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Mini Pause #12: The Power of Plyometrics

Plyometrics for the Win! Improve Your Bone Density, Balance, Coordination, Muscle Growth & Insulin Sensitivity

TL,DR (too long, didn’t read)

Plyometrics help to drive bone density, balance, coordination, and muscle growth. They help to improve insulin sensitivity–and make you feel like Wonder Woman!

WHY

Let’s continue the Mini Pause series on type 2 fiber training. Last week I spoke about Speed Training (Mini Pause #11 if you missed it!). This week I want to dive into plyometrics, which uses burst and explosive power.

Plyos are another way to train fast-twitch muscle fibers, and like speed training, these can also be done with high or low impact.

We spoke last week about the anabolic and hormonal effects of speed training. Training the top end of your cardiometabolic capacity matters as much as training our bottom end (Zone 2). Plyometrics presents an awesome opportunity to train type 2 fibers and preserve power and neural recruitment.

WHAT

Plyometrics have been shown to drive several desirable results in the body namely:

Stronger Bones & Connective Tissues

In women of all ages, burst activities like jumping and plyometrics have been shown to improve bone density [*] and reduce the incidence of lower-body injury in female athletes [*]. This has also been demonstrated in menopausal and post-menopausal women [*], as well.

Considering women are most likely to develop osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis, this should be the biggest motivator for the preservation of bone health as you age.

Better Coordination & Proprioception

Technically, there are a lot of things happening when you initiate a jump:

  • the neural recruitment of desired muscles via the efferent motor nerves,
  • your joint position sense in the starting position,
  • your brain predicting where you will end up in space at the end position,
  • the kinetic energy stored and released in the muscle cell,
  • the muscle sensors detecting stretch and deformation as you jump,
  • and, of course, the flexibility of the joints being used to work through their full range of motion.

That’s a lot! When you train your neuromuscular system through jumping, you improve your balance and coordination, and your proprioception (which is your unconscious sense: it is how you know where your joints are without looking at them).

As women age, in combination with osteopenia, they also lose joint position sense, which can contribute to tripping and falling.

Anabolic / Muscle Growth

Plyometrics have demonstrated a strong signal for muscle growth [*]. So whether you are training plyometrics alone, or combining with resistance training [*], this is a great way to continue to build muscle in your 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Insulin Sensitivity

Power and burst training both have been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity [*]. The short burst of explosive power drives insulin receptors normally hiding in the cell to the cell surface to be able to acquire more glucose for energy production.

You Feel Like Wonder Woman!

I don’t know about you, but when I can jump onto a plyo box or complete squat jumps, I feel like a beast. And isn’t that at least part of the point of power training? To make you feel…. well… powerful? I walk just a little bit taller when I finish.

HOW

Plyometrics can be done both at higher and lower impact levels. If you are uneasy jumping or nursing an injury, rebounders are a great option as they absorb most of the ground reactive forces of landing. You also can perform plyometrics in a swimming pool.

Beginner

  • Bunny Hops: Standing with your feet slightly apart, knees are not locked out, find a hallway or a corridor, and “hop” or “jump” as high as you can while traveling forward slightly. Just in time for Easter! Feel free to practice this on your easter egg hunts.

Intermediate

  • Bunny Hop Switches: This is essentially a one-legged Bunny Hop that alternates between the left and the right foot. Lift your left leg (bending the knee so it’s as high as your hip) with the right leg on the floor, hop four times on the right foot, and then switch legs. Repeat down the corridor.

Advanced

  • Box Jumps: You know now that being advanced is just mastering the basics and executing them well. This plyo is essentially a “giant” bunny hop with height and flexion. Start with a low box (they start as low as six inches). Stand in front of the box. Bend your knees deeply and pause at the bottom to remove all kinetic energy from the Achilles. Explode up and land on the box with both feet.

NOW

Add plyos to your next workout after you’re warmed up. I typically add them onto the end of a weight training workout that is not legs. If I’m training shoulders or back, I can insert a quick 10-minute plyo finisher at the end.

Question of the Week

Q: What is your go-to lunch?

I don’t like to have to think too hard about lunch. I usually throw together a salad that has a good amount of protein and fat. I prep lots of different salad items on a Sunday so I can toss them together for the week. I try to think about my food from the following verticals: fiber, protein, fats, and carbs. I organize my fridge shelves to support each of these goals.

  • Base: I have glass Tupperware in my fridge with pre-cut lettuce. I like crunch, so usually this is a cabbage or coleslaw mix. Romaine hearts also make the cut, and if I’ve run out of all of the above, then I take sauerkraut from the jar and use that!
  • Protein: This is usually slow-cooked pulled chicken that I spice with Lebanese spices, but this could be ground beef or turkey, or leftover protein from dinner the night before.
  • Carbs: I love to add potatoes or rice. And I love them cold. The other thing I’ve been enjoying lately is my homemade sourdough croutons. When my sourdough bread gets stale, I cut it up, marinate with olive oil and salt, and bake the pieces at 325F for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Fats: Bacon bits, ranch salad dressing, olive oil, avocados, or nuts.
  • Herbs: I really love dried herbs, and I’m pretty liberal with their use. Herbs de Provence, Zaatar, Everything but the Bagel, sesame seeds, Rosemary leaves, Herbamare…. I love it all!

YOUR TURN!

I’ll be answering your questions every week right here in the Mini Pause! Let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll be checking for both questions and feedback at support@drstephanieestima.com.

WHAT I RECOMMEND: Embr Labs

Conversation in the Bettyverse often lands on thermoregulation during perimenopause and menopause. You’re either too hot (flushes!) or too cold. I’ve been searching for a solution for you and finally found it in the Embr Wave 2.

You wear this device on your wrist. (I love mine in rose gold because it looks like a gorgeous bracelet!) The Embr Wave 2 stimulates the nerves that sense temperature, so with the push of a button, you can change how hot or cold you feel. Consider it your personal thermostat.

Learn more about its science at https://embrlabs.com. If you’re intrigued, use code DRSTEPHANIE for 15% off.

Hey There!

I’m Dr. Stephanie

I’m part geek, part magic and it’s my mission to be a voice for women who just aren’t getting the answers they need about their health - whether that’s from their friends, their family or their primary health providers.

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