Reactive training, also known as plyometric training, is a classification of exercise that is beneficial to all age ranges and can have a big impact on the health and wellness of those in the 55+ category if implemented correctly. The goal of plyometric training is to increase speed and power. It’s commonly used for athletes, but not exclusively. While you may not have a goal of increasing your overall speed and power, this form of training helps to reduce muscle loss and overall muscle function.
As we age we begin to lose muscle mass just through the aging process. We are also losing the ability to change directions quickly and respond to our environment. When we focus on adding in that plyometric training and focusing on the agility side, we are conditioning our bodies to stay strong and remain aware of our environment. One of the most common issues as we age is we become clumsy and may trip over a curb or mistake a step. This can lead to a fall that can be very difficult to recover from. It’s important to reduce this risk as much as possible!
One of the main downsides of reactive training is that it is not safe for those who do not have any level of strength or balance, so it’s not recommended for those new to exercise. This is when it can be hard to use social media as your venue for gaining exercise ideas. Those with a higher level of experience will do these more intense exercises, often called hiit exercises, but they already took the time to develop basic strength, an understanding of muscle engagement and completed stability exercises.
Reactive training includes lowering into an exercise and then exploding with speed and power. Then there’s the landing, and if you don’t have the strength and balance needed, that’s when you may have an injury upon landing or fall. Joints like the knees and ankles are often heavily impacted, and if you have previous issues to these areas, plyometric training is not for you! In this case it may be helpful to focus on slow stability exercises that have an agility aspect.
What are the main benefits of reactive training?
Beyond strength and agility, plyometric training can improve your jumps, overall speed (especially with running), reducing time to recover from injury as well as the likelihood of injury, and the ability to hit or throw.
So what are some examples of plyometric training?
While there’s an endless list of exercises in this category, some of the most common include:
Plyometric Lateral Lunges (these lunges include a jump to the side instead of a slow lowering to the side)
Squat Thrusters ( a high plank to a low squat position)
Plyometric Push ups (a push up with a lift off the hands)
Reverse Lunge with Knee up
How often should I add in this training method?
2-4 sessions a week can lead to improved agility in as little as 6 weeks for some people!
What should a reactive training session look like?
These training sessions should include 2-5 exercises depending on experience. Then 2-5 sets with 8-12 repetitions. Remember you should have a controlled lowering into the exercise and then explode up with power and control.
Plyometric training with a focus on agility!
When training to focus on agility you want to focus more on drills instead of just getting through exercises with just speed and balance. Having cones set up, a training ladder, or some other targets can give you the ability to create a pattern to follow. Having patterns or specific targets you have to hit in a specific order, helps improve the way the body responds to its environment. Instead of just doing squat jumps in place, add those cones and maybe squat jump and shuffle to the next cone etc. A really great place to start is just shuffle runs from side to side and front to back. Then you can shuffle in an “X” pattern. Start slow and perfect the pattern then increase speed.
All in all plyometric training is an excellent addition to any training program when done safely! Remember that you’ll need a base line of strength and balance, before trying this out to avoid injury. It can also be a fun change of pace and improving how fast you respond in training and your environment will lead to long term benefits. As much as we can reduce the option of being a fall-risk at an older age, is key to a long and healthy life!
Until next time… and remember health is for all!