Jumping was clearly the theme of the day for this Bettie Page photo shoot. In yet another display of her impressive fitness level, she leaps, lunges and skips along the beach, gloriously and freely, while rocking that polka-dot bikini that she and her close sister Goldie shared.
While jumping can be exhilarating and fun, it is also tough to do repeatedly, and nothing can improve one’s overall fitness quite like leaps and bounds can. Plyometrics, as explosive, jumping-oriented exercises are called, build muscle, power, endurance, speed, bone density, coordination and more.
I have a go-to plyometrics and strength interval workout I like to do every few weeks or so just to push myself and give my conditioning an extra boost, and I’ve found that doing this regularly over time has made pretty much everything easier, from strength-training to running and every other type of exercise I do. I look at it like this: when you get used to doing the hardest thing, everything else becomes much more doable – including the things you (okay, I) used to think were impossibly hard, like running sprints.
You might like to incorporate my plyo workout, below, into your fitness flow. You’ll need at least one set of dumbbells for a few of the non-plyo strength moves. This should take you between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how quickly you move through it – which depends on factors like your overall fitness level, how much energy you have today, and how much experience you have with plyometrics. With plyo, the idea is to move from rep to rep as quickly as you safely can, and with as much power as you can muster.
If you’re new to this type of workout or to fitness in general, START LOW AND GO SLOW. Make the plyo moves smaller – for example, with jumping squats and lunges for example, just lower your body a few inches instead of into a full squat or lunge with thighs roughly parallel to the floor (you’ll work up to that), and don’t jump super-high. You could also start by doing skipping instead of lunging, or jumping jacks until you feel ready to go higher.
If this is much higher in intensity than you’re used to, take frequent breaks and allow yourself even more time. When I first started doing this several years ago, it took me about an hour and a half because I needed more breaks to keep proper form (and avoid having a heart attack!) Now it takes me about 50 minutes on a good day. Take it easier the first time, and you’ll get a clear idea of how to safely pace yourself with this workout going forward. [Another tip: Avoid doing this workout when you’re not well-rested; it’s too demanding and easy to get hurt if you’re not at full capacity.]
Do each move in each round back to back with as little rest as safely possible, then rest for 1-3 minutes and do the whole round twice more, for a total of 3 sets of each round before moving to the next round. The first round is the longest and hardest, FYI. Now hop to it!
~ ROUND 1 ~
Jumping squats: 30 per set. Lower into a squat and then explode upward as you reach your arms overhead, kind of like shooting hoops
Pushups: 33 per set plus 1 extra to make 100 total. To keep it interesting, I like to do 11 on a decline (feet on a raised surface); 11 on an incline (hands on a raised surface); and 11 regular (with hands & feet on the floor) per set.
Plie squat with hammer curls: 20 per set. Standing with feet wide apart, toes turned slightly outward, lower into a squat and stay there while you lift and lower the dumbbells for your curl, then return to standing. I typically use two 12-pound weights for these; use what feels reasonably challenging to you.
~ ROUND 2 ~
Jumping lunges: 30 total per set. Step your right foot behind you and lower into a lunge for starting position. Explode upward and switch feet while in the air to land with your left leg behind you, then repeat for a total of 30 reps.
Shoulder press with overhead triceps extension: 15 per set. [I use two 10- or 12-pound weights for these.] Starting with arms in goalpost position, press weights all the way up as you turn palms toward each other, then lower weights behind your head (keeping biceps beside your ears) and press back up to complete triceps extension, then return to goalpost arms; that’s one rep.
~ ROUND 3 ~
Skater hops: 30 total per set. Stand with your right knee bent and left foot lifted off the ground behind you to start. Push off with your right leg to explode up and over to the left, landing on your left foot with knee bent and right foot off ground behind you. As you land, touch your right fingertips to the outside of your left ankle, then quickly repeat on other side. Optional: touch back foot down quickly each time you land.
Single-leg deadlift with reverse flye: 16 total per set. There’s a lot going on here – upper and lower body strength, balance, core work – so you might curse me for these at first. View this portion as a challenging work-in-progress to master over time. I use 8- or 10-pound dumbbells for these.]
While standing, shift your weight onto your right leg, and lift your left leg out in front of you to hold it straight at a 45-degree angle. Lift dumbbells straight up overhead with palms facing each other. Hinge forward from the hips with a flat back, allowing left leg to travel behind you (still straight) as you go, until your left leg and back are aligned, and bringing your arms straight down under you. Once there, do a reverse flye with one or both arms, then lower weights and return to standing as you bring arms back up overhead and bring the left leg back in front of you to that 45-degree angle. Now you’re back in starting position. Repeat for 8 reps on that side, then switch legs for 8 more reps.