A few years ago, if you saw someone jumping on a box or throwing a medicine ball, you might think to yourself, “Who let the crossfitter in here??”
As medicine balls, box jumps and similar modalities of training become more and more mainstream, people are probably beginning to wonder if they should hop on the bandwagon too. Even in our current Thrive program at City Fitness, some of our current clients are probably wondering, “More box jumps?”
YES. MORE. BOX. JUMPS.
The next logical question is “Why?”
Well, there are plenty of sciency reasons why we train explosively via medicine balls and jumping: it trains your fast twitch/IIb-IIx muscle fibers, increasing the mass/size of type IIb/IIx muscle fibers can lead to higher rates of fat loss,1 it primes the nervous system to perform at peak output, if we train explosively we increase our ability to produce force at any given moment and more.
But what does that really mean? Well let’s break it down
You know who has a lot of fast twitch muscle fibers? Athletes. Specifically, fast athletes: fieldsport playmakers, Olympic level sprinters, etc. People that you look at and you just know, “That person is an athlete.”
So you might not personally care about running a 4.4 40 or having a 40 inch vertical, but maybe you do care about what you look like naked. Interestingly enough, most people, when asked, respond that they’d prefer to look more like that sprinter or football player rather than the distance runner or bodybuilder. Training explosively helps us look the part.
As I mentioned above as well, training these fast twitch muscle fibers in an explosive manner can lead to increased rates of fat loss. More explosive muscles mean your body can output more force meaning you can lift more weight and recover more quickly, meaning you train harder and burn more calories.
If you are even remotely competitive in your life even better! If you run the occasional 5k or mud run, who doesn’t want to run a little faster and have a little more energy for the final kick to the finish line? If you play flag football or pickup basketball, who wouldn’t want to be able to sprint a little faster, be able to make a quick cut or jump a little higher? And you still look better naked!
If you are primarily concerned with lifting heavier weights, including explosive training will help you lift heavier. As you train your fast twitch muscle fibers, they are able to produce much more force. That force translates into lifting heavier weights. On top of that, doing explosive movements before your weight training session primes your nervous system to perform at peak efficiency. I think most of us concerned with getting stronger have noticed that the second working set of the day typically seems easier than the first working set. This is because it is, in fact, easier. Your nervous system is fully on and ready to lift your given weight. Imagine having that benefit before you even begin lifting.
Let’s say you don’t care about any of that at all. Say you just want to be a little healthier overall in your life, couldn’t care less about playing sports, aren’t really concerned with getting really strong and think caring about what you look like is the height of vanity. Why would you bother with explosive training?
Well, if you don’t know, if you aren’t training, you begin to lose anywhere from 3%-8% of your muscle mass per decade as you age.2 This is a large contributor to why our metabolism slows down as we get older. More importantly, however, we lose the ability to generate and produce force at an even greater rate.3
This is why falling becomes such a large concern for us as we get older; if your body can’t produce force, a simple trip can turn into a full blown fall. Without force, your body has no ability to stop itself. Whereas a 20-30 year old might stumble over a curb and continue on with their day, the same stumble could potentially cause a sprained or twisted ankle in a 40-50 year old and could lead to a broken hip in a 60-70 year old.
We can even take a look at something as simple as walking
Without force production, even something as simple as walking becomes a challenge leading to the typical hesitant walk of the elderly. Without force, there is no balance, without balance, walking becomes shuffling and shuffling leads to decreased activity levels which spirals into a vicious cycle of decreased activity and mobility levels.
This is why we hammer Power in our program.
If you are just getting into this type of training, there really are only two rules
- Don’t go metabolic
- Land like a ninja
Don’t go metabolic – reps should be performed as hard/explosive as possible with a brief rest in between each rep. One thing that helps some of our clients get it right instead of doing 6 reps, you’re doing 1 rep 6 times. Rep 1, pause, rep 2, pause, rep 3, etc.
Land like a ninja – jumping is great. Not only are you producing as much force as physically possible and launching yourself like a cannonball into the air, you’re also creating force and dispersing that potential energy throughout your muscles when you land properly. However, if you don’t land properly, you’re just jamming all of that energy into your joints and causing pain. When training for power, any jumping exercise should be the embodiment of “don’t go metabolic.”
Utilize these principles to maximize your workouts and become the best version of yourself.