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Exercise of the Month: The fitness benefits of jumping

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Considered by some to be the domain of professional athletes – basketball, tennis and football players, figure skaters, hockey players and dancers – jumping is a great way for anyone to improve agility, alignment, control and proper muscle activation.

Basketball great Kevin Durant and National Hockey League phenom Connor McDavid have certainly thought so and credit Merrithew equipment with helping them improve their athletic performances.

Our recent Merrithew Connect Collection, Pump it up: Pilates for basketball players highlights a series of movements that are ideal for fitness enthusiasts persuaded of the fitness benefits of jumping.

As with all workouts, a good warm-up is essential. Here, Merrithew® Master Instructor Trainer, PJ O’Clair demonstrates two approaches to improving spine flexibility with a Cat Stretch using the Halo Trainer Plus, in one instance, and the Cardio-Tramp® Rebounder in another.

The Cat Stretch is a great exercise to mobilize spine into both flexion and extension. Though it may appear quite simple, it requires an awareness of the neutral position between each. It’s important to keep the spine flexible in order to distribute forces efficiently and move the entire body in most effective way. This exercise also requires scapular mobility and control.

Moving on from the warm-up, this video showcases a great aerobic and strength-training workout; PJ guides clients through a series that includes 60-second intervals of bi-lateral jumps on the Cardio-Tramp, making sure that they are engaging the quadriceps both eccentrically and concentrically and using the resilient surface of the accessory board to create better articulation through the feet in order to absorb forces properly.

In the second video, Merrithew co-founder and Executive Director of Education, Moira Merrithew, begins by instructing a student’s use of the Reformer Jumpboard to simulate the ground in order to focus on the correct biomechanics of the lower kinetic chain.

A stable torso and correct alignment of the associated joints allows the hip joint to assume an anatomically neutral position as energy is transmitted through the soles of the feet, up through the body. The focus on ground-reaction forces also ensures ideal activation of not only the muscles that produce the jumping action, but those that control the position and movement of the torso as well.

“Use the Jumpboard as you would the floor, so you’re stable,” she says.

Moira also highlights the importance of foot mobility to overall fitness, including jumping: “We tend to neglect the balls of the feet and the metatarsal joints (specifically the metatarsophalangeal joints), but it’s important to keep them mobile.”

Technically, the foot moves as three separate functional units that include the hindfoot, the midfoot and the forefoot. It is important to monitor and adjust the mobility of all the areas of the foot in a variety of planes to ensure its role as a complex spring mechanism.

Using the Jumpboard, Moira notes the importance of proper alignment through hip, knee and ankle joints to engage the muscles effectively and avoid any injury, concepts reinforced through the STOTT PILATES® Principles. If there is a weak link in the chain, an injury is possible at any point along it, or even somewhere else in the body as compensatory patterns are established.

In a third video, Moira relies on use of the Reformer again to highlight how to stabilize the hips, knees and ankles. The workout in this particular video is intense enough that it can be used as a complete workout on its own, or as a warm up-before other athletic activities or fitness training.

Toward its final quarter, Moira guides the client through a series of movements that focus on strengthening the hip extensors. This group that includes gluteus maximus, and hamstrings is essential to maintaining optimal alignment in the pelvis and hips, as well as generating the power necessary for explosive movements like taking a jump shot.

We hope this collection of videos will inspire you to incorporate jumping into upcoming workouts. Jumping is a sophisticated and complex movement that has the potential to have a great impact on overall fitness.

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