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Jump your way to better strength and fitness

Jumping is a plyometric exercise whose benefits include enhanced leg power, better balance and explosive strength

Exercises like broad jumps, squat jumps and split jumps add to your body’s ability to generate power
Exercises like broad jumps, squat jumps and split jumps add to your body’s ability to generate power (Pexels/Justin Shaifer)

Athletic feats are not just for athletes. So, whether you’re a newbie or at an advanced level, at some point in your fitness journey,  you are going to get acquainted with jumping. Given that box jumps are becoming a huge part of exercise routines due to the popularity of CrossFit-inspired workouts, and that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) needs some kind of explosive move that works the legs, it is important to be ready to take on the challenge of jumping. 

The advantages of jumping are not just for professional athletes who play a sport. Jumping is a functional move and can improve your explosive strength, body coordination, balance, metabolism and energy among other things. But that's not all. 

Also read: Why running up an incline is good for your legs

Increased oxygen consumption
An interesting study by NASA explored another avenue of jumping: bouncing on a trampoline. The experiment had eight men (19-26-year-olds) walk, jog and run on a treadmill that was operated at four different speeds. They followed it up with jumping on a trampoline at four different heights. The findings, also published in a article titled NASA Studies Rebounding, are revelatory. 

Given that astronauts lose muscle and body mass on a space flight, they needed an exercise that could keep their fitness levels high, and the study says “while trampolining, as long as the G-force remained below 4-G's, the ratio of oxygen consumption compared to bio mechanical conditioning was sometimes more than twice as efficient as treadmill running.” It also adds that there was “more than twice the force measured at the ankle during jumping than while running on a treadmill”.

While the conditions of trampoline jumping are very different to jumping on the ground in a gym, or onto a box, as an exercise ‘jumping’ is a gamechanger in terms of building more trust and technique with the body. Squat jumps, split jumps (while lunging), knee tucks, box jumps and broad jumps (which is jumping as far forward as you can) will all add to the body’s ability to generate power. Burpees, jumping jacks, and skipping can also be incorporated into a workout.

In the end, it all comes down to power – and training raw power will certainly spillover into producing more with every rep of the exercises you are doing, which do not include jumping. “When it comes to the vertical jump, force is the maximum amount of strength that someone has, and velocity is the maximum amount of speed someone has. If you increase your strength and your velocity (in ratio to your body weight), then your vertical jump will improve. This is the general principle that millions of top athletes have followed. It is that simple,” says the USA basketball website in an article titled The Science Behind Your Vertical Leap.

Also read: 5 great shoulder exercises for better muscle gains

Slow and fast jumps for speed
Jumping is a plyometric exercise and it can be of the slow kind or the fast kind. The slow kind is the muscular plyometric. “These are the plyometrics that are going to be the best exercises for explosive leg power. You jump high or far and feel like the Hulk when doing so,” says an article on titled The 6 Best Plyometric Exercises for Speed and Power. The fast ones “feel like you're jumping with your ankles (i.e. Achilles tendon). These are going to be the best plyometric exercises for speed, teaching you how to be elastic when jumping and sprinting.”

When you jump, you are working on all these metrics, which are important for when you are cycling or running or even reacting to something on the road while driving. A lot of these movements use the tendons, the part of the body that stores recoil power and jumping is a great training tool for this.

A paper titled The Stretch-Shortening Cycle: Proposed Mechanisms and Methods for Enhancement, published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal sets down a four-step progression of plyometric vertical training that begins at jump to box (box jump), then to learning landing techniques. “Exercises in this stage can involve low-amplitude movements, but progression can be provided by increasing the amplitude of movement and by moving from double- to single-leg landings. Also, by further developing your landing technique, this stage allows the athlete to adapt to high landing forces,” it says. The final stage is short-response jumps where more advanced jumps are learnt.

Below are two jumping workouts on YouTube that you can incorporate into your workout routine.

The Movement System’s 5 Levels of Jumping movements: This is a great starting point because it also teaches you how to ready the body for a jump and how to land.

Fitness Culture’s Plyometric Training Progression: Slightly tougher and more advanced than the above video, this one details some complicated single leg movements as well, just like the research paper above suggested. This is the video to watch once you have mastered the basics of jumping.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.

Also read: How the Indian team clinched silver at the IAU 50km World Championships



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