Plyometrics — or high-intensity exercises that stretch and then quickly shorten your muscles (think jump squats or plyo push-ups) — are already known for their quick calorie-blasting, body-toning results. “The technique was originally designed to develop explosive speed and power in Olympic athletes, but the benefits extend out to the average Joe and Jane in both body and mind,” says Adam Rosante, NYC-based trainer and creator of the popular bodyweight interval workout WaveShape.
“The intensity of firing up your big muscle groups with such speed sends your heartrate through the roof and burns a ton of fat.” Plus, Rosante explains, when your brain is forced to process the mechanical speed required of plyo moves, it has the potential to improve overall cognitive function.
But there’s better news yet: There may be an even more efficient way to do this powerhouse type of workout.
Plyometrics Exercises: The Power of Cluster Sets
Though many people stick to the standard two or three sets of 10 to 15 reps, flipping that format on its head might actually improve your performance, according to a newstudy published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Exercisers who did cluster sets — 10 sets of shorter reps ranging from only two to five — were able to jump higher and reach greater takeoff velocity during their workout, which could result in more explosive power.
The sweet spot is sets of three to five reps, found Lee E. Brown, Ph.D., study coauthor and director of the Center for Sport Performance at California State University in Fullerton. Do fewer than that and you can’t maximize the eccentric (or muscle-lengthening) phase of the movement, which will lessen your velocity. Go for more than five and you’ll get too fatigued to maintain your max jump height. It’s important to note that ample rest is also key to helping you reach maximum power and jump height throughout every rep, says Brown. Aiming for 30 to 45 seconds between sets allows you to start each set feeling fresh.