When was the last time you actively participated in some good ol' plyometric exercises? Think: box jumps, burpees, jumping jacks, jumping lunges, etc. Or even just explosive high intensity moves such as heavy kettlebell swings, or sprints? I find that many women hesitate when it comes to exercises that require them to jump or go fast. This is definitely common with age, but I have seen it a lot in younger women as well.
There are definitely valid reasons for temporarily avoiding jumping or high intensity movement. Maybe you're recently postpartum, or you have a current or past injury that's creating pain when you do certain exercises. But most women simply fear these high impact moves because they believe it's "bad for the joints". They also may suffer from a lack of pelvic floor strength, and the idea of jumping has them running to the nearest bathroom!
But here's the thing, most women don't understand the value of plyometrics so they dismiss it too quickly. And they also don't understand how to gradually expose their tissues to this type of training to get the most benefit out of it without hurting themselves. So we're going to cover both of these topics below!
Benefits of Plyometric Training:
Keeps your tendons and ligaments healthy and supple - yes this is TRUE! It may seem counterintuitive, but plyometric exercises are actually needed to literally maintain the "springy-ness" in our tendons. Our tendons and ligaments are meant to recoil quickly. But if we don't use it, we lose it (as the saying goes), and then suddenly you find your achilles snapping when you simply step off a curb!
Improves bone density - it is not enough of a stimulus to just walk or run for weight bearing activity to have a positive impact on bone density. Nor is it enough to just strength train. While these are both great and do have many benefits on our bones, plyometrics add that last piece of the puzzle.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity - plyometrics are intense! To handle the demand of these short but intense exercises, we need to burn carbohydrates for fuel. Sadly, as we age, women don't burn carbs as effectively anymore, but adding plyo training into your routine can help solve this issue! When we burn carbs more effectively, we don't store them as fat...BONUS!!
Improves Overall Metabolism, Mood, and Energy Levels - Need I say more?? They're just amazing for the body! Plyometrics can help you lose belly fat, increase your metabolism so you're burning more energy at rest, and they can improve your low mood over those dreary winter Covid days.
How To Safely Train For Plyometrics:
Improve your range of motion (mobility) in the joints - If your hips, knees, ankles, and back don't move well, you won't be able to distribute forces effectively when performing plyometrics. You also won't be able to perform them correctly without compensating for your lack of movement capabilities. Ultimately this can create that joint pain we all worry about, or create an injury down the road.
Increase Your Strength - Without adequate strength in the muscles, those plyometrics won't feel as stable and strong. Simply doing weighted squats, weighted lunges, deadlifts, push ups, etc will improve your ability to do most plyometric exercises. This is exactly why women end up with joint pain from so many "aerobics" classes. They aren't building the muscular strength that's needed to that type of movement long term. And when that's your ONLY source of exercise, eventually it takes it's toll!
Build Your Base - In order to stabilize your body during high impact exercise you need a strong base. This includes the core, pelvic floor, and glutes! When we land after that plyo jump, our entire core system should reflexively engage to brace us for that landing. But often it doesn't, and this is when we can end up with issues such as back pain, urine leakage, and poor form.
Progressive Overload!! This is SO SO SO important! You CANNOT just "jump" into plyometric training. Pun intended LOL! You need to prep the tissues and strengthen those muscles first. You need to baby step the process. Regress the movement and then progress it when you're ready. For example here is a squat based progression: bodyweight squat - weighted squat - bodyweight squat to calf raise - squat jumps - depth drop jumps - low box jump - higher box jump (check out my Youtube video below for a visual of all of these)
Plyometrics can be low impact as well, but as women age they tend to drop many of these types of exercises thinking they're too hard on the body. BUT, if you choose the ones that are appropriate for your level, you can gain enormous benefits from adding them in. Aging women become more frail and increase their chances of injury BECAUSE they don't strength train! It's not the plyometrics themselves that are the issue, it's the overall lifestyle of sitting too much, not weight training, and reducing the variety and frequency of movement throughout the day.
Bottom line is you have to know where to start, you have to progressively overload the tissue, and you have to find a coach to make sure you're doing these things correctly and safely!
Are you ready to "jump" into plyometrics?? If so, my online membership is the perfect place to start! We build strength and properly progress with multiple variations to serve all levels and individuals.