A trampoline competition jumps into Springfield this week. It will feature 2,200 athletes, ages 3-25, performing acrobatic stunts at up to 25 feet in the air. Find out how you can jump on a trampoline safely while working on your fitness.
It is only natural to want to jump.
"Everybody likes to jump," said Patti Lingenfelter of the United States Trampoline & Tumbling Association. "Everyone jumps on their bed when they're young. Babies jump in their cribs."
Jumpers seek the "two seconds of freedom," as Leroy McDaniels of L&M Gymnastics School in Springfield, Ill., calls it.
"There is two seconds up there where you can do anything you want and no one can bother you," said McDaniels, who teaches weekly trampoline lessons to adults.
The euphoric feel of free flight calls people of all ages, shapes and sizes to the trampoline for competitive and recreational fun.
Now, almost 75 years after University of Iowa tumblers George Nissen and Larry Griswold built the prototype for the modern trampoline, athletes compete in trampoline competitions in the Summer Olympics and in USTA events. Judges assess how well trampoline athletes execute maneuvers and assign scores - similar to gymnastics or diving.
Work out with less impact
Beyond the competitive world, trampolining can provide a demanding workout for any skill level. "Wonder Woman" actress Lynda Carter maintained her superheroine physique by jumping on a trampoline for 10 minutes each day, Lingefelter said.
Trampolining can provide the same benefits to cardiovascular health as jump rope or jogging, but with less impact to the joints.
"It is easier on the joints because you have the elasticity of the trampoline," said Ann Kendle of Sky High Trampoline & Tumbling in Taylorville, Ill.
"When you jump on the ground, all the weight comes down on your joints and bones. On the trampoline, you have the resistance so you don't have that jarring effect," she said.
Trampolining has the potential to provide the full-body workout of gymnastics with less impact. Lingefelter said many gymnasts turn to the trampoline later in their careers for a lighter regime that is easier on their bodies
This is not to say that trampolining is easy.
"It takes a lot out of you," said Joanne Hampton of No Limits Power Tumbling & Trampoline in Litchfield, Ill. "As easy as it is to jump on, it takes effort to keep bouncing."
Trampolines, because they can launch you into the air, can be dangerous if not used correctly. The USTA does not promote backyard trampolines.
However, with proper training and some common sense, injuries can be avoided.
During USTA competitions, six trained spotters stand alert, ready to catch a jumper who goes off course. A trampoline in a gym is likely padded around the outside and built so the surface of the trampoline is flush with the surrounding padding.
Because most people do not have an indoor workout area with ceilings 30 feet high, or a pit over which a trampoline can be placed, people interested in working out on a trampoline can get a small version for indoor use (costing from $40-$100).
The smaller indoor trampolines were popular in the 1980s and are making a comeback, said fitness instructor Tricia Cross of Fit Club in Springfield. She said that in addition to jumping, the smaller trampolines are good for weight training because the unstable surface requires you to engage your core muscles.
For an outdoor trampoline, a pad should cover the outer metal rim and springs. Using a safety net is ideal. Backyard trampolines range from $200 to $500. Safety nets, which should extend at least several feet above the jumping surface, range in price depending on the size of your trampoline.
When placing the trampoline, make sure the location is free of overhead obstructions, such as tree branches or wires. Don't put the trampoline near concrete or anything you don't want to fall on.
To avoid bouncing off the trampoline, mark an "X" in the center of the trampoline to help jumpers find the center.
Once the trampoline is placed, professionals say you should never allow someone to jump unsupervised.
"We always say to treat it like a swimming pool," Lingefelter said.
Experts suggest locking up the trampoline when not in use, if possible, to prevent unsupervised jumping.
Experts also suggest limiting the number of people using a trampoline to one at a time to prevent collisions. (This rule can be difficult to enforce, especially with kids.) This is particularly relevant when two jump with a great weight difference, as the momentum of the heavier person can catapult the smaller person.
Another tip learned in trampoline class is the all-important stop. If you feel like you're losing control, bending your knees while landing on the trampoline will lead to a full stop. And if you feel like you're going to fall off the trampoline, protect your neck - tuck and roll.
"Training is paramount," said Merrill McDaniels of L&M Gymnastics School. "You need to consult someone that is knowledgeable, rather than the retailer."
The State Journal-Register