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Hop, Skip And A Jump To Strength

Plyometrics - they are as old as the hills. High-energy bursts of activity such as jump roping (supposedly dating back to Egypt's Mesopotamians) jumping jacks and of course the jump shot! I remember these exercises as a staple in my childhood P.E. classes and now as a fitness-oriented adult, they still bombard me regularly in my various cardio classes. What makes these forms of exercise so long-lasting? Though jazzercise, slide and even step classes have dwindled through the years to make way for newer ways to sweat, these exercises have maintained their popularity and continue to resurface in the most up-to-date fitness trends at your local gym. While some athletes may fulfill an hour-long exercise session with plyometrics (a technique to sharpen their skills within a specific sport), the average fitness enthusiasts will use them to simply supplement a resistance or cardio workout.

The Plyometrics form of exercise utilizes explosive movements that increase muscular strength through the pairing of speed with power. While many plyometric moves include jumping, it is not merely the jump that results in strength gain. It is when you begin the drill with a precursor such as the squat, slight or exaggerated, and then launch your body upwards with speed. Think of a slingshot. The tighter and longer you pull the band toward you, the farther and more powerful the shot will execute. Similarly, when you begin to sit back for the squat, this applies a nice long stretch to your hamstrings. When you elongate the muscle fibers through this action, the tighter the hamstring will contract upon the jump. Plyometrics uses these two phases, the eccentric phase followed by an immediate concentric phase, to acclimate the muscular system to the use of high intensity expulsion of strength. The main idea when performing


the plyometric is to create good recovery time for the sake of endurance, which results in the ability to repeatedly execute the movement without fatigue. What better way to kill two birds with one stone during your time allotment for exercise, since most plyometrics can be considered cardio and resistant training.

As with any exercise, there are some cautions to performing plyometrics. Be sure to wear proper footwear with adequate ankle support. Since most of the moves will subject the ankles to jarring, it is imperative that they are well stabilized. Also, as with any classic aerobic exercise, it is important the turf you are exercising on is geared toward shock absorbency. A gym's raised wood floor or exercise mats with atleast one inch or more of padding are usually accessible with a fitness membership. Do not think of beginning a plyometric fitness routine in your garage or in your home on carpet as you could be performing on concrete, which can do more harm than good in the long run.

As with any fitness plan, always begin plyometric training with a good warm-up and end the routine with a gradual cool down and stretch. And if you happen to be a mom of rambunctious children, especially consider the use that plyometrics in your workout since it coordinates well with your daily demands and exposure to moves such as the catch, fetch, jump and grab!

About the author:

Sherri L Dodd is the creator and author of Mom Looks Great - The Fitness Program for Moms. She is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant and Kickboxing Instructor with over fifteen years of exercise experience. She has lectured to groups on her fitness plan and is a freelance writer on the topics of fitness and general nutrition as well as the humorous side of motherhood.

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