Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
A few years back, I joined a basketball league after I had not played for a long time. I noticed that when I went to leap for rebounds, my feet seemed to be cemented to the floor. Sprinting up and down the court felt like I was moving in slow motion as my younger friends blew past me. Clearly, I was lacking the power to move as quickly and explosively as I wanted. As the years pile one, we older men must be mindful to building and maintain power, since research has shown it diminishes earlier and more rapidly than strength. A helpful exercise I do to test myself and hone that power is the jump squat.
Jumping is simple, but it can be challenging for older men who might not move in that way often and might potentially have joint health concerns. Firing your glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads to get airborne takes as much power as you can muster.
At the start, your jump squat form isn’t so different from how you might approach air squats. Get in the same position with your feet shoulder-width apart, but only descend to into the squat so that your butt is slightly above knee level for jump squats. You don’t want to lower to the parallel position so that you don’t sacrifice your power. Move your arms behind yourself so that you’re in a position in which you can swing them forward to help to create power. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet instead of on your heels, and keep your glutes engaged and ready to fire. You’re now in what my old coach used to call the “ready position,” so you can spring up as high as possible and reach for the sky.
Now it’s time to get up. Spring up from the ready position as quickly and forcefully as possible. Your arms will naturally swing forward and upward, which helps you get up as high as possible—as if you were leaping to snag a rebound on a basketball court.
The landing is just as important. You want a soft landing with the balls of your feet hitting the ground first. Bend your knees and hips to the starting position to help to take the force of your weight coming back to the ground. As my old coach would say, “Think of your legs as shock absorbers.” Your joints shouldn’t be rigid; they should be flexible.
All you must do now is string together a series of jumps—but you don’t want to rush. Remember, power is the focus here, not speed. Make sure to pause to reset between each rep, and don’t fall into the trap of limiting yourself by keeping your hands out in front of you the wrong way.
If you have any joint problems, make sure to clear your jumping with a doctor ahead of time. Always warm up sufficiently before you start jumping. If you’re just getting back to jumping, start slowly, stringing together three jumps per set. Work your way up to six to eight jumps per set.
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