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.
Jumping seems simple: All you do is bend your knees and take off. And anyone who’s ever played a game of pickup basketball or jumped rope knows this, too.
As you age, though, you may start to realize that there’s another part to jumping that’s often forgotten: The landing. And this phase of jumping is critical. Sure, the likes of LeBron James and Damian Lillard make every landing look easy. But the truth is, your ankles, knees, and hips must find a way to cushion your entire bodyweight as it returns to the ground. This isn’t always easy, especially for older men with decades of wear and tear on their joints.
The good news: You can work on the mechanics of these landings. And if you do this, you’ll help preserve your joints, and feel better during weekend pickup hoops games too. It’s a step-by-step process, and no, it’s not quite as fun as jumping. But honing your landing skills will go a long way to helping you stay healthy.
The first drill you need to master: Something my high school coach called the “ready position.” Turns out you need to know the correct position to land before you even start landing. So start with your hands reached high overhead, legs straight, standing on your tiptoes, as if you’re in the air (even though you’re not). Now, get ready to land in the “ready” position. Throw your hands back and push your butt back, this will push your momentum toward the ground. Bend your knees as this happens, and push your knees outwards. You don’t want your knees caving in or falling towards each other. Keep your weight evenly distributed on the balls of both feet. This is the ready position. Understand how it feels. Then reach your hands overhead again and repeat. Do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps.
Once, you’ve mastered this, you’re, um, ready to begin “landing” in the ready position after a very small jump. Just as you did before, reach your hands up as high as possible and stand on your tiptoes. Now jump ever-so-slightly, just an inch or so off the ground. Repeat the mechanics that got you into the ready position, throwing arms and butt back and bending your knees. You want a soft landing where your ankles, knees, and hips are like shock absorbers on a car. When your knees are stiff or rigid on the landing it could lead to tendon and ligament damage. Repeat this for 4 to 6 reps again and do 3 sets. You’re teaching your legs to absorb force now, just from this small jump.
From there, you can try a third drill, known as a depth jump. Start standing on a small box, or even a step. Simply step off the box or step. Immediately repeat the steps that got you into the “ready” position, focusing on landing with feet apart, knees spread, and butt back. Now you’re absorbing a bit more force on each landing. Once again, do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps. You can gradually add height to the box, too.
These three drills help lay a perfect foundation for landing, readying your ligaments, tendons, and fascia for the challenges that come with each landing. No, they’re not the exciting exercises you may want to do. But your body will thank you for mastering them, every single time you jump.
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