Incorporating plyometric exercises into your exercise regimen is a very effective way to improve your cardiovascular health and increase your overall fitness level from balance, to strength, to stamina.
One of my top 5 favorite plyometric exercises is the Jump Lunge (aka Jump Split), which requires balance, coordination, elicits a serious leg burn and gets your heart rate up significantly.
The jump lunge (or any plyometric exercise) is NOT an easy exercise, but I have 3 variations below ranging from easier to more challenging. If you haven’t done a plyometric exercise before, be careful and be sure to get a good warm up beforehand.
Variation #1: Assisted Jump Lunge
In the photo above, you can see I’m holding onto a smith machine bar, which is in line with my lower chest when I’m standing straight. You can also use a chair, or other sturdy, stable object to hold on to as you are learning the jump lunge. I do this exercise with my dad who is 65 years old.
The shorter the distance between your front foot and your back foot when they are on the ground makes the exercise easier. The greater the distance (as I’m showing in the photo), makes the exercise more challenging. Ideally, you should feel a little bit of a stretch in your Psoas (front of you hip). In addition, be sure to get your back knee close to the ground as you are landing for optimal range of motion. This exercise is meant to be smooth, so you should be landing softly and smoothly.
Variation #2: Body Weight Jump Lunge
To make the jump lunge a little more challenging, you can complete the exercise without any assistance. Your hand placement is a personal preference; either you can hold your hands to your sides, on your hips, or behind your head. Keeping your balance during this exercise is not easy at all, so you may consider starting out with the assisted jump lunges, than going to more advanced versions.
Variation #3: Weighted Jump Lunge
As you become stronger and fitter, the weighted jump lunge is a phenomenal way to keep your fitness level very high. I use 20- 30lb dumbbells and do around 16-20 reps per set. I simply can’t handle the leg burn with more reps than around 20. I think using dumbbells as weight is safer than using a barbell in case you lose your balance, and you may also consider using a weighted vest. The weight should be heavy enough to provide some resistance, but not so heavy it’s no longer a plyometrics, jumping exercise. It’s better to use too little weight than too much weight.
So when should you use the jump lunge?
Well, you can really use them whenever you want, whether it’s after some sprinting, or in the weight room. I really like pairing jump lunges with a standard leg exercise like squats. It makes the workout far more effective in my opinion (I rarely do squats without pairing them with another exercise for many reasons). I also use them as part of a metabolic conditioning circuit where I will choose let’s say 3-4 plyometric exercises to complete back to back with little, or no rest. Of course, you can do jump lunges as straight sets (i.e. with no other exercises) if you are just starting out.
Hope you give jump lunges a try and incorporate them every once in a while into your exercise regimen!