Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

P90X Plyometrics

Equipment Needed:

  1. Chair or stool (or short uncle)
  2. Towel
  3. Heart Rate Monitor* 
  4. Puke Bucket*

Duration: 58:36

List of exercises: 

  1. Jump Squats
  2. Run Stance Squats
  3. Airborne Heisman
  4. Swing Kicks
  5. Squat Reach Jump
  6. Run Stance Squat Switch Pick-Ups
  7. Double Airborne Heismans
  8. Circle Run
  9. Jump Knee Tucks 
  10. Mary Katherine Lunges
  11. Leapfrog Squats
  12. Twist Combos 
  13. Rock Star Hops
  14. Gap Jumps
  15. Squat Jacks
  16. Military March
  17. Run Squat 180 Jump Switch
  18. Lateral Leapfrog Squats
  19. Monster Truck Tire Jumps
  20. Hot Foot 
  21. Pitch and Catch
  22. Jump Shots
  23. Football Hero

Here's the funny thing about P90X Plyometrics, a lot of folks who do this routine think that just because the workout is called "Plyometrics" that they are actually, well, doing plyometrics. Fact of the matter is this: P90X Plyometrics really should be called "Cardio Jumping".

Sure, there are some true plyometric-type exercises in this workout, but, as I will explain in further detail below, plyometrics is all about explosive muscle contractions and what is known as "ground contact time". More specifically, real  plyometrics should have a main focus on minimizing the amount of time one touches the ground.

Take another look at the exercise list above. The exercises that I have made bold , could actually be considered "plyometrics" (based on how they are done and taught in this workout). Let's get into further detail:

Plyometric Mechanics and Physiology

Plyometrics are a type of activity or exercise in which you creating the most amount of muscular force you can in a short period of time. These types of exercises use the natural elasticity of muscles as well as their reflex capabilities to create quick, explosive power. Plyometric programs have been and will continue to play a large part in training of athletes due to their tremendous applications to sport.

Mechanical Model of Plyometric Exercise

If you were to take a rubber band and stretch it out, the band would develop "potential energy". If you suddenly release a stretched rubber band, the potential energy would then release very rapidly. Similar type principles can be applied to the human body. Muscles, tendons and ligaments all contain elastic properties that can be utilized in powerful, explosive, athletic actions.

The main powerhouse or driving force behind plyometric movement is known as the "series elastic component" (SEC). The SEC is partly composed of muscular elasticity, but is mainly driven by the elastic components in the tendons. Although the SEC is very similar to stretching a rubber band, there are some differences as well.

During the "loading" or eccentric phase of a plyometric action (muscle lengthening), there is potential elastic energy stored in the tendons and muscles. If there is a quick transition to the concentric or "explosive" phase, then the elastic, potential energy stored in the tendons can be utilized in the explosive action.

If, however, the eccentric phase takes too long, or the transition to the concentric phase is not fast enough, much of the stored elastic potential energy ends up dissipating as heat. This is where the plyometric action is different than a rubber band. As long as the rubber band is not stretched too far, the stored energy will remain there until released. This is not the case with stored elastic energy in the muscles/tendons however, as the muscles will simply just "release" and stretch their fibers instead.

Neurophysiological Model of Plyometric Exercise

Inside each muscle, there are proprioceptive organs called "muscle spindles". There are similar-type organs in tendons known as "Golgi tendon organs". The job of these proprioceptors are to essentially protect the muscles and ligaments of the body. They detect sudden changes in length of the muscles and tendons and will reflexively shorten in order to protect the tissues.

For example, when you go to visit the doctor for a physical, often times, they will have you sit on the edge of the examination table and have you hang your leg over the edge, relaxed. They will then take a small hammer and knock your patellar tendon just below your kneecap causing the "knee-jerk response". This is caused by the muscle spindles detecting a quick, but relatively small, lengthening of the patellar tendon, causing an immediate concentric contraction out of the thigh muscles. This is mainly an involuntary action that your body does automatically based on an external stimulus.

It is this principle that is mainly utilized when doing plyometric exercises. You are essentially training your muscles to react as fast and explosively as possible by using its own natural reflex and elastic components.

Stretch-Shortening Cycle

The stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) is essentially the main system employed during the series elastic component (SEC). The SSC is broken down into 3 main phases that I will discuss below.

Phase 1 - is the eccentric or stretching phase. This is also known as the preloading phase where the elastic components of the muscles and tendons are stimulated. As the muscles and tendons go through their quick shortening phase, the proprioceptors (muscle spindles) are stimulated and the elastic energy is stored.

Phase 2 - is known as the amortization or transition phase between phase 1 and 3. This is the time it takes for the signal to be sent from the proprioceptors to the central nervous system and back again to the necessary muscles to create a neuromuscular response. Ideally, this phase should be as short as possible (more on this later).

Phase 3 - is the concentric or muscle shortening phase. This is when the action happens and the elastic energy is released and the muscle contracts creating a powerful, explosive action.

By adding plyometric exercises to your athletic training program, you will not only develop powerful, explosive muscles, but you can also expect an improvement in the response time. What I am referring to is making the phase 2 or the amortization period as short as possible with as quick of a transition from phase 1 to 3. The faster the transition between phases 1 and 3, the more the elastic components of the muscles and tendons are utilized and not lost as heat.

A great example of this would be the studies that have shown that adding plyometric training to distance runner training programs can improve times quite dramatically. The plyometric training will not only help the muscles improve in strength and exlosiveness, but will shorten that amortization stage, losing less potential energy to heat, and improving running efficiency.

So, based on that explanation of how our muscles react to plyometric exercise, if you go back and think about the slow, almost plodding movements during P90X Plyometrics, you will understand that the name is a bit misleading. Just because the routine has some jumping movements in it does not mean that it should be considered plyometrics.

P90X Plyometrics Safety Considerations

P90X Plyometrics certainly is not for everyone. This has many high-impact exercises that I would consider to be on the more advanced side when it comes to physical fitness. Here are some safety considerations to consider before beginning this workout: 

  1. Always check with your doctor prior to beginning a program as intense as P90X. You may have to modify throughout, but doing a workout is always better than doing no workout at all! 
  2. You have the option to use the workout "Cardio X" in place of Plyometrics at any time. That workout has less impact and can work just fine. Remember that weight loss and a healthy lifestyle are accomplished by being active and consuming a healthy diet full of nutrients and vitamins. Plyometrics is not necessary to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
  3. Find comfortable shoes and flooring that works for you. 
  4. Land softly any time you are jumping. Tony mentions this in the workout itself, but think of your body as a giant spring. Allow your multiple joints to work in tandem to absorb the forces placed on you when landing.
  5. If you can't jump, or have trouble with the landing, don't! This routine can be modified to be done without jumping at all. The main thing to focus on is performing actions as quickly as you can. For example, rather than doing a jump squat, simply do squats, coming up out of the squatted position quickly (with good form). 

If you feel something is missing from this post, or you would like to see something added, please let me know: