Go Ahead and Jump! - Muscle & Performance

Go Ahead and Jump!

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Have you seen people at the gym jumping onto boxes, over hurdles or simply into the air? They’re doing plyometrics. Plyometric training involves loading up and then contracting a muscle in rapid sequence, generating as strong a contraction as possible in the shortest amount of time, kind of like stretching and shooting a rubber band across the room. By doing the same thing with your muscles — loading up (stretching back) before you leap, jump or hop, you get greater explosive power (to fly across the room).

Athletes use plyometrics to jump higher, leap longer and move more quickly on the court or playing field. But even if you’re not the sporty type, plyometric moves use lots of energy and burn tons of calories, making them a great addition to your get-lean program. Try these plyo moves, and by the end of two months, when someone says jump, you’ll say how high — and mean it.

The Plan
Use these moves to train your muscles to respond more quickly, improving agility, power and speed while enhancing sports performance and whole-body conditioning. Incorporate them into your routine slowly, adding one to your leg workout per week. Eventually, you can spin them off into their own workout. Do one set of four to six reps of each move, with 60 to 90 seconds of rest in between sets.

Tuck Jump
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Quickly bend your knees and compress into a shallow squat. Then extend your legs and jump into the air. While airborne, lift your knees in front of your body as high as you can, like you’re doing a cannonball into a pool. As you come back to earth, extend your legs once more and land softly.

Lateral Ski Hops
Place a resistance band or jump-rope lengthwise on the floor. Stand to one side of the band with your feet together and your arms bent at your sides. Jump from side to side over the band, using an even cadence. Keep your feet and knees together and land lightly, compressing by bending your knees like a spring each time you land.

Box Jumps
Stand facing a box or step (12 to 36 inches high) with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and squat down low, reaching your arms behind you, then quickly extend your legs, throwing your arms into the air, springing upward and forward, lifting your knees in front of your hips and leaping onto the box. Extend your legs and stand upright, then step down gently and repeat.

X-Jump
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Load up by bending your knees, then jump into the air, spreading your legs apart and reaching your arms up so you make an X in the air. Bring your legs back together and land softly.

Plyometric-Training Rules

  • Warm up for five to 10 minutes with light cardio or dynamic stretching.
  • Go through the motions of each move slowly to get the mechanics right, then go for it.
  • Always land softly, absorbing the impact with your muscles, not your joints.
  • Only do plyometrics once a week to allow for full recovery.
  • Cool down and stretch thoroughly for five to 10 minutes afterward.