Why Plyometrics Are Essential As You Age

Oct 26, 2022 | Speed & Agility

Man on a rooftop exercising with a jump rope
As we age, our bodies slow and our power output trends downward. This affects a ton of fitness factors like your speed, balance, agility and the “pep in your step” later in life. Adding some simple plyos to your current training routine will give you an edge on your athletic power so you don’t miss a step.

Dr. Matthew Styf, PT, DPT is a certified clinical orthopedic specialist and S&C specialist based out of Massachusetts. He’s passionate about athletes of all ages achieving their fitness goals, whatever they may be. Here he explains how and why doing plyometrics is key to keeping you strong and healthy in your fitness journey.

Matthew Styf
Dr. Matthew Styf

Change the Way You Train

Putting the Pep Back in Your Step with Plyometrics

Even if you’re keeping up with your overall fitness as you age, you might be losing some of your “pep”.

So how do you prevent this? It boils down to having a consistent, well-rounded approach to your fitness. Even though you start to lose overall strength each decade past age 20, you can still gain muscle mass. But keeping muscle mass is only part of the equation for continued health as you age. You also need to work on your power.

Maintaining your current power output (or ever increasing it) as an adult is not necessarily done via what you see professional athletes doing. High-level, high-intensity power movements like cleans, snatches, and jerks are excellent strength and conditioning exercises. But there are other lower-impact, efficient movements to help you chip away at improving your athleticism.

Lower-level power or plyometric movements such as jumping rope, hopping, agility ladders, KB swings, and even sprinting can easily be added to a program to improve power as we age.

There are a lot of different schools of thought on what you should be doing and how you should go about it. But my advice is to find something that fits your goals and routine and go with it.

Adding plyometric or power work to your current workouts will help you feel more confident with dynamic athletic movements. Just make sure you add it to the beginning of your workout so you’re not doing it while fatigued.

Why Power Matters

So why power? Why does it matter? If you trip and catch yourself, it requires a sudden loading of the muscles and then a quick push back up to keep from falling over. If you don’t have enough power to do this, you’ll likely fall over, which can mean broken bones.

Power is moving weight fast and performing fast movements.

Many aging athletes don’t train as many fast-twitch muscle movements, which ultimately limits their overall power capabilities. Keeping tabs on your reaction time and motor control is also important for an aging brain. Training plyometrics helps with all of this.

Woman training on an agility ladder outdoors

Plyometric & Power Progressions

I wouldn’t jump right into just any power variation that looks cool (because you may injure yourself). If you’re new to this type of training, start with something that has lower intensity, such as double-leg mini hops, agility ladders, or jumping rope.

This allows your bones, muscles, and tendons to adapt and build up the stiffness required to progress to more glamorous plyometrics. (Keep in mind that past injuries and other possible degenerative conditions may limit what you can perform.)

I recommend this progression to my athletes:

The starting point in the list above for each individual is different. A 30-year-old who has a history of athletics starts with higher level power development whereas a 50-year-old who is looking to improve fitness by starting a strength/power training regime needs to start with exercises that are less intense.

For example, the 30-year-old would plan for two total body workouts and alternate them in an ABA or BAB fashion using box jumps and sprints as the big two power movements.

The 50-year-old might start with the agility ladder and jump rope as their big 2 power movements. They can then advance through the progression fast (because they have a lower training age and are starting at a point that allows for more progression).

Does this mean the 50-year-old is making more gains in their power development compared to the 30-year-old? NO! It means the 30-year-old has fewer adaptations to make compared to an older person with a lower training age.

Be sure to check out this blog if you’re looking to land your first box jumps!
Box Jump Progression for Beginners

Ultimately, where you start compared to others doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start at a point that is appropriate for you and stay consistent with your approach. If you’re making gains each month or year, you’re doing it right.

Whether you’re programming for yourself or someone else is doing it for you, make sure you’re getting adequate power training in addition to strength and mobility. This will keep you ahead of your age and ensure you don’t lose that pep in your step.

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