March 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM ET
NEW YORK - Plyometrics, sometimes called jump training, is a form of exercise that fitness experts say combines cardio and strength training and can burn more calories in less time than the typical cardio activity alone.
If everyday exercisers safely incorporate the sudden, explosive movements of plyometrics into their overall workout they can get benefits not available from a run on the treadmill, experts say.
"Plyometric activities enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest amount of time," said Neal Pire, a strength and conditioning specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine.
People use plyometrics in everyday activities, from a bus rider leaping from step to curb, to a seated person standing up, he explained.
"There will come times when even my mother, who is 95, needs to be explosive," said Pire, author of "Plyometrics for Athletes at All Levels."
He said a basic way of doing a plyometric motion is to take a movement like a squat and increase its intensity by hopping up and landing into the squat.
"Any type of jumping, including little hops on the balls of your feet will elicit a similar response," he explained.
Equinox, a chain of luxury fitness centers, has folded plyometric training into a group fitness class called Spring Body Breakthru.
Los Angeles-based fitness instructor Stephanie Vitorino, who designed the class, said under proper supervision anybody can do plyometrics.
"People just getting started need to succeed at one level before moving to the next progression," she said. "It's not for everybody, but plyometrics can add a lot to a workout in a short burst of time if you give yourself the opportunity to get better at it."
Deborah McConnell, a health and fitness instructor with equipment manufacturer Life Fitness, incorporates plyometrics into her workout once or twice weekly.
"The bounding and rebounding movements of plyometrics are very high intensity," she said, "so you want to make sure the person has some foundational knowledge and fitness level."
Warm up the body first, McConnell suggests. Start with small steps then gradually increase intensity.
"When you land, you want to make sure you land softly to absorb the shock," she stressed. "Allow plenty of rest between days, and because of the intensity, do plyometrics at the beginning of the routine and not when you're tired."
The beauty of plyometrics, McConnell said, is that it's progressive. It can start with something very simple and small and build up. It builds power and strength, can be done anywhere and requires no equipment.
"You can get a lot of return for time invested," she said.
Pire said if you analyze what people do on the street, from hopping on a train to bounding for a bus, you realize that they all do plyometrics all the time.
"To be prepared is the benefit of training," he said. "You stress in a controlled environment so out in the world you can do what you've trained to do."
McConnell said anything that bounds and jumps and skips is plyometrics.
"If you were doing a push-up and you bounced up and clapped your hands in between, you'd be doing upper body plyometrics," she explained. "Playing hopscotch is plyometrics."