Perfecting Your Jumps: Plyometric Training for Dancers

Perfecting Your Jumps: Plyometric Training for Dancers

Jumping for Joy (And Height!)

As a lifelong dancer, I can relate to the struggle of trying to perfect those pesky jumps. When I was a young ballet student, I could work on those pirouettes and pliés all day long, but as soon as it came time for jump combinations, it felt like my legs just weren’t cooperating. It wasn’t until I started diving into more modern dance techniques that I realized the key to those soaring leaps – plyometric training.

Looking back, I wish I had discovered the importance of balanced strength in the core, pelvis, and hips, along with the benefits of plyometric exercises, much earlier in my dance career. These days, with many dancers confined to home workouts, plyometric training may be the best way to keep our lower bodies strong and ready to tackle those big jumps once we’re back in the studio.

What is Plyometric Training?

Plyometric exercises, by definition, involve the rapid stretching and contracting of muscles to increase power. This rapid muscle contraction, coupled with the stretch reflex, allows the muscle to produce a greater force in a shorter amount of time than a regular concentric contraction alone.

In simpler terms, plyometrics help your muscles store and utilize that elastic energy more efficiently, giving you an extra boost of power and speed in your jumps. Through plyometric training, you’re essentially teaching your body to quickly transition between the eccentric (stretching) and concentric (shortening) phases of a movement, which is key for explosive power.

The best part? You can start seeing noticeable gains from plyometric training in as little as 4 weeks, with maximum benefits emerging around the 8-week mark. This makes it the perfect time to incorporate a plyometric program, especially if you’re stuck at home during the off-season.

Why Plyometrics for Dancers?

While plyometric exercises can be applied to any muscle group, they’re most commonly used to develop explosive power and speed in the lower body – which, as dancers, is exactly what we need!

Lower-body plyometrics are already built into almost every ballet class, with jump combinations galore. But modern and contemporary dancers can also benefit greatly from plyometric training, as it helps create strength and speed in the upper body for partnering work, as well as full-body integration that’s vital for those intricate routines.

Adding a dedicated plyometric program on top of your dance-specific training allows you to develop a more balanced musculature and avoid the overuse injuries that can come from all that jumping. It’s a win-win for dancers of any style or level.

Factors to Consider

Before diving headfirst into a plyometric program, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:


If you’re currently experiencing any pain, inflammation, or significant joint instability, be sure to consult a medical professional before adding plyometrics to your routine. These high-intensity exercises can put a lot of stress on your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, so it’s important to make sure your body is ready.


The intensity of a plyometric program can be adjusted based on the speed, amount of ground contacts, and level of impact your body is absorbing. For example, low-intensity exercises like skipping are on the easier end, while high-intensity moves like depth jumps from a box can create forces up to 3-4 times your body weight.

Your experience level, age, and the time of year (in-season vs. off-season) should all play a role in determining the appropriate intensity for your plyometric program.


During the off-season, you can incorporate plyometrics into your conditioning routine 3-4 days per week. But once you’re back in the studio, you’ll want to scale that back to 1-2 plyometric sessions per week to maintain your gains without risking overtraining.


Adequate recovery is crucial for plyometric training. If you start to lose power or proper form, it’s better to stop and rest than to push through. You’ll generally want 48-72 hours between plyometric sessions to allow your muscles to fully recover.


When structuring your plyometric program, aim to increase the volume by about 10% each week, working in 3-week cycles with a recovery week in between. This gradual progression helps your body adapt to the increasing demands without getting overwhelmed.

Building a Plyometric Program for Dancers

The six main forms of lower-body plyometrics that are particularly beneficial for dancers include:

  1. Jumps in Place
  2. Standing Jumps
  3. Multiple Hops and Jumps
  4. Bounds
  5. Box Drills
  6. Deep Jumps

An off-season plyometric program for dancers might look something like this:

3 days/week, 100-120 total reps

4 days/week, 120-140 total reps

4 days/week, 140-160 total reps

Professional Dancer:
4 days/week, 200-220 total reps

These programs would alternate between low-intensity and high-intensity plyometric exercises, with adequate rest periods in between. And of course, the specific exercises and progressions would be tailored to your individual needs and abilities.

The Dance Docs have provided some fantastic sample programs to get you started. I particularly love their dance-specific plyometric routine, which incorporates classic ballet jumps like sautés, jetés, and sissones to build that explosive power.

Technique is Key

As with any new training regimen, proper technique is essential for plyometric exercises. I recommend recording yourself when you first start, so you can review your alignment, timing, control, and coordination.

Are you maintaining correct form through the entire lower kinetic chain? Are the segments moving in sync, or is there any lag in the movement? Can you create the dynamic stability needed to execute the exercises with control?

Paying close attention to your technique from the get-go will not only help you avoid injury, but also ensure you’re getting the maximum benefits from your plyometric training. And don’t be afraid to start slow and gradually build up the intensity – slow and steady really does win this race.

Ready, Set, Jump!

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, incorporating plyometric exercises into your training routine can take your jumps to new heights. And with musical theater centers offering top-notch dance education programs, there’s never been a better time to perfect those leaps and bounds.

So what are you waiting for? Lace up your sneakers, set your sights sky-high, and get ready to soar. With a little plyometric power, your jumps will be reaching new levels in no time. Happy training, dancers!

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