During a typical Pilates session, your body performs a series of smooth, fluid and mellow movement patterns. Sometimes, though, you're simply not in the mood for mellow. Sounds like you need a reformer jumpboard workout. The jumpboard, a wide stable add-on platform to the reformer, facilitates jumping, running and hopping exercises. It provides a perfect setting for learning how to perform explosive, sport-specific movements in that meticulous Pilates form you know and love. You might even burn a few extra calories in the process.
Why Girls Should Jump
Ask someone to take a video of you and your man performing a jumping routine. While watching the video, notice how his knees are bent when he lands. Your knees are probably relatively straight. It's those straight legged landings, caused by weak hamstrings, that make women vulnerable to knee injuries, explains physical therapist Laura Ramos, creator of the Girls Can Jump program. Ramos, like many other sport coaches, uses plyometric exercise to train women to use proper jump-landing mechanics. She explains that jumping involves a coordinated effort between your arms, legs, glutes, feet and ankles. Last but not least, plyometric exercise requires core strength, or what Pilates called "the powerhouse."
Learning to Jump
Don't mess around with plyometrics if you're unaccustomed to jumping on hard surfaces. The typical drills potentially wear down your spine and foot, ankle, knee, and hip joints. The American Council on Exercise advises that forces sustained from jumping onto hard surfaces might equal up to seven times your body weight. In contrast, the jump board is performed from a supine position, which allows you to perform the movements with minimal joint stress. Since the jumpboard carriage supports your spine, the jumpboard helps minimize the superfluous, energy-wasting upper torso movements typical of jumping novices.
In a typical Pilates session, you inhale to prepare for the exercise, exhale to perform the movement, inhale to pause for one second, then inhale to return. Forget all that during plyometric jumpboard training. The power you develop from plyometric exercise depends on your ability to immediately spring back up after landing from a jump, explains athletic coach Brian Mackenzie. Follow this advice and add a mild aerobic component to your jumpboard workout, but let's get real. The jumpboard provides better aerobic conditioning than a basic Pilates reformer session, but it will have only minimal cardiovascular effects on a highly-trained aerobic diva. Her inactive grandma will receive greater aerobic benefits. Still, every little burnt calorie counts.
A sprained ankle often results in a loss of proprioception, or your body's awareness of its position in space. When you lose proprioception, you get literally lost in space, and increasingly susceptible to spraining the same ankle over and over again. Some physical therapists use the Pilates reformer jumpboard for ankle rehabilitation. From your position on the reformer, it's impossible to see what your feet and ankles are doing. This is actually a good thing. Since you can't see your feet, you must feel what they are doing, and thus regain proprioception. A typical rehab sequence might begin with feet and ankle exercises, and gradually progress to jumping movements.
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