By: Dr. Beth Templin
Plyometrics are great option for improving both muscular strength and power. As we age, it's vital we perform activities specific to both in order to maintain our independence.
Power Versus Strength
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, power is different than strength. Strength is defined as being able to move a certain weight or load, and power looks at how quickly you can move it. Adding the component of speed makes power more challenging. Think of it this way: strength + speed = power.
As we age, we tend to move slower on a regular basis, therefore we tend to lose our ability to generate powerful movements effectively. This can create problems in your daily life when you attempt activities that require you to generate strength quickly. An example would be picking up a heavy box and lifting in into the trash. Another would be stepping big and fast to catch yourself and prevent a fall.
Without proper strength and power, we are more likely to cause an injury or be unsuccessful in completing the task.
Plyometric exercises are often used in training for high level professional and Olympic athletes to help them achieve faster and more explosive movements. This helps them to set new records and push their bodies further.
Why would such activities be important to consider for older adults? As we age, we naturally lose some of our muscle mass and strength. The less active a person is, the faster they experience the loss. By participating in aggressive strength and power training, you can help to rebuild some of that lost strength.
In addition to building your strength, other benefits to power training include:
How They Work
The goal of plyometric exercises is to exert the maximum amount of force you can generate over a very short period of time. One example of this is jumping, which we discussed in detail in a previous article. Each time you land from a jump, you stretch your muscles and that lets you create more power with the next jump, amplifying the strength generated.
Think of a stretched rubber band, it has more elastic recoil than one that is not stretched, meaning it can produce more power. Your muscles act n the same way.
Adding in plyometric training can have many advantages. The most important real life benefit is when we look at how aging adults can use their strength and power to stop a fall. As mentioned in last months' article, falls don't typically happen in slow motion, so being able to practice big moves and have quicker speed is important. This requires strength and power.
Power training also helps you to improve your stamina and reflexes. This can help if you are looking to land safely from a fall or get up and down from the floor.
By adding power training into your strengthening routine, you will actually achieve strength gains quicker than strength training alone. So if you're looking to get stronger and stay independent longer, go ahead and check out Dr. Kim's exercise of the month HERE.
❤ Dr. Beth
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.