The question: I am only 35 years old but I feel like I can't jump very well. I love playing volleyball and basketball. Are there exercises I can do to improve my power and vertical jump?
The answer: If you don't currently do strength-training two to three times a week, on non-consecutive days, then you should try multijoint exercises like squats, lunges and dead-lifts, plus core exercises like planks. If you already do these exercises, try doing fewer repetitions with heavier weights – strength is a precursor to power and explosiveness.
Jumping, especially in sports like volleyball and basketball, is hard on the body. It has to be strong enough to absorb the impact forces produced when you land. To guard against injury, spend a minimum of six to eight weeks building your strength.
Then you can try adding explosive exercises into your routine. Be cautious, start with only one exercise. Box jumps are a personal favorite. Just remember to concentrate as you jump. Last week I let my mind wander and tripped, and I now have an extremely colorful bruise all down my right arm.
Here's how to do a box jump: Start by jumping onto a very low riser (a height of a few centimetres will work). Gradually work up to something higher. Start standing behind the box. Sit backward into a small squat. Keep your arms fairly straight as you swing them behind you. Then, swing your arms forward as you jump up and onto the box. Land as softly as possible by lowering yourself into a small squat to absorb the force. Make sure both feet land fully on the box. Hop or step back to the ground. Repeat 10 times.
Trainer's tip: Since explosive exercises are hard on the body, schedule more recovery time after any workout that involves such a routine. Don't do explosive leg exercises too close to your games. And definitely don't do them all year round. Periodize your explosive workouts. For example, do two weeks of endurance strength-training where you aim for 10 to 15 reps. Then do two weeks where you lift heavier weights for six to eight reps. Finish the cycle with two weeks where you incorporate explosive exercises like squat jumps, lunge jumps and box jumps.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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