Have you hit a plateau with your arms and nothing seems to be working? Want to get explosive power in your chest and shoulders? Want to spice up your upper body workouts? Try Plyometrics! Many people use plyometrics to enhance their lower body workouts, yet very few use them for their upper body. When used correctly with a strengthening program, “plyos” can drastically improve power and explosion.
At its core plyometrics denotes an exercise that forces the muscle to produce maximum force in minimum time. Scientifically speaking, the muscle being worked is first loaded by an eccentric (lengthening) action, which is immediately followed by a concentric (shortening) action. More simply, the muscle is stretched prior to a forceful contraction. Think of it as the compression of a spring before it is allowed return to its normal length.
Plyometrics are good for anyone who wants to increase their explosive power especially in athletes. Specifically speaking, upper body plyos usually are a progression after you can bench your body weight.
Do the words “explosive” and “powerful” make your ears perk up? These exercises, coupled with a good strength training program, will give you those explosive gains you love to see. Plyos are also good for spicing up workouts and busting plateaus.
There are many upper body exercises that you can perform explosively to mimic a plyometric type contraction. The only problem with this method is that at the top of your lift, you have to decelerate in order to control the weight and not hyperextend.
To better achieve a plyometric contraction, here are some exercises or variations:
Clappers – Simple yet effective. These are performed by doing a push-up, exploding off the ground, clapping hands together, and returning to the push-up position. To add difficulty, try clapping behind your back or even touching your toes in between.
Staggered Push-up Jumps – Start with one hand 6 - 8 inches in front of normal push-up position. Perform a push-up. Explode off the ground while switching hands so that the other hand is 6-8 inches in front.
Elevated Push-ups – Whether it is a six inch step, a dumbbell, or a plate or two varying the elevation between your hands will help ignite that fire in your chest.
Yoga Ball Push-ups – Yoga balls can be used to force you to stabilize and draw from your core. Using a yoga ball as your base under your feet or under your hands are both effective.
Push-up walks – Similar to the staggered push-ups. Perform a push-up. Then put one hand in front, followed by another push-up. Continue “walking” out like this for the desired length. To add difficulty use dumbbells.
Medicine Ball throws – There are many variations of the medicine ball toss that can help you with explosion. Lying on your back and tossing a ball into the air will work on reactive and explosive portions of your muscle. The over the head, side, over the back, and slam types of throws can also be very effective.
With my clients, I like to work at least two of these plyos into their upper body workouts. Each plyo is done 10 repetitions with 2 to 3 sets, or until they can no longer perform it explosively.
They can be performed at the beginning or at the end of your workouts. Try switching them up to avoid boredom and stagnant workout routines.
Written by Tyler Prochnow, Certified ACE Personal Trainer