full circuit by trying each of the moves for a short burst of time (10–15 seconds). Questions? Email me at for clarification!

Disclaimer: I may be a premed, but I’m not a doctor yet! The ideas in this article come from workouts learned from the coaches of the MIT Women’s Varsity Lacrosse team. Be sure to check with your doctor before embarking on a new fitness regimen and to ask for help from a trainer or coach if you are unsure about how to perform any of the moves described. Form is critical. Be healthy, train healthy!

2-Foot Bunny Hop (Duration: 30s, Rest: 45s)

Choose a line on the ground. Standing with feet together, hop rapidly forward and backward over the line. For best results, try to spend the minimum amount of time with your feet touching the floor. Maximize speed, not height.

2-Foot Side Hops (Duration: 30s, Rest: 45s)

With feet together, hop side to side as quickly as possible over the line. Try to minimize the amount of time with your feet on the ground. Maximize speed, not height.

Front/Back Scissor Hops (Duration: 30s, Rest: 45s)

Stand with one foot in front of the line and one foot behind the line. Rapidly switch positions of your feet relative to the line. Maximize speed.

Chacha Steps (Duration: 30s, Rest: 45s)

Start with both feet behind the line. Step over with your right foot, then your left. Then, step back with your right foot, then your left. Repeat as fast as possible. Maximize speed.

Tuck Jumps (Duration: 30s, Rest: 75s)

Jump up and tuck your knees to your chest. Spend as little time on the ground as possible (i.e., start the next jump as soon as you land).

Lunge Jumps (Duration: 30s, Rest: 75s)

Start in lunge position (right foot forward). Don’t let your front knee extend past your toe! Jump up as high as you can and land in the opposite lunge position (left foot forward). Repeat. Aim for both height and speed.

Domino (Duration: 30s, Rest: 45s)

Imagine you are standing on the “five” of a die or domino. Start with each foot shoulder width apart on the two “bottom” dots. Hop forward and bring feet together to land on the “middle” dot. Hop forward again and land shoulder width apart on the two “top” dots. Hop backwards again to the “middle” dot and then back to the “bottom” dots. Repeat. Aim for quickness.

Lateral Cone Hop (Duration: 20s, Rest: 45s)

Imagine you have a 1ft cone on the ground. Stand with both feet together to the side of the cone. Jump sideways over the imaginary cone, tucking your knees up toward your chest. Land softly and jump back to the starting position. Aim for height and minimize time on the ground.

These are just a small subset of the possible plyometrics you can try at home. We won’t cover agility ladder drills here, since they are workouts themselves. If you’re interested in a more challenging and/or sport-specific plyo workout, Google “agility ladder drills” for some ideas. For even more inspiration, ask a DAPER PE instructor or athletic trainer for some ideas, or check out YouTube for instructional videos.