Commonly referred to as jump training, plyo (think box jumps, jumping lunges, hurdle hops) involves explosive action in short spurts. At New York City’s Fhitting Room, a boutique fitness studio specializing in high-intensity interval training, coaches include plyometrics in 90 percent of their weekly programming. Each 30-second burst leaves clients breathless and quivery—but psyched about their results. “The exercises increase your muscles’ efficiency by training them to contract and relax more quickly,” says Fhitting Room instructor Julia Avery. “This translates into better performance in other movements—you can jump higher or lift more weight.”
For Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas plyo training gives her an Olympic-caliber edge—helping her run faster to the vault, flawlessly execute twists and flips, and stick those landings. She’ll do all of that in Rio, and she’ll also be having a great time. In 2012, “I was the underdog,” she says. “Now it’s different. Still, I’m going to have fun and bring my A game.”
Douglas isn’t just catching air with the plyo routine below—she’s also improving her explosive power and coordination. Her trainer, Christian Gallardo, recommends doing this circuit without rest between moves. (It will take you about four minutes to complete.) Add it to the end of your regular workout up to four days per week.
1. High Knees
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Run in place, pumping arms and bringing knees as close to chest as possible, for 30 seconds.
2. Tuck Jump
Stand with feet together, knees soft, arms reaching overhead. Lean forward slightly and lift heels off floor. Jump as high as possible, bringing knees to chest and landing softly on balls of feet. Continue for 30 seconds.
Lie on back, arms and legs extended. Contract abs, then reach arms and legs to ceiling, forming a V shape. Lower slowly for 1 rep. Do 10 reps.
4. Squat Jump
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Jump, fully extending arms, then land in a squat, keeping chest up, as you tap the ground with hands. Continue for 30 seconds.
5. Windshield Wiper
Lie on back with legs straight, feet pointed to ceiling, arms out to sides. Slowly lower feet to left, keeping a 90-degree bend at waist. Lift feet back to ceiling and repeat on opposite side for 1 rep. Do 10 reps.