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As basic as it goes: just a couple of one-legged hops on a regular basis are a great way to provide some foot strengthening and agility work and help prevent falling in the first place — plus, when the inevitable happens, at least you’ll have stronger bones on the way down.

Why Should I Bother Hopping and Jumping?

Following a discussion with a friend on things we should be able to do until the week we die, this is #4 of a series of 6 on aging well. The other posts have addressed mobility-dominant  and cardio benchmarks, plus a trusty strength staple.

“A stitch in time saves nine.” Old-fashioned, but true! Let’s do things now to help avoid nasty falls and low-impact fractures later… ‘cause seriously, time in a wheelchair or on a walker isn’t usually fun for anyone.

Bone Building

A recent experiment found that plain old jumping on a regular basis significantly contributed to bone mass density in the hips. (Subjects rested for 0:30 between jumps.) Tell me that’s not a good thing! …Nope, didn’t think you could.

Intermittent jumps are probably a much better bone builder than going for a longer run. Theories range from “bone fatigue” to the fact that most distance runners carry less body mass on them.

Anyone who knows me recognizes that efficiency is a thing for me (part of why I love kettlebells!). This is a big part of why I like the double benefits of agility training.

The Down-Low on Hopping Up

The further that a one-legged hop is out of your comfort zone, the more you will want a solid support next to you. Make sure that the landing surface has good traction and no tripping hazards. If your joints aren’t crazy about impact, a soft surface such as cedar chip is ideal. Bonus marks for this type of setting: you can usually hold on tight to a playground, tree branch, or signpost for support.

Low Reps

One-legged hops can be surprisingly humbling. I usually train them as sets of 5 maximum at a time. This helps avoid sloppy, mindless jumping around. It’s better to focus on really sticking the landing.

My typical progression is to start with straight up and down, then sideways, and finally backwards and forwards. (Click here for a demo.)

You Want Both Legs?

Other progressions that play with the height variable are typically used more with two-legged jumps. The agility component is somewhat reduced, but the bones and foot and ankle musculature still benefit greatly.

Again, make sure you’re ready for these! The athletic demands, in increasing order, are:

  • First, box jumps (i.e. jumping up onto something)
  • Next, drop jumps (i.e. jumping down from something)
  • Finally, for advanced athletes only, depth jumps (i.e. down from something and immediately up to something else).

Use These Before Things Go South

Remember, the hops and jumps are to help prevent problems down the road. If you already have bone density issues, you will need to discuss an appropriate degree of loading/impact with your doctor or medical practitioner. (They will most likely point you toward using your glute medius and maximus more effectively. Here are tweaks for two of the most commonly recommended exercises)

Keep in Touch

Play with these, reach out if you need help incorporating them into your weekly routine, and let me know what you think!