Working out in the wake of winter poses its own set of problems. There is nothing like a cool morning to make your motivation plummet, and when the mercury drops our bodies require a little more warming up. But this in between season can also offer benefits you don’t get during the summer: cold weather may actually improve endurance, for example, making it the ideal time to switch to a heart-pumping training style.
Functional fitness training, including some basic plyometric exercises that build strength, power and speed through fast, explosive mobility movements, is the perfect place to start for those looking for an entry-level winter workout.
While it may sound intimidating, this workout can help you secure the body basics as you get acquainted with this heart-pumping training style.
Though they’re quick, plyometric exercises require maximum force in short bursts — think powerful jump squats, run bursts and side steps.
Plyometric training is primarily used to increase strength and conditioning, to enhance human neuromuscular function and too improve mobility. Our ageing or injured bodies often develop a fear of these types of movements as we train “less elegantly” compared to our younger selves. But it’s even more important to maintain these movements to ensure muscle adaption, biomechanics and strength as we come into our later years.
The key to this workout is to start small by incorporating basic plyometric exercises into your usual sweat session so that your muscles and joints can adjust slowly without putting you at risk of injury. If you feel any pain, I caution you to stop, rest and adjust the alignment of the body and try again.
Though they’re quick, plyometric exercises require maximum force in short bursts — think powerful jump squats, run bursts and side steps or slow bear crawls, and there are plenty of reasons to give it a try. Besides increasing your power, these rapid-fire workouts build endurance by strengthening your muscles and connective tissues. The real bonus is these movements have been proven to help you move better in everyday life.
Plyometric training takes advantage of a rapid cyclical muscle action known as the “stretch-shortening cycle”, whereby the muscle undergoes an eccentric contraction, followed by a transitional period before the concentric contraction. This means the muscles warm faster and produce a productive workout in the shortest amount of time.
The explosive movements stretch and shorten muscle fibres, which condition your body for agility. And, like all other forms of exercise, plyo is a great stress-reliever, body-warmer and mood-booster — after all, you can’t help but break a smile or laugh at yourself crawling like an animal.
The best thing about this workout is it can be done anywhere and any time.
Plyometric training also develops the neural and musculotendinous systems, boosting muscle fibre strength to create better blood flow to muscles and ligaments. Research shows that plyometric training is the most potent training method for enhancing all body performance; regular plyometric training has the ability to generate quick weight loss.
While plyo is often the workout of choice for athletes who want to get stronger and faster, the training style can be adapted to suit people of all fitness levels, ages and backgrounds. The vital focus is mastering improved alignment and functionality for a youthful mobility.
Functional plyometric combination fitness is the number one reason my body has remained strong, resilient and injury-free well into my forties, but the best thing about this workout is it can be done anywhere and any time. It’s as easy as: find a court, grab your determination and go.
Ready to jump in?
This training session should be completed first thing in the morning. Begin by consuming a large glass of warm water and wear warm comfortable clothing. Find a concrete court or tennis court or open space — I suggest walking briskly to one in your local area.
Winter warmer workout
- 6 × 50m shuttle runs with a ground touch at each end. Add 2 × burpee at each end of court for those who are “well-tuned” (take the first two easy and focus on function).
- 10 × side squat steps (aka crab walks) or jumps.
- 20 × speed toes tap steps (along a line in a lateral direction). Ensure the foot is planted on each side of the line travelling along the line.
- 10 × paces of walking lunges (with hands on hip or in a running style). Ensure the knee touches the ground.
- 10 × push-ups with single straight-arm extension on each alternate set.
- 10 × curtsy lunges with hands on hips — see exercise notes.
- 10 ×x bear crawls (knee to elbow) travelling or stationary — see exercise notes.
- 10 × abdominal flutter kicks.
Repeat full set 3–4 times.
No equipment required other than your determination.
Don’t forget to warm down with stretches at home.
You may like to build this set of plyometric activities into your usual workout. Other common exercises include star jumps, jump lunges and standing long jumps, which you can add into your usual regimen. Just remember to warm up so your muscles are ready to support you through the challenging moves to come.
For a full video description, see my Instagram reels @Belinda.n.x.
How to do a burpee with correct form
- Start in a squat position with your knees bent, back straight and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your hands to the floor in front of you so they’re just inside your feet.
- With your weight on your hands, kick your feet back so you’re on your hands and toes, and in a push-up position.
- Keeping your body straight from head to heels, do one push-up. Remember not to let your back sag or to stick your butt in the air.
- Do a frog kick by jumping your feet back to their starting position.
- Stand and reach your arms over your head. Jump quickly into the air so you land back where you started.
- As soon as you land with knees bent, get into a squat position.
How to shuttle run
Begin continuous running back and forth between two line markers at a certain pace. Touch the line with your fingertips, switching hands at each end.
How to curtsy lunge
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and let your arms fall at your sides.
- Draw a semicircle with your right foot, moving it clockwise until it crosses behind your left foot.
- Lunge down as deeply as possible, hovering your knee a few centimetres off the floor.
- Slowly return to the standing curtsy position.
How to bear crawl with bent knees
- Start on all fours and lift your knees so they’re at a 90-degree angle and hovering a couple of centimetres off the ground.
- Move one hand and the opposite foot forward an equal distance while staying low to the ground.
- Switch sides, moving the opposite hand and foot. Repeat the movement while alternating sides.