Two years ago I decided, in honor of the NCAA tournament, to see if I could improve my jumping ability – despite being overweight, in my mid-50s and generally earthbound.
It didn’t work out too well, but I got to meet Brandon Todd, who at 5-foot-5 easily dunked a basketball and told me he had been doing so since he was 5-foot-2 and 13 years old.
Now everywhere I go, people seem to be jumping as part of their workouts. They jump on and off boxes, they skip rope, they’re leaping all kinds of things on Parkour courses.
With the tournament here again and young men preparing to fly across my TV, I got to wondering why everyone seems to be jumping these days. I spoke to Walt Thompson, a professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University, who has studied plyometrics – a form of exercise that uses jumping, hopping and bounding to develop muscle power – who broke it down for me:
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Jumping is good for you
“It’s a great full-body workout,” Thompson said. You’re using your quads, glutes and hamstrings, as well as engaging your core and swinging your arms. And you’ll burn calories. According to Livestrong.com, “a 155-pound person jumping rope at a moderate to quick pace for five minutes will burn from 59 to 70 calories.”
Jumping is cheap exercise
About as cheap as it gets. Thompson said body weight training, which uses your body weight instead of equipment as a form of resistance, took off about 2008, right when the recession hit. In 2015, body weight training was the top fitness trend in the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual survey.
Jumping is fun
(Maybe for kids. I find it exhausting.) Any form of exercise that doesn’t seem like drudgery improves compliance rates and keeps people working out, Thompson said.
Jumping is easy
And you can get better at it. “You can probably compare this to a tennis swing or a baseball bat swing, where you practice that form of activity and you get better at it,” Thompson said. Great college leapers like the guys you’ll see over the next few weeks are genetically blessed, but they’ve also worked hard at their craft and the results show, Thompson said.
One caution: Watch those landings. Sprains and even fractures are a hazard of all that gravity defying, Thompson said.