The 5 Best Plyometric Exercises for Older Adults (Livestrong)

Posted: Dec 11, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in Livestrong on December 11, 2023.


The 5 Best Plyometric Exercises for Older Adults

By Isadora Baum

Want an effective form of cardio that gets your heart rate up fast and maximizes your workout time? Look no further than plyometric exercise (aka plyometrics).

"Plyometrics is any type of physical movement that involves rapid stretching and contracting of the muscles," says certified strength and conditioning coach and trainer Marc Megna, CSCS.


High-intensity training and plyometric exercise are typically fast-paced and high-impact, involving moves like burpees and broad jumps, which can be daunting or even inaccessible to many people.

However, plyometric exercise is feasible and beneficial for people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. It's especially effective for seniors because doing regular cardio sessions each week can protect your heart and brain and reduce your risk of other age-related conditions.

Ahead, we'll dive more into the benefits of plyometrics for older adults, the best exercises and how to get started with a plyometrics routine.

Benefits of Plyometrics for Seniors

There are many reasons to add plyometric to your fitness routine, especially as you age. A small August 2020 study published in ‌PLOS One‌ found plyometric exercise to be more effective for strengthening muscles and improving jump performance and functional fitness than traditional resistance training (particularly in men who were older).

Improving and increasing strength and performance is very important as you get older to be able to move more easily and comfortably as well as live an independent lifestyle. Not to mention, plyometrics can increase muscle mass, per the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which can reduce your risk of sarcopenia, an age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.

"Plyometrics can also help promote joint health and increase mobility," Megna says, suggesting step-ups as a plyometric move for strengthening knee and ankle joints.

Better balance and stability are among other benefits.

"Plyometric exercises are dynamic movements that force you to maintain balance and stability, and doing exercises like lateral bounds can improve balance and help prevent falls," Megna says.


Plyometric exercise also protects heart health by lowering your risk of heart disease and strengthening your heart muscle.

"Plyometric workouts get the heart pumping [harder] to improve heart function and endurance, which can reduce the risk of heart disease," Megna says.

The Best Plyometric Exercises for Seniors

1. Step-Up

Plyometric exercises like step-ups increase leg strength and stability. They're particularly beneficial for people who are older and at high risk of bone-related conditions like osteoporosis, a disease in which your bones become less dense and more prone to fractures.

Step-ups make daily activities, like walking up stairs, easier to do as well, Megna notes.



REGION - Lower Body
  1. Stand with your arms at your sides. Place your right foot up on a step, bench or box so that your right knee is bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Press through the heel of your right foot and push your body up until your right leg is straight. Do not bring your left foot onto the bench until it is even with your right foot.
  3. Lower your left foot back to the floor with control and return to the starting position.
  4. Complete all your repetitions on this side, then switch sides and repeat.

2. Squat Jump

"Doing squat jumps can build more lower-body strength, which is helpful for ensuring you can stand or get up from being seated in a chair as well as move up and down the stairs by yourself," Megna says.

Squat Jump
REGION - Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or slightly outward.
  2. Keeping your feet flat on the floor and back straight, brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
  3. From the bottom of your squat, push through your feet to jump explosively off the ground. (You can extend your arms down along your sides as you do.)
  4. Land safely with your knees slightly bent.

3. Lateral Bound

Seniors should incorporate lateral bounds into their fitness routine for improving balance and agility and avoiding slips, falls and other accidents prevalent with age.

"Dynamic side-to side-movements help build muscles responsible for stability, and this helps reduce falls," Megna says.

Lateral Bound
REGION - Lower Body
  1. Start with your weight on your left leg with your knee bent.
  2. Bend your right knee so your foot is slightly off the ground.
  3. Push off your left leg and jump to your right, landing softly and keeping your hips back and down throughout.
  4. Reverse the movement and repeat.

4. Box Jump

Box jumps strengthen your leg muscles and enhance coordination and the ability to generate power, making them a terrific plyometric exercise for seniors who need to maintain their strength and stability as they get older.

"Also, the landing action places an emphasis on control to promote balance and stability improvements," Megna says.

Box Jump
REGION - Lower Body
  1. Stand facing a sturdy box or step with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees into a quarter-squat and bring both arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump onto the middle of the box or step.
  4. Land softly with your knees bent.
  5. Straighten your legs before stepping down from the box.
  6. Repeat.


Use a low box height first and gradually advance as strength improves. You can also modify this exercise by doing seated box jumps instead to reduce the impact on your knees. Begin seated on a sturdy platform like a box or chair, then explosively push off your seat, jumping onto a low box or platform, before carefully stepping down again.

5. Medicine Ball Slam

Medicine ball slams are great for increasing upper-body strength and power. It's important to consistently train your upper body later in life to help support and assist in basic, daily movements and activities, including lifting and reaching.

"Slams not only target and strengthen your arms and upper-body muscles to assist with tasks like opening a door, but they also engage your core muscles for enhanced stability," Megna says.

REGIONUpper Body
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your core engaged.
  2. Bring the medicine ball overhead with your arms fully extended.
  3. Hinge at your hips, keeping your arms extended and slam the ball hard into the ground.
  4. Bend your knees to pick up the ball and return to start.


Start with a light ball and keep good form to protect your lower back.

Tips for Starting a Plyometric Routine Over 50

First and foremost, always check with your doctor to make sure plyometric moves are safe for your body and needs before you start a fitness routine that includes them.

"Once your doctor has approved that you are OK to start a plyo training routine, you should hire a professional personal trainer to help you learn the exercises and perform them with proper form, and be there for you to make sure modifications are added as needed," Megna says.

Start slow and avoid progressing too fast, which could result in strain and stress on joints and muscles.

"Aim for quality reps over quantity to really ensure you're doing the exercises properly, and if you need to modify then definitely do so," Megna says.

A little initial soreness as your body gets used to plyometric movement is normal, but any pain or extreme discomfort isn't — if you experience this, stop and chat with your doctor.

Always do a warm-up to generate heat in your muscles before doing any plyometrics. Ryan Daly, CPT, personal trainer and sports performance coach, recommends foam rolling and going for a walk before getting started.

Last, don't be afraid to modify certain exercises to better suit your needs and protect your body from injury.

"If you have a bad knee, for example, scale back any movement that would create a lot of tension on it," Daly says.



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