When it comes to exercise, one should always consider risk and reward. Working hard or doing a “cool” exercise is not always correct or right for your particular body. You must always weigh the risks and the rewards of said exercises or workouts. There are a lot of trendy workout routines out there these days that are “super hard” or “insane” or “the toughest workout on the planet”, but what it always comes down to is that the key to exercise is a long and dedicated approach of hard work and consistency.
The correct way to exercise is to start with what you can do and slowly work your way up. Even high-level athletes don’t do plyometrics and high impact exercise for more than 4-8 weeks a year because it is hard on their joints and, when they do use them, the number of footfalls is always limited. Why is it that the business professional who plays golf on weekends feels he/she needs to be jumping over boxes and throwing weights around? Does jumping help this individual or does it put them at risk without reward? Often the answer is that we like to do things that are cool and “hard core”. Now it is true that staying engaged in exercise and enjoying your workouts go hand in hand. However, highly impactful types of exercises should be worked up to properly and only done for a short period of time to minimize the negative impact they can have on the body while, at the same time, getting all the positive physical and mental impact they can yield.
How do you know when you are ready? Let’s take jumping as an example. There is a simple set of progressions that you can follow to get yourself to jump and land while minimizing your risk of acute or chronic injury.
Stage 1: Be able to perform a basic squat. This squat should be very close to perfect form. Your knees should not go beyond your toes, your chest should stay up with your shoulders back, and you should be on balance and be able to control your pace up and down. Your knees should be tracking over your first or second toe with very little lateral or medial movement during the entire squat.
*If you cannot perform a basic squat, you should regress to a Stability Ball-supported (against your lower back) squat until you can sit back in a proper body weight squat.
Stage 2: Be able to perform a basic weighted squat. All of the rules above apply AND you should be able to perform the squat with at least 30% of your own body weight on your shoulders (140lb person should be able to squat with 40-50lbs).
Stage 3: Be able to perform a pace-controlled weighted squat. This is the same as above AND now you are pacing yourself. Very slow on your decent (3-4 second count) followed by an explosive ascent (0.5 – 1 second).
Stage 4: Jumping onto a box. Jumping up onto a box takes a lot of the impact away from the landing. You should be following all of the mechanical pointers listed in the basic and weighted squats.
Stage 5: Broad jump. You should now be able to jump and land while maintaining correct form. You should be jumping and landing with very little noise. Soft landings make for an efficient jumper! In between each jump, give yourself a moment to ensure that you are set and ready for your next jump with perfect mechanics.
Stage 6: Now you are ready for a plyometric jump. This includes both a landing (load) and immediate jump (explode).
Stages 1-6 can take up to 4-6 months to achieve and NONE of the above steps should be skipped.
As you can see this is a detailed approach to jumping, but, in order to properly perform a complex movement that has a high-risk component, you should be following the proper progressions. If you are starting a new exercise program that is billed as “crazy” or “insane”, perhaps you should consider whether or not your particular body is really ready for crazy or insane. An injured person does not tend to be nearly as effective at getting fit or healthy as an uninjured one! Injury can be quite the depressant! Using logic and common sense when starting an exercise program is essential. Going hard early usually means not going for very long. Pace yourself for long-term success. If you want to do the crazy workouts, then be patient and put in the work. Make sure your form is perfect and always make sure that the risk is worth the reward.