It's hard to imagine Victorian ladies, in their long dresses and tight corsets, engaged in vigorous physical activity. Lucky for us, a Swedish woman named Martina Bergman Osterberg had a vivid imagination. Osterberg studied medical gymnastics, moved to London, established the Hampstead Physical Training College and Gymnasium for women, and played a pivotal role in the development of netball, a form of women's basketball that requires superb jumping skills.
Why You Need Plyometrics
Thanks to women like Martina Bergman Osterberg and other inspiring female athletes, we gradually earned our places on the playing field. Tell us to jump toward the basket, and we'll ask you how high, but a willing spirit does not compensate for a weak set of hamstrings. Blame it on those powerful quads. They hog up all the work. Strong quads are an asset, except when they prevent you from bending your legs and protecting your knee ligaments during a jump landing. Plyometric exercise offers a netball-specific means of correcting the hamstring/quad muscle imbalance, and preventing that annoying popping sound that your knee ligaments make when they snap.
How It Works
Researchers at the University of the West Indies reported that a three-week plyometric program triggered significant jump performance improvements in netballers. There's a method to the madness. Plyometric exercise maximizes the elasticity of your muscles and trains them to jump higher and more efficiently. During a plyometric jump, energy generates when you bend your knees. This called the eccentric phase of the movement. A fast contraction follows, causing you to straighten your legs and jump into the air. Welcome to the concentric phase. The deeper you bend your knees during the eccentric phase, the more energy you can generate. The more energy you generate, the more energy you release. The more energy you release, the higher you jump. The higher you jump, the closer you are to the net. Your teammates will love you.
Begin a lower body plyometrics program by jumping from a basic squat position. Slowly, you'll gain confidence and discover your inner kangaroo goddess. When that happens, it's time to get brave. Practice jumping from a lunge position, switching legs in midair. Progress your program by practicing one-legged jumps, side-to-side jumps and jumps in different movement patterns. Don't forget your upper body plyometrics. Push-ups, inserting a fast clap between the down and up phase of the movement, improves your upper body speed, helping you steal the ball from your opponent.
Toss a weighted medicine ball into the air and catch it on the landing. The weight of the ball inspires a deeper knee bend. If your coach feels sadistic, she might attach a weight belt to your waist and a heavy resistance band to the belt. You will then jump, jog or skip against the resistance of the band. Box jumps along with jumps over obstacles, add depth to your plyometric workout. This type of plyometric training also increases your awareness of your body's position in space. Eventually, you get to the point where you can sense where the box or obstacle is located without having to look down.
- PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images