You wake up in the morning totally rested and refreshed. You feel ready for your morning workout.
You do all the necessary stuff to get prepared and now you are about to hit some plyometric push ups.
You get down and you start. Your hands feel like explosive springs. You push with power and you explode off the ground, while in the air you swiftly move your hands and in a moments notice you hit 3 claps, one in front, one behind the back and one in the front before landing. Your repeat the same process for 7 more reps.
After resting for a while, you are ready to repeat the process.
You feel fast, explosive and powerful.
Nothing can stop you, you are an explosive beast!
How close to your current reality does this story seem to be?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could perform and feel the same way?
Well, doing so is totally achievable. In fact, you can even surpass the “image” portrayed above.
Even though many athletes dismiss calisthenics when it comes to developing explosiveness, becoming explosive using calisthenics is absolutely attainable.
With this post, I am going to show you how to do just that.
Why Should Someone Train With Plyometrics?
But Todd I just want to achieve advanced calisthenics skills. Why should I train for explosiveness?
Your training has to be aligned to assist your goals and I agree with you that if you want to achieve only strength based calisthenics skill, you may as well not train with plyometrics exercises.
However, as you are going to see below there are a lot of calisthenics feats that rely heavily on explosiveness and there is no reason to disregard explosive feats over the strength based ones.
Other than that, here are some of the benefits that come with plyometric training.
Benefit #1: Increase Your Strength And Power
Since plyometric training is focused on increasing the rate of force development, explosive training is going to help you become stronger as well.
Furthermore, with plyometric training you will be training the fast-twitch fiber in your muscles, which is responsible for converting strength into speed. Long story short, plyometric training is going to increase your power.
Benefit #2: Become more athletic
The performance in almost every sport is based in explosiveness, power and speed.
In all of these you have to display strength, change direction, jump, etc. in a moments time.
Training with plyometrics is going to help you develop these qualities and make you a better athlete overall.
Benefit #3: Boost Efficiency Of Neuromuscular System
This benefit is a byproduct of the first benefit.
Since you are training your body to apply strength fast, you are also training neuromuscular system to transmit signals more efficiently.
Benefit #4: It’s Fun And Prevents Boredom
Learning calisthenics skills is awesome, regardless if they are explosive or not.
Nonetheless, achieving explosive skills provides you with a different feeling than when achieving a strength based skill.
This difference can help you overcome boredom quite easily. Even just training with explosive movements is going to make you feel different.
Training, for example, for the butterfly kick (exercise #49), is going to feel way different than training for one arm push ups.
Some Cautions About Calisthenics Plyometrics
Regardless how awesome plyometric training might seem, you should always be very careful when training this way.
Plyometrics can be very hard on your joints and I would recommend to always practice with caution. When performing advanced exercises, like depth jumps, I would recommend to have a coach around.
If you are still a beginner, you shouldn’t train with plyometrics yet, as it’s so easy to injure yourself. Instead, focus on building a solid foundation before starting. Before considering doing serious plyometrics, it’s a good idea to be able to do the following:
If you don’t meet the necessary above criteria, spend more time on building your numbers.
How To Warm Up For Explosive Training
Warming up for explosive calisthenics is very similar to warming up for a regular workout.
The biggest difference is that before training with explosive calisthenics you should always warm up the joints that are going to take the impact of landing.
For plyometric push ups – warm up your wrists, elbows and shoulders.
For plyometric pull ups – warm up your elbows and shoulders.
For jumping – warm up your ankles, knees and hips.
Following a regular warm up is going to help you target most of the joints mentioned above, except the wrists. For your wrists warm up, I highly recommend you the handstand wrist preparation.
Based on the above a basic warm up before a plyometric workout may look like this:
A1: 3-5 min Wrist preparation
C1: 10 min skill work (optional)
- Perform exercises B1 to B3 like a circuit, going from one to the next without rest. Repeat 3 times with 60 seconds rest in between rounds.
- Your skill work shouldn’t be exhausting. For this reason, in this 10 minute period you should train mostly with balance exercises like handstand drills, frogstand variations, etc.
Below is a list of the best plyometric calisthenics exercises.
The exercises are categorized into three categories, based on the major muscle groups involved:
- upper body exercises
- lower body exercises
- miscellaneous exercises
Based on their difficulty level, the exercises are going to be further divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Upper Body Plyometrics
In this section you are going to find the exercises focusing mostly on the muscle groups of the upper body.
The exercises have been divided into pushing and pulling exercises.
Explosive Pushing Exercises
Exercise #1: Plyometric Push ups
You don’t have to change your hand position at every rep, but you can if you want to. The point is to get off the ground.
Exercise #2: Clap Push ups
Exercise #3: Superman push ups
Exercise #4: Crossover push ups
Exercise #5: Behind the back clap push ups (aka Muay Thai Push ups)
You can find a tutorial on how to achieve this exercise here.
Exercise #6: Double clap push ups
Exercise #7: Aztec push ups
Exercise #8: One arm plyometric push ups
It’s not necessary to have an elevated surface to land upon. The main goal is to explode off the ground.
Exercise #9: 360 push ups
Exercise #10: Plyometric dips
Exercise #11: Triple clap push ups
Exercise #12: One arm clap push ups
Exercise #13: One arm one leg clap push ups
Exercise #14: straddle planche clap push ups
Exercise #15: Plance clap push ups
Exercise #16: Plyometric handstand push ups
Exercise #17: Clapping handstand push ups
Exercise #18: Clapping dips
Explosive Pulling Exercises
Exercise #19: Plyometric body rows
Exercise #20: Plyometric pull ups
Exercise #21: Grip switch pull ups
Exercise #22: Kipping Bar Muscle up
Exercise #23: Clap pull ups
Exercise #24: One arm plyometric body row
Exercise #25: Behind the back clap pull ups
Exercise #26: Toe Touch Pull ups
Exercise #27: One Arm Plyo Pull ups
Exercise #28: One arm rope climb
Lower Body Plyometrics
In this section belong the exercises that focus on the muscle groups of your lower body. Most, if not all, of the exercises are jumping variations.
Exercise #29: Squat jumps
Exercise #30: The 180 degree spiderman jump
Exercise #31: Crazy Lunge
You can find more info about the crazy lunge here.
Exercise #32: Tornado Jump lunge
Exercise #33: Ankle Hops
Exercise #34: Box Jumps
Exercise #35: Knees to Chest Jump
Exercise #36: Broad Jumps
Exercise #37: Precision Jumps
Exercise #38: Knee Jumps
You can progress even if you don’t have weights by increasing the height of the landing surface like in the last progressions of the video.
Exercise #39: Single leg jump
Exercise #40: Single Leg Box Jumps
Exercise #41: Depth Jumps
Exercise #42: Explosive Pistol Squats
In this section belong the exercises that require full body explosiveness.
Exercise #43: Cartwheel
Exercise #44: One Arm Cartwheel
Exercise #45: Front Flip
Exercise 46#: Back Flip
Exercise #47: Back Handspring
Exercise #48: Aerial cartwheel
Exercise #49: Butterfly Kick
Exercise #50: Double front flip
Exercise #51: Double back flip
Plyometrics Workout Plans
One of the main reasons people don’t use calisthenics for the development of their explosiveness is because it’s hard to measure your progress or the effectiveness of the exercises.
How are you going to know if you are becoming more explosive?
Measuring your explosiveness in jumping, can be quite easy and intuitive. In broad jumping, you just have to measure the jumping distance every once in a while and see how well you are doing.
Similarly, in vertical jumping you have to measure how high you are able to jump. To do this, you are going to need different sized boxes or surfaces that are going to allow you to see your progress.
In regards to the upper body, it can be a little more complex.
When you are progressing to harder exercises you, of course, know that you have become more explosive, but how much more?
A way to measure it is to use a method similar to measuring your jumping. You can use boxes and see how high you can “jump” with your hands. However, most of the times progressing to harder exercises is enough to know that you are becoming stronger and more explosive.
A Guide To Progressions
In regards to push ups and pull ups, I recommend you to start from the exercises where you can easily perform 3×5 and work up to 3×8.
Start slowly by achieving the easier moves and move on from there.
Be sure to complete 3×8 before progressing to a more difficult exercise. The higher reps are going to help you achieve a certain level of mastery over the move and the harder progression is going to feel more natural.
In regards to lower body, you are going to test what you max jumping height/distance is and then you are going to train with a 3×8 approach with 70-80% of your max. Then after 2-4 weeks, retest and repeat the process.
For the explosive skills, all you have to do to progress is to follow the necessary progressions for achieving the skill and once you master it move to a different skill.
The Workout Plans
Here are a few methods to train for explosiveness.
Method #1: Combined With Strength Training
With this training approach you are going to combine strength training with explosive training.
You can either start your workout with exercises focusing on strength development and perform plyometrics at the end of the workout or do the opposite.
A sample workout day might look like this:
A1: 3×8 Plyometric pull ups variation
B1: 3×8 Plyometric push ups variation
C1: 3×8 pistol squats
D1: 3×8 dragon flag
Or like this:
A1: 3×8 One arm push ups progression
B1: 3×8 Pull ups varation
C1: 3×8 Precision jumping
If you are training with split days a sample workout day focusing on upper body might look like this:
A1: 3×8 One arm push up progression
B1: 3×8 Pull up variation
C1: 3×8 Plyo push up variation
D1: 3×8 plyo pull up variation
Rest 3-5 minutes between sets and exercises.
With this training approach, you should train 3-4 times per week. Three times for the full body workouts and four for the split workouts.
Sample Full Body Workout Plan
Week 1: W-A, W-B, W-A
Week 2: W-B, W-A, W-B
Week 3: W-A, W-B, W-A
Week 4: Deload Week
You should rest at least one day between the workouts. During the rest days, you can perform active recovery exercises or train for any miscellaneous skill that you want to achieve.
Sample Split Workout Plan
Week 1: W-U, W-L, rest, W-U, W-L
Week 2: W-U, W-L, rest, W-U, W-L
Week 3: W-U, W-L, rest, W-U, W-L
Week 4: Deload Week
W-U and W-L stand for Workout-Upper body and Workout-Lower body respectively.
Rest days are similar to the ones of the Full Body Workout Plan.
Method #2: Days Dedicated to Explosiveness
With this approach, you are going to have training days dedicated to explosiveness.
A good way to implement this approach is to alternate between strength training and explosiveness training.
If you want to achieve, for example, the Muay Thai push up (#5), a sample workout might look like this:
A1: 3×8 Muay Thai progression
B1: 3×8 plyometric pull ups
C1: 3×8 precision jumps
D1: 3×8 dragon flag progression
You should always start with the exercise that leads to your goal.
Sample Workout Plan
Week 1: W-E, W-S, W-E
Week 2: W-S, W-E, W-S
Week 3: W-E, W-S, W-E
Week 4: Deload Week
W-E and W-S stand for Workout-Explosive and Workout-Strength respectively.
Treat rest days similarly to the other workout plans.
Method #3: Everyday Is An Explosiveness Day
This the best way of training if you really want to become an explosive beast.
The best way of implementing this is by learning new skills that belong in the miscellaneous category.
Training everyday, is going to help you learn the skills faster.
If you decide to follow this approach, you should be aware of your energy levels and be careful of overtraining.
For this training approach, you can choose a workout plan similar to the ones shared in Way #1 or #2. You can even choose a training plan that doesn’t include any other plyometric training in it.
Method #4: GTG For Explosiveness
GTG stands for Greasing The Groove.
With this approach, you are going to train various times through the day.
GTG is a great way for maximal strength and endurance training, but I haven’t tested it with explosive training.
If you are interested in learning more about this method, check out this great article.
Some More Thoughts
Before closing this section, I would like to focus a little on maximal strength.
Strength is a big component of explosiveness. While strength doesn’t necessarily translates to explosiveness, being strong is going to help you become more explosive in the long run and will help you progress faster with explosive skills.
For this reason, whatever training approach you chose to follow, I would suggest you to always balance your explosiveness training with strength training.
Hopefully, after reading this article you can see that becoming an explosive beast using only calisthenics is an attainable goal.
Some of the skills presented in this article may be out of your reach, but don’t let that discourage you.
You can easily use these extreme calisthenics skills to help you get into the right mindset and move towards your goals with the confidence that you can achieve what you are aiming for.
Have you trained with plyometrics before? Which explosive skill is going to be your next goal?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
– Bodyweight Todd