All teenagers, whether they are athletes or not, should get regular exercise.
Of course, physical activity is important throughout one’s entire life. But exercise for teenagers is particularly important because their bodies are growing and changing, and regular exercise will help prevent future health issues when they are adults.
Traditionally, most physical activity for teenagers has been centered around aerobic and strength.
But whether you’re a gym teacher, coach or a parent who is trying to encourage your teenager to exercise, you should look beyond classic cardio and strength training.
Plyometric training is often thought of as an activity reserved for highly experienced athletes, but this is a common misconception.
It’s actually a really great way to improve your teenager’s lower-body strength, agility and flexibility.
That being said, a plyometric regimen for a teenage should look different than that of an adult elite athlete.
So before your teenager introduces “plyo,” as it’s sometimes abbreviated, into their workout routine, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
What is Plyometric Training?
To give you a basic idea of what plyometric training entails, you should know that it used to be called “jump training.”
Have you every seen any videos of super muscle-y athletes jumping from the floor to the top of a large box or platform of some sort? That’s plyometrics.
It’s a high-intensity, resistance-based form of strength training that consists of hops and jumps in order to increase muscle power. However unlike traditional strength training, the exercises are performed explosively and quickly, usually over shorter intervals of time.
With each jump, the muscles in the lower body rapidly stretch, and then rapidly contract or shorten, which improves both strength and flexibility.
Plyo is a very high-impact and explosive form of muscle training, and it should not be performed every day for risk of injuring your already exhausted lower body. But it’s great to do a few times per week, or to incorporate into an existing workout routine.
It also should only make up part of your exercise regimen because it really primarily targets the lower body. However, throwing a medicine ball back-and-forth with a partner, for example, is one plyometric exercise that target the upper body.
But for children, teenagers and adults, plyometric training helps develop muscle power, strength, balance, agility and flexibility. That’s a lot of your bases covered when it comes to physical fitness.
Why is “Plyo” Beneficial for Teenagers?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, plyometric training conditions the nervous system to react more quickly to the stretch-shortening cycle of muscle movement.
So in children in adolescents, the development of this reaction in the nervous system will only improve their ability to increase their speed of movement and improve their production of muscular power.
In teenagers, whose bodies are growing, gaining weight, and going through puberty, plyometric training is helpful also helpful for bone strength and weight control.
And because teenager’s bodies are rapidly growing and changing, they are also at greater risk for injury – especially sports-related injuries. If plyometric training is properly introduced into teens’ exercise routines, it can decrease their risk of sustaining major injuries to the lower body.
This is especially beneficial for young females who have a greater risk of knee injury than teenage boys.
Building Plyometric Training into the Workout Routine of Your Teenager
It is certainly clear that plyometrics are beneficial for people of all ages, and the benefits for teenagers are especially apparent.
However, plyometric training is very intense. And though it can help prevent major injuries in teenagers, it can also cause injury if approached improperly.
Teenagers (and anyone, for that matter) who want to introduce plyometrics into their physical fitness regimen should already have a solid baseline of strength developed. Or, if they do not have a good level of lower-body strength, should not immediately jump (pun not intended) into high-intensity plyometric exercises.
Even if your teenager is not the most physically fit, it is still possible to safely and effectively incorporate plyometric exercises into his or her workouts.
If you think about it, the jumping and hopping of plyometric training is inherent to a lot of our movements. We all have jumped, hopped, or skipped in a variety of situations throughout our lives. As kids we run and jump on playground equipment, or perhaps play hopscotch with friends.
Or maybe your teenager plays a sport like basketball or tennis, where they frequently hop or jump throughout practice or a game. It’s all plyometrics.
So, whether your teenager realizes it or not, he or she has probably done some sort of plyometric exercise. That’s why the idea that it’s only for elite athletes is rather silly. Anyone and everyone can jump and hop.
The key, however, is choosing the right way to jump and hop based on your age and physical abilities.
5 Plyometric Exercises That Are Great for Teenagers
Like we mentioned earlier, plyometric training is a perfectly acceptable form of exercise for children and adolescents. But the actual plyometric exercises for a teenager should look different than the ones that a player in the NBA might do, for instance.
So, here are a few safe and effective ways you can introduce plyometric exercises into your teenager’s workouts – whether he or she is an athlete looking to continue building strength, or just trying to improve his or her physical fitness.
To be on the safe side, it’s better for your teenager to do fewer reps of an exercise when starting plyometric training. He or she should also start off slowly, and not focus on the height of the jumps. And, be sure that there is at least two minutes of rest between each set for adequate recovery.
This will not only prevent possible injury, but it will also help ensure proper movement patterns and therefore proper muscle development.
So, keep that in mind with each of these exercises. Your teen does not need to be able to jump up onto a four-foot platform to reap the benefits of plyometric training!
1. Power Skipping
Just like kids on a playground, skipping is a great plyometric exercise for your teenagers.
But instead of casually skipping across a field, he or she should add a little more intensity to the movement.
Your teenager should perform a regular skip but jump and lift his or her knee as high as possible.
The amount of sets and reps can be adjusted to suit your teen’s level of fitness, but a good place to start is performing three sets of 12 reps with a minute of rest between each set.
2. Pogo Hops
No, your teenager will not need a pogo stick for this one.
Instead, he or she should bend the knees slightly, but think about jumping from the ankles rather than the knees. From there, he or she “explodes” off the ground like a pogo stick.
Landing should be done with straight legs, but make sure the knees are not locked. Then repeat, continually using the ankles to push off the ground.
Do two sets of eight jumps, with a minute rest in between.
3. Squat Jump
This one is a bit more intense, so take it easy if you have to!
Start off squatting with the knees bent and then jump off the ground. Your teen will get that stretch-shortening cycle in the hips, knees, and ankles with this exercise.
Because it’s more intense, start off only doing two sets of six jumps with rest in between.
4. Lateral Cone Jumps
For this one, you need a cone or other object that your teenager can jump over.
Standing on one side of the cone, jump quickly over to the other side of the cone. Then, upon landing, immediately jump back to the other side. This should be quite fast!
Three sets of 10-12 jumps are good for this one, but less is also perfectly okay.
5. Two-Leg Speed Hopping
Image from Avera Sports
Have your teen stand with his or her feet together, with the knees and hips relatively straight.
Then, they should hop while staying up on their toes for about ten yards, as quickly as possible while spending very little time touching the ground.
Your teen can start by doing this exercise twice.
With Plyometric Training, Always Listen to Your Body
See? It really is quite simple and fun to introduce plyometric training into your teenager’s physical fitness routine.
Plyometric exercises are quite customizable, so you can make they work for beginners or more advanced teen athletes.
Just remind your teenagers to always listen to their bodies when doing exercises like these. Their safety is the most important, and their growing bodies can get injured a lot more easily than a fully developed adult.
It’s always okay to stop if something hurts, and your teenager should never perform plyometric exercises every day. Every two to three days is good for plyometric training, and they can do other forms of exercise on those “off” days.
And remember – these exercises should be fun!