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Jump training

Why should you practice jumping? Because being able to get up in the air will improve your balance, your strength and your coordination. Even if you're not very active, these are good qualities to have just for living everyday life.

Your favorite activity may consist of making rhythmic repetitions over ground or pavement, such as running. So why should you practice jumping? Because being able to get up in the air will improve your balance, strength and coordination. Even if you're not very active, these are good qualities to have for living everyday life.

Jumping, as in vertical leaping, is better than a jump rope for being able to propel yourself upward. With a jump rope, you usually only hoist your body up a few inches into the air. Your arms are busy turning the rope, so you're not as intensely concentrated on the jump itself. With a vertical leap onto a bench or a sturdy box (some gyms have boxes for jumping onto), your entire body concentrates on the joint flexing and the following powerful extension that gives your jump height.

But trying to jump high is not where you start. Start with the landing. Here's why that's important: when you jump upward, it is acceleration. When you land, it is impact.

Any jump should be landed as softly as possible, and only on flexed ankles, hips and knees. If you don't allow your joints to bend enough to absorb the impact, it can put severe stress on the anterior cruciate ligament. If the jump was high, the impact of landing on straight, rigid legs can actually strain or even tear the ACL.

In fact, it might be good to review all the things NOT to do when jumping before examining the technique of a proper jump. For example, never jump barefooted. There are a great many tiny bones in the feet, and they will not all support the weight of your entire body landing on them. Wear supportive athletic shoes whenever doing jump training or playing any sport in which jumping is required, like basketball.

In addition, never jump without a thorough warmup. A good warmup takes at least 10 minutes (preferably more), and can be done on a treadmill while rotating the arms, or by slowly jogging while lifting the knees high and swinging the arms. The warmup literally warms up the body by pushing more blood into your muscles and tendons. The movement of the warmup also gently stretches the fibers of the muscles, tendons and ligaments, making them more pliable and less prone to being injured during your jump training.

After the warmup, spend another 10 minutes stretching. Make sure to stretch the hamstrings and quadriceps, the calf muscles and the ankle joints (rotating the foot and pointing the toes will do the job). While warmups and stretching sessions should be done before any workout or practice, they are especially important before jump training.

Start your jump practice by just jumping over an unloaded bar at the gym, or the handle of a broom at home. Move your body as a whole unit, don't allow the lower body to jump sideways separate from the torso. Keep a straight spine, don't bend over. Hold your arms flexed at the elbow, slightly away from your body.

Once you get your jump form perfected, begin jumping higher, always remembering to land softly on flexed joints. When jumping onto something like a bench, lift your shoulders to give yourself more acceleration.

Start by doing only four or five jumps at a time, gradually increasing it up to, but no more than, a dozen jumps. Allow yourself two days to recover from each session. Meantime, work on lifting weights to improve the strength of your legs, glutes and core. If you're not normally very active, you may want to schedule your jump training one week on, one week off.

No matter what your favorite activity or sport is, jump training will make it more fun.

Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly , which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.


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