Plyometric exercise, the journey and its benefits

Neil Dimmock


Whenever I listen to a client's goals and objectives, I am constructing in my head (or notepad) the journey needed to reach milestones that lead up to the chosen goal.

Some goals are more complex, such as performance-based activities; with the everyday individual, there generally tends to be simpler goals and objectives. However, as nondescript the goal may be, there are gaps in the journey that are easy to overlook. I believe this is generally because the trainer finds it difficult to bridge phases of the journey and introduce particular components at certain times of the journey.
An example could be any one, or a combination of the components below:
  • Mobility and ranges of movement
  • Directional force - Exercising in a multi-planar environment
  • Force production - Producing, reducing and dissipating force
  • Tempo - Exercising at varied speeds
You may have read this list and attributed all of the components to the first of the two client scenarios. However, if you look at the list again and the second client scenario in particular, you’ll notice these components can (and should) be attributed to everyday life.

Each day, in our own way we move in a direction, only to stop (to reduce movement) and change direction (multi-planar). Sometimes, we’ll speed up and others we slow down (tempo), dependent on how late we are for the next meeting.

I will certainly point out the influences of mobility and end range training over the others within the list. However, it is worth pointing out that this could be a whole blog piece on its own. For the purpose of this piece, we will focus on the phases that come after reasonable mobility and being able to work within an acceptable range of movement.

Directional Force - change your direction

You only need to type 'posture' into a search engine to be told how we have become the technological age and spend most of our time within a sedentary position. I’m certainly not here to tell you what you can find out easily or what you already know. However, we really should take this fact when selecting the type of exercise that we choose on a (generally) semi-frequent basis and how repetitive motion can become detrimental over a period of time. 

Most people when deciding to become fitter, or to lose a little weight, are likely to choose an activity that is cheaper, accessible and that suits their skillset. Running, or cycling tend to be the most popular activities that fit this description. These two activities will be primarily executed within the same plane of movement that the client has likely been accustomed to: in the case of cycling in particular, the same seated position with shoulders forward.

I always avoid encouraging people to exercise more and then criticising their choice. However, as a trainer it’s important that we take in this information and use it to develop balanced training programmes.

The sagittal plane (forwards and backwards) is the most utilised plane of movement. Therefore, safe and effective transitions to exercise that places another directional force on the body is key to helping regain balance to their structure. Avoid referring to social media to find ideas of instructions for multi-planar movements. Take it back to what you know and provide your clients with simple movements pitched at a level that can be challenging, but versatile enough to insert into the client's programme without becoming overwhelmed by either the complexity or load.

For example, think of the half side plank. This is a versatile exercise that enables the client to understand the loading of the body in another plane of movement.

Force Production - you’re equipped with an accelerator and brake as standard

Let’s take our runner. To over simplifying this motion, the runner propels themselves forward, placing one foot in front of the other for a prolonged period of time. Looking at this motion in a little more depth however, whenever there is force production (the act of propelling oneself forward), there has to be force reduction. In other words, what goes up must come down. Gravity is the easiest explanation of force reduction. We reduce force placed on us everyday by withstanding gravitational pull placed on us. 

Let’s look at another running scenario. Without the ability of reducing force, we cannot slow down to change direction. This becomes not only a musculoskeletal problem, but also an issue of safety. Imagine a car without brakes!

Your exercise creativity doesn’t need to be challenged here. Look at simple components of a single leg squat exercise - concentric, eccentric and isometric. Becoming focused on the loading of your clients eccentric (in this case downwards) movement, would best represent the characteristics of force reduction. A simple idea would be to create a (short 3-2-1) countdown for your client to learn the deceleration phase of an exercise. Then a brief hold to stabilise statically (or isometrically).

As a trainer, this enables you to identify elements of the client's technique that could be corrected during descent. This is also part of the learning process of force reduction, which brings us nicely to the next stage of the client’s journey - tempo.

Let’s bring in the benefits of the mobility prerequisite…..The client’s mobility and range of movement will be an influencing factor over force reduction. If you're an athlete or regular to both a gym or group exercise, you’ll understand the nature of the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS). This generally occurs through the lengthening and loading of a muscle (eccentric loading) much the same as a rubber band under tension. The process of DOMS can be reduced by the incremental process of exercise modality. Although unlikely to be detrimental to the client, we have to acknowledge the recovery period of such influences, and in some cases limits, the client's potential to achieve their goal within a given timeframe.

Tempo - sometimes it’s good to live in the fast lane

Regardless of the person, life cannot be lived at one speed. Therefore, neither should your client’s programme. Our role is to create at least a fully functioning human being. Being able to get from A to B at a ‘quicker’ pace is crucial in life. The word ‘quicker’ is of course relative to the person that is in front of us and cannot be compared to your next client. However this relative speed comes from being able to control one’s directional force and force production/reduction/dissipation.  

Plyometric exercise enables us to combine tempo with force production, reduction and dissipation. Your client will take the education process they experienced during the previous programme phases, but this time will create a higher velocity within the propulsion (concentric) of their exercise, whilst reducing the impact within the force reduction (eccentric). This type of exercise does require the prerequisites mentioned within this piece. 

Plyometric exercise isn’t represented by creating as much air as possible between the client and a stable surface. It does however, require the client to become proficient in working to their safe end range of movement during their force reduction phase, as the elastic force needed to produce the concentric phase creates the plyometric force and indeed the strength and power benefits that accompany it.

Plyometric exercise can be created safely by playing with tempos and shouldn’t be associated with a particular exercise provider, such as crossfit, HiiT, or insanity workouts. Although plyometrics largely feature within these types of workout, their feature promotes elevation in heart rate, which is vital for the latter two exercise formats.

Safer formats of plyometric-based exercise can be delivered via methods, such as a reformer jumpboard or trampette. These methods make plyometric-based activity safer and more accessible to clients that have specific needs or requirements. These types of equipment enable the client to not only vary their position to obtain multi directional force, but also increase or decrease the load for a specific training outcome. This equipment also enables the trainer to incrementally increase the intensity of the cardiovascular component to the session, enabling the client to receive the needed benefits that may have previously been unobtainable on such pieces of equipment.


Naturally, we all want to talk about the most exciting forms of exercise and deliver dynamic methods that arouse interest. The caveat to this, is to recognise that there has to be prerequisites to particular methods as we are not conditioned to everything at the highest capacity without cost. Recognising the prerequisites are the first steps, to incrementally developing your client in a progressive and safe way.

Keep in touch! Tick the box and add your email below to receive updates from the LPA team:
Thank you!