This post is inspired by some great comments from Hope (see the Harvard Track- gun lap Post for Hope’s specific questions), who should be receiving her new pair of OESH tomorrow. Hope is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, who for her own fitness, has been jumping rope for two and a half years. Even if you’ve never tried to jump rope for exercise, you should at least appreciate from the movie Rocky, just how intense it is. Hope built up to an impressive 20 minute workout – wow! She loves the cardio and physical intensity of it and the convenience of doing it at home with her young children about, but is concerned about wearing out her joints – a concern we all share.
So, I couldn’t help it…I just did a quick search on Sylvester Stallone and saw that he has knee osteoarthritis. I’m sorry, Sylvester. But Hope, here’s how to get that same Rocky killer aerobic workout while preserving your joints with OESH.
To build up the correct neuromuscular responses to jumping, what you want to do is make sure you are jumping with an aligned posture in the side to side (coronal) plane and a relatively stiff posture in the front to back (sagittal) plane. Essentially, you want the compliance (flexing or bending) to occur through your OESH and your foot rather than through your knees and hips. OESH will help you maintain that alignment and relatively stiff posture which will minimize joint torques and pressures.
Let’s start in the side to side (coronal) plane – this is the most important but often under-looked plane for movement and joint torques. In fact, this is the plane in which OESH specifically works to provide compliance (which is why the carbon fiber cantilevers are oriented in a side to side manner). To ensure that your joints aren’t inappropriately taxed, you want to maintain your knees in alignment with your hips and ankles. That is, looking from the front, the angle between the line going from the knee to the hip and the line going from the knee to the ankle should be as close to 180 degrees as possible. This proper alignment minimizes joint torques at the knee, hip, and ankle. That alignment should be maintained throughout the entire jumping cycle…from take off to landing to take off again. Practice jumping in front of a full-length mirror. If you see that your knees are out of alignment (either bowed in or bowed out) at any point in the cycle, you can consciously work to keep them in alignment by rotating your thighs out or in, respectively.
Now with respect to the sagittal plane – though it’s often said you should try to land softly, in fact, you should not do that because trying to land softly invokes flexing your knees more than you otherwise would — which creates greater peak knee torques. It’s not “impact”, but rather, it’s the peak joint torques that contribute to osteoarthritis. So, just like in the coronal plane, you want to keep your knees in alignment with your hips and ankles. You don’t have to lock your knees completely straight — just keeping them barely bent will be fine — but when you jump, keep them from bending any further. Imagine yourself as a somewhat stiff board from your foot up and allow the compliance (flexion) to occur mostly through your OESH (specifically the cantilevers in the forefoot) and your feet. If you are jumping correctly, you should feel that your calf muscles, not your quadriceps, are doing most of the work.
This pattern will optimize strengthening the right muscles in the right way, while reducing stresses on joints. The muscles will be more isometrically as opposed to concentrically strengthened which is more important for balance and gait functions (isometric means your muscle is staying the same length while active whereas concentric means your muscle is shortening while active). If you’re jumping incorrectly and not letting OESH do it’s thing, you’ll feel a lot of soreness in your quadriceps and knees. But OESH allows you to feel more soreness in your calf and foot muscles and in your core (trunk area) and gluteals (buttocks).
Maintaining the optimal biomechanics may seem like a lot to think about when jumping rope. But it’s not while wearing OESH…just let the flexing cantilevers guide your workout rhythm…and take all the punches for you.