Often times, plyometric training is used to describe any exercise in which jumping is involved, so the term has been associated most commonly with this type of training. Plyometrics can involve jumping, but for athletic training, especially, so much more is involved.
The whole point of plyometric training is to train the ability to rapidly apply force and provide and overload to the primary muscle involved. Elastic energy is briefly stored in the prime mover (through a stretch in this muscle), and is rapidly released by a concentric shortening (flexing) of the same muscle.
For example, a plyometric box jump involves a small squatting movement where the athlete pauses only briefly or not at all at the bottom of the squat, then releases the elastic energy in the quadriceps along with a contraction of that same muscle to explode up. The potential elastic energy built up in the quad can dissipate very quickly if too much time is spent at the bottom of this movement, therefore resistance should be appropriate to allow a quick change in direction. This goes for all plyometric training.
Plyometric training is not limited to jumping. The same principles apply to pressing (chest, shoulders) core training (crunches, cable rotations) etc.
Plyometric training has consitantly been shown to improve the production of muscle force and power, and can be a great supplemental training technique for those just looking to burn calories and increase their fitness level.
Examples of plyometric training exercises include the squat/jump, lateral box jump, depth jump, med ball throws and presses, plyo push ups, and plyo crunches.
Watch for exercise of the week updates that include plyometric exercises explained in video format.
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