Trampoline Workouts Are More Than Just a Fad

I can’t stop watching my feet. I’ve spent the past 15 minutes jumping up and down on a mini-trampoline, and each time my body rises upward, my eyes gaze down. If I don’t do this, I worry that my feet will land on the very edge of the tramp’s surface, I’ll lose my balance, and I’ll tumble off.

It’s a new and uncomfortable feeling, but so is just about everything about my Bounce Essentials class at the Ness, a New York City group-fitness studio that focuses on a unique implement, the mini-trampoline, which is about 40 inches wide and a foot off the floor. For 50 minutes, Shaina McGregor, the impossibly upbeat instructor for this madness, pushes me and the rest of the class through a series of ultra-intense trampoline drills, torching my glutes, calves, and abs.

For years, I’ve thought of trampolines as more of a diversion than a workout, the kind of thing that belongs at Chuck E. Cheese. A trampoline workout? That’s a punchline, not a legitimate way to build muscle or blast fat. Studios like the Ness, though, are changing that perception— and filling a major gap in the fitness industry, too. Trampoline jumping is even an Olympic sport now.

Trampoline workouts push you to find serious air time. This is different from simply jumping off the ground. When you leap off the ground, your body knows exactly what to expect, because you’re controlling how high you’ll go. When you jump on a tramp, the device actively propels you upward. This makes it easy to lose your balance, tipping backward or forward, so you need to use your arms and core muscles to find aerial equilibrium. This challenge is absent from gym workouts, which basically tether you to the floor to lift weights, and HIIT classes, which often trap you on cardio machines, with only occasional skater lunges and explosive squats.

The Ness fills that void, driving you to elevate, then forcing you to make precise movements in the air. That doesn’t just make you a better athlete, says trainer and kinesiologist DeVentri Jordan. If you can control your body while airborne, you’ll be more stable when you’re balancing on one foot on the ground while playing with your kids or when you’re bounding up the stairs with a bag of groceries. “Your equilibrium is better when you’re on the ground because you’ve learned to balance better while in the air,” says Jordan, who trains NFL players. “Your eye-hand coordination is improved as well, because control is more difficult on the trampoline.”

That—and an undeniable fun factor—is why trampolining is on the rise. My class at the Ness caters to both in-person and virtual clients, with five participants tuning in to the workout on Zoom.

But to enjoy this experience, I have to get over the nerves. Thankfully, the more I jump, the more they dissipate. That’s partly because McGregor has given me other things to focus on. She teaches us three jumps early on. There’s the Ness’s version of a jumping jack, which has us jumping and trying to open and close our arms and legs twice before we land on the tramp. Like a classic jumping jack, this warms up my entire body. There’s a “ski” jump, which has us leaping with our legs together and landing with them off to the right or left on the tramp, building calf strength and agility. And there’s the “scissor,” which has us jumping lightly, landing equally on two feet with one foot forward a few inches, then taking off again and landing with the opposite foot forward—an underrated ab challenge.

I’m still watching my feet as I learn these. But after 25 minutes or so, I suddenly find that I’m looking straight ahead, waiting for McGregor to give us our next move. My brain finally understands that even if I “fall” from my trampoline, I won’t get hurt. “The whole balance thing,” says McGregor, “is mind over matter.”

All the jumping revs your cardio as well. My heart is racing, and my glutes and hamstrings are burning. Each landing on the tramp challenges these muscles to briefly decelerate my entire bodyweight, then accelerate it back upward. It’s all physically demanding yet more enjoyable than mindless sets of pushups.

Not that we spend the entire class jumping. The workout has multiple “sculpt breaks,” periods when we dismount the trampoline and do strength exercises. During the core sculpt break, I lie with my back on the tramp, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands behind my head. I crunch left elbow to right knee, taxing my obliques.

Now I realize the versatility of the trampoline, which is currently acting like a stability ball or Bosu. I’m essentially doing a bicycle crunch, but on the tramp it challenges my lower back muscles even more. Five minutes of similar ab exercises follow, and my heart rate descends. Then it’s back to jumping, except now McGregor is pushing us to string together as many as eight consecutive jumps (think four straight skis, then four scissors). Though I trust my balance now, my mind has to fight to keep the movements straight. In minutes, my heart is racing all over again.

But then McGregor brings us back down from our trampolines for a few more ab exercises and a series of stretches. By workout’s end, yes, I’m sweating, but as I leave the class and Mc- Gregor asks me when I’ll be back, I smile and give her a quick answer: “Soon.” There’s new bounce and not a hint of fear in my every step, the result of surviving 50 minutes on a trampoline.

3 Mini-Trampoline Exercises

Try these three moves from the Ness. Don’t have a mini-trampoline? Consider the JumpSport 350 Pro—or start by practicing each of the moves on flat ground. Either way, you’ll stealthily hone core strength and build athleticism, too.

  • Surf Twist

    Giacomo Fortunato

    Stand in the center of your trampoline, feet wide. Leap up, then twist your legs to the right while keeping your upper body square. Land, then jump again, this time landing with your knees facing forward. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps per side to increase athleticism. No trampoline? Take smaller jumps on flat ground, focusing on landing with knees bent.

    • Bicycle Crunch

      Giacomo Fortunato

      Lie with your back on the trampoline, hands behind your head, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Tighten your abs and draw your right elbow and left knee toward each other. Return to the start and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 12 to 15. No trampoline? Lie on the floor, or lie with your back on a pillow.

      • Single-Leg Balance

        Giacomo Fortunato

        Stand in the center of your trampoline, arms out to your sides, abs and glutes tight. Lower into a squat, then drive your left knee to hip height, balancing on your right foot. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. That’s 1 rep; do 8 reps per side to build ankle strength and stability. Don’t have a tramp? Stand on a pillow instead.

        This story originally appears in the May/June 2022 issue of Men’s Health.

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