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The Mini-Trampoline

by Michele Wilburn(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 28 - May 1998

Inspired by trapeze artists bouncing into nets at the end of their act, George Nissan set about designing the first large trampoline in 1936. During World War Two the American armed services adopted the equipment as part of their training to aid aerial orientation, co-ordination, balance, dexterity, rhythm, timing reaction and motor skills – but most importantly for developing strong physiques. In the past fifty years trampolining has continued to develop as a sport and recreational activity, enabling millions around the world to reclaim the natural joy that bouncing brings.

The author rebounding

for older users

Mini-trampolines, also referred to as Rebound units and bouncers, stand about 8” from the floor, and measure 36” to 40” in diameter. Not only are they easily accommodated in homes, but are widely used in sports centres, gymnasiums, health hydros, hospital physiotherapy and rehabilitation departments, sports injury clinics and schools.

It was in the late 1970s that the numerous benefits to be derived from bouncing on a mini-trampoline first received wide-spread acknowledgement. In his book, The Miracles of Rebound Exercise1 Albert E. Carter mentioned nearly forty doctors who were in favour of the exercise. Mini-trampolines began to flood the domestic exercise equipment market, along with Al Carter’s popular concept of ‘Rebounding ‘, which was marketed internationally. Among the well-researched theories extolled in his book, Carter defined Rebound exercise as ‘. . . a method of stimulating every cell of the body simultaneously by increasing the G-Force applied to every cell. We do that,’ he explained, ‘by vertically adding the forces of acceleration and deceleration to the ever-present gravitational pull.’(P.80)

Harnessing The G-Force

The measure of the force of gravity affecting your body at rest is 1g. Speedy motion in a horizontal plane, or a change of position in a vertical direction increases the G-Force acting on the body. At the top of each bounce when the G-force is non-existent, your body momentarily experiences weightlessness. Depressing the bouncer mat, the pull of the G-force is increased at least twice. This repetitive change in G-force creates ideal conditions to strengthen all body cells simultaneously.

Regular well balanced exercise is absolutely essential to maintaining and improving health and fitness. Without it body systems weaken, and the risk of degenerative conditions increase. For exercise to be beneficial for all systems in the body it must provide cellular resistance without approaching the rupture threshold of the cells. It must increase circulation of blood and lymph and stimulate respiratory function to increase oxygen delivery to the cells. Radiant health depends on the wholesome functioning of the billions of cells comprising the body. Bountiful supplies of oxygen and essential nutrients combine to create energy for the life processes of the cell. If circulation becomes sluggish, wastes, toxins and plasma proteins stockpile around cell walls. As you bounce circulation rises quickly. Fresh supplies of oxygen and nutrients are delivered abundantly, providing every cell a share for growth, maintenance and repair. Carbon dioxide, toxins and wastes are speedily eliminated. Cellular metabolism is fired, providing an excellent catalyst for healing. Muscular, skeletal, endocrine and organ systems all benefit.

Stimulating Lymphatic Flow

Consistent changes in G-Force powerfully activate your lymphatic system. Along lymph pathways, nodes act as deprogramming stations for cancerous cells, prevent viruses from invading further, and they filter debris, toxins and wastes. They offer important stations of defence. Antibodies and lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight off germs and bacteria are produced within the lymphatic system. Warrior cells, such as phagocytes, and white blood cells that eat bacteria and debris line a network of tiny passages in your nodes. When inactive, less than ½ a teaspoon of lymph is drained each minute as opposed to up to 4 teaspoons as you bounce. Lymph flows in one direction only, from the smallest capillaries to the largest thoracic duct behind the collar-bone, where it is tipped back into the bloodstream. Unlike blood, the lymphatics have no pump. The flow of lymph is regulated by a series of valves, which open as the bead-like muscle belly is filled and compressed. An increase of pressure below the valve causes the valve lip to open and shunt lymph forward. An upward bounce against the downward pull of gravity closes millions of one-way valves that regulate the flow of fluid. The increased G-force when you land encourages a healthy surge of lymphatic fluid through the body. Additionally, rhythmical muscular contractions, along with respiratory and atmospheric pressure combine to activate ideal conditions to shunt lymph forward, boosting your immune system, providing resistance to disease and aiding detoxification.

Trapped Plasma Proteins

Blood plasma proteins such as globulin, fibrinogen and albumin, depend entirely upon lymphatic circulation for return into the bloodstream. When circulation becomes sluggish they cluster, creating a loss of energy, blocked electrical circuits, pain and disease. Carrying a negative charge, they attract sodium, which in turn creates fluid retention. For healthy functioning, to determine that each cell receives its optimum share of oxygen, minerals and nutrients, cells must remain in a dry state, with just enough fluid to fill surrounding crevices. Regular bouncing provides the best lymphatic exercise to keeps blood proteins circulating quickly and easily.

A Healing Crisis

As you bounce your body into balance it is not unusual for toxic residues to surface. Waste products are flushed from the body due to the activation of the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. Different symptoms may surface according to the individual. Slight discharges, tingling skin, light headaches, irregular bowel motions and spotty skin are often among the signs that show the body is throwing off wastes. During this period, it is helpful to draw up a Resolution Plan for Detox, to speed the process. It is wise to use the bouncer for short periods of a few minutes, several times throughout the day. Feelings of buoyancy heighten your senses, spurring your body into action. Energy sources are immediately restored, balancing and refreshing your outlook.

Eliminating Stress Impact

Bouncing from a quality unit provides all the benefits of other aerobic exercise without the stress impact usually associated with vigorous activity. As you land the first portion of your weight deforms the mat surface. Going down several milliseconds, impact and tension is spread, along with the abruptness to which it is applied to your joints.

When exercising on the floor or jogging on a pavement your spine absorbs up to five times the normal force of walking. As you land vertical shock waves spread from your ankles, through your bones and spine, and minor nerve damage may well occur at the root of your pelvis. Joggers often end up with micro-trauma injuries to heels and ankles. Shock is transmitted through your hips to each vertebra and disc to the skull. Discs act as shock absorbers but only reduce the shock at each level. Shock waves can travel from the top of your spine and deflect off your skull setting up additional standing waves. Impact shock cause the energy stored in the muscles to fly to the protection of your feet, knees, ankles, hips and back.

Generating Kinetic Energy

Bouncing on a tight unyielding unit can cause damage to the back and joints. More than with any other exercise equipment, your whole body is subjected vertically to the pull of gravity as you depress the mat. The unit you use will determine the way your body responds. Kinetic energy builds up in your muscles which in turn deliver this energy to your organs and cells – which function more efficiently, revitalising your energy. To be highly effective, kinetic energy build-up and the activity generating it must be smooth with no jarring. If jarring occurs energy stored in the muscles will fly to protect the joints, by-passing vital organs. Regrettably this happens using poorly constructed, tight bouncers. If the mat yields only a short way, deceleration into the mat becomes too rapid – your body is stopped abruptly at the bottom of the bounce. Rather than releasing muscular tension in blocked tissue, the opposite can occur, with tension rising into the body blocking circulation further. The springs and mat must yield completely with your full body weight at the bottom of the bounce, yet maintain a stable surface tension for balance.

Choosing a Bounce Unit

Before you purchase a bouncer keep the following pointers in mind.
  • Top quality American polypropylene mat fabric retains elasticity.
  • Strong coiled springs, loaded into welded cleats on the inner frame, provide a smooth, yielding bounce. Avoid small, shiny springs, punched into the top of the frame – they lack elasticity, snap easily, and ground through the frame steel.
  • Check that rubber caps won’t mark the floor – ideally white is best for carpets.
  • Safety covers should contain thick padded backing to completely cover the springs.
  • Check that mats, springs and covers can be replaced if necessary due to wear.
  • Check that the purchase of the unit carries a warranty.
  • Bounce units can be purchased with spring-loaded folding legs as a plus for storage.

The Starbound Workout

When first introduced to the bouncer eleven years ago in New Zealand, I was intrigued to see it was being used therapeutically within healing programmes. Back in England I turned my professional attention to coaching bounce sessions and researching with leading pioneers to explore the potential versatility of the equipment as a lifestyle accessory.

The majority of my clients are faced with the dilemma of not only how to find time to integrate sufficient exercise into daily schedules to induce health related benefits, but how to maintain the enthusiasm to sustain it. The use of the bouncer offers ideal exercise for many – it’s accessible within busy lifestyles, versatile in approach, adaptable for all ages and levels of fitness, effective in cosmetic image, and energising and fun to perform. Many find bounce programmes offer a perfect support system to cushion the changes while encouraging inner forces of resolve. By bouncing through transition, with such goals as detoxification, healing, weight loss, stress management, visual improvement, post-natal recovery, better backs and 5-star fitness planning, the majority of participants feel more able to reinforce a positive attitude.

The Starbound Workout evolved with my recognition that the bouncer required a specialised approach for session design and skill development. Starbound, my book, was written to serve as a lifelong reference for those with a bouncer at home. I teach within a variety of Starbound studio sessions which focus on skill development and home application. The Starbound Personal Prescription System offers a course of 6 weekly sessions, based on lifestyle assessment for goal planning, with a bounce-
orientated Fitness Prescription. As part of the Personal Prescription System clients learn to plan the basics of well-rounded weekly fitness programmes, using the 5 zones of the Starbound Workout.

The Starbound Workout presents over 200 techniques in 5 zones.
Lymphatic Reflex Zones
Bounce Target Zones
Flexibility & Relaxation
Techniques within each zone can be combined with bounce routines and performed for just a few minutes daily, as part of a weekly fitness prescription. Alternatively techniques can be combined into a complete workout, performed for between 15–60 minutes. To use a bounce unit successfully time needs to be set aside to master skills. Exercise literally takes on new dimensions as you explore the potential your bouncer has to offer. It’s not unusual to experience slight panic and disorientation when you first bounce. In the beginning you need to take it very slowly, bouncing for only a few minutes at a time.

Zone One: Warm-Up

Preparing for action requires a body and mind-centred approach. By bringing awareness to posture and body alignment, tensions are subtly released before bouncing begins. A conscious ‘postural stance’ checklist provides the first stage of the warm-up. Toes are aligned, feet hip width and facing forward. Knees are consciously released and relaxed. The abdomen is gently contracted, with the pelvis tilted slightly forward. With a softening of the shoulders and jaw and the chin dipped slightly, the top of the head relaxes.

Sessions begin by setting up a gentle vibrational rhythm bounce, simply pulsing the heels into the mat. As a rhythm sets in, attention is drawn to breath release and patterning. A variety of breathing, sound and visual techniques are integrated at this point to open deeper energies and release emotional tension.

Warm-up includes performing 1-star bounce techniques to set mind-body cross-crawl patterns. These establish further mental clarity, and prepare the foundation for more complicated routines to follow. Simple skills can be applied to encourage hand-eye co-ordination, balance, spatial awareness and confidence. All techniques throughout the workout are performed setting opposite arm to leg movements simultaneously, to improve brain and body co-ordination.

Simple facial toners help loosen tension in the face and scalp. Warm-up techniques loosen and limber joints through full range of motion, increase synovial fluid supply to the joints, and relax and prepare muscles. You move about the bed of mat in various postures, kneeling, sitting on the edge, rolling back on the mat and turning the bouncer on edge as as barre for support.

Attention to correct foot-strike patterns and arm positions is highlighted throughout sessions. The rhythm bounce and rhythm walk form the simple foundation for all skills. Simple one-star techniques which demand a double-foot strike landing include the shuffle, twist, jogger, knee lifts, side steps, slinky skier, hopscotch and jumping jacks. Techniques which require a single foot strike, such as the toe-tapper and heel-flak require a double centre bounce for balance maintenance until speed and agility increases.

While most of the workout takes place with the feet low to the mat – with the bounce rising no more than two inches from the mat surface, it is important to jump entire movements freely. If you lock the supporting foot into the mat while moving the other, this can cause strain to the supporting knee. To vary the use of the bouncer we often add simple step and skipping routines.

When tension has released and circulation is warm, certain stretches for the legs need to be incorporated. For this purpose we turn the bouncer on edge and use it as a barre which aids balance and correct body alignment. The essential stretches include those for the gastrocnemius (calf muscles), soleus (underlying calf and achilles tendon), quadriceps (front of thighs) hamstrings (back of thigh) and the hip flexors.

Zone Two: Lymphatic Reflex Zones

Body stroking techniques for Lymphatic reflex zones can be merged into the warm-up, or included at any stage of a bounce session. These techniques are used by certified lymphologists for directing electrical energy in the body for pain relief and healing purposes. They involve stroking specific zones with coned fingers or flat palms.

Zone Three: Bounce Target Zones

One of the main aims of the Starbound Workout is to provide the opportunity to bounce within ‘target zones’ to accomplish aerobic fitness training. This implies bouncing for between 60 & 75% of the maximum heart rate, gradually increasing the sessions to around 25 minutes over a three month period. To ensure the level of exertion corresponds with age, efforts are rated according to the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. When exercising on the bouncer up to 68% more work can be accomplished for the same oxygen uptake. For this reason it is recommended that participants work to the lower end of target zones, at between 60 & 70% of maximum heart rate. A suitable method of measuring this is by bouncing at a level that allows you to talk or sing comfortably, with a little extra effort required to sustain your voice and breath.

As skills progress, techniques in the Starbound Workout are arranged in groups with progressions for one-star, two-star and three-star variations. For example the 1 ‘Let’s twist’, progresses to the 2 ‘Toe twister’ to 3 ‘Licorice Twist’. The 1 ‘Toe tapper’ progresses to the 2 ‘Ballet step’ to the 3 ‘Can can’. For every 1 technique there are several progressions for sequential skills.

The fun really starts when you master the skills, and feel creatively free to experiment by merging techniques into patterns. Although simplicity is the key, it’s surprising how quickly progress takes place. No more than 8 repetitions of any one technique is performed within a routine. Music largely determines the beat. The faster the music, as a rule of thumb, the lower and faster the bounce will be. Various patterns encourage movement about the mat. These include V-Shapes, back to front, quarter and half turns and diagonal fan shapes. Arms and legs act as levers for the intensity of effort. The longer the lever, and the more levers involved, the more effort the technique will require. A variety of patterns are set to exercise the memory, through add on routines. Interval patterns, choreographed to music, break the sequence into sets corresponding to the verse, chorus & instrumental break of the music.

Zone Four: Cushioned Conditioning

The conditioning zone of the Starbound Workout provides specific techniques for spot-toning and strengthening the general muscle groups of the back, abdomen, arms, buttocks and legs. Conditioning routines performed from the mat are far more comfortable than on the floor. You’re able to safely align your body in all postural positions. Knees and back remain cushioned and the height of the bouncer from the floor allows for more complete movement through full range of motion. Throughout the conditioning phase, bounce routines are performed between conditioning sequences. This provides a two-fold benefit, in that residual muscle tension is relaxed, while at the same time the heart rate and circulation rises, increasing the training benefits of the following sequence. Bands and light weights can be used to provide additional resistance. By using the bouncer on edge as a barre for support when performing upright conditioning routines, postural alignment and balance is stabilised.

Zone Five: Deep Flexibility & Relaxation

An important and often overlooked element of any fitness prescription is the deep flexibility and relaxation zone. It is important to practise extended stretch routines to reestablish a full range of motion within muscles and joints and to encourage the elimination of wastes. A number of routines are integrated into the workout. They can be practised following conditioning routines, at the end of a workout, or in sessions on their own.

The basic stretches, outlined in the warm-up zone for stretch must always be performed again at the end of a bounce session. Stretch techniques performed at the end of the workout are practised on and around the mat, and ideally lead into deep relaxation and meditation. Following relaxation a gentle pulse on the bouncer wakes up your energy, and you’re ready to go!

Bouncing Parameters

  • There’s no need to dress for gym or wear training shoes. Bouncing in bare feet stimulates better control for balance and freedom of movement. For safety you should avoid wearing slippery shoes, socks or tights. As with any exercise programme it is advised to check with your practitioner if you have any health concerns.
  • Create a bouncing space in your living room to encourage spontaneous use. Bouncing with a mirror keeps you centred, enhances confidence, helps you identify and perfect correct technique, and encourages speedier skill development. 
  • Support bars can be attached for anyone lacking confidence with balance. They fit simply onto the leg of the bouncer and still allow for varied techniques to be performed.
  • Discipline yourself to practise correct technique from the beginning. Include essential stretches, precise posture, cross-crawl and breathing. 
  • Assess your intensity by using the Borg Scale for Perceived Exertion, which also corresponds accurately with your associated heart rate.
  • Integrate routines for mobility, lymphatic reflex zones, aerobic training, conditioning, flexibility and deep relaxation into your sessions. Tailor each workout to suit your mood and needs. Create a session diary to outline your basic weekly fitness prescription. This will help you assess what areas need your particular attention.
  • Take a bounce break for energy. You’ll be amazed how a few minutes will clear the mind, boost your oxygen supplies and refresh your outlook.
  • Children move forward in leaps and bounds with a bouncer around. Time must be set aside for technique instruction and safety skills. For those with learning disabilities, it effectively provides awareness of visually guided movement, direction, and total body control.
  • For healing purposes, simply set up a soft vibration, alternating between a gentle bounce and walk, controlling intensity by bouncing below your fatigue threshold.
Sheer enthusiasm is reflected in hundreds of letters I receive from around the world. The health and fitness of many has blossomed as they have bounced back to a fullness of energy and vitality. People express gratitude to have found a form of exercise that is challenging yet relaxing for their minds, calming yet uplifting for spirits, and gentle yet strengthening for their bodies. Many speak of improved stamina, energy and vitality, weight loss, relief from symptoms of arthritis, depressions, allergies, ME, headaches, menstrual problems, sinus, and varicose veins to name but a few. Others tell of pain-free mobility at a level not experienced for years. The beauty of the bouncer is that it fits in with any lifestyle, occupies only 40” of space and in return provides a divine elixir for health, fitness and fun.

References & Further Reading

1:    The Miracles of Rebound Exercise by Albert E Carter. English Edition Published 1985; by PT Leisure Ltd, 57 Courthouse Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 6JA

For further reading:

Jumping for Health – Dr Morton Walker
Starbound By Michele Wilburn – Published by Starbound Enterprise PO Box 3505 London NW5 2HZ Tel: 0171–284 191


In over ten years of studio coaching I have found public acceptability of the mini-trampoline as an exercise accessory is the highest I have ever witnessed. Hardly anyone rejects the devise. Providing people understand and are motivated by programme structure most clients continue home programmes as a life-long practise.

RENEE G; HOUSEWIFE; AGE 43; HAMPSTEAD, LONDON attends a studio session for an hour each week. Additionally has weekly shiatsu massage, occasional cranial osteopathy and weekly yoga sessions. Has been diagnosed with MS for over five years. Among goals set within the Starbound Prescription she is using the bouncer to develop balance, co-ordination, mobility, strength, and muscle tone. We are developing skills to help her check reactions in panic state, which she falls into quickly due to lack of confidence. Renee uses a support bar, and is gradually extending bouncing time. We began very cautiously, by counting up in sets of 8, for no more than a couple of minutes at a time. Each week we adapt a new skill and vary the format of routines. Renee tires easily and progresses well with focused attention to breathing, sound, relaxation, visualisation and neurovascular reflex pressing. Renee uses the bouncer for three small sessions of a few minutes at a time throughout the day. “It really is boosting my energy. If I miss a day I really notice the following day that my co-ordination and stamina are not nearly as good.”

MR & MRS POYNTER; AGE 80 PLUS, HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, HERTS visited together for an hour studio introductory session. Both were feeling the lethargy that lack of exercise can create, and had heard that bouncing was suitable for all ages. We set up the balance bar, adjusting height correctly for each. Taught correct methods for moving on and off the bouncer, and from varying positions during routines. Advised bouncing for short periods of a few minutes, varying techniques from the bouncer with mobility routines on and around the mat. We spent the session perfecting basic techniques for correct foot strike, posture and essential stretching. I demonstrated skill progressions they would be able to make over the weeks. They use their bouncer every day. Three months later: “We love it. Keeps you alert and active, and if it’s pouring with rain you can still have a jog!”

DAVID HANCOCK; AGE 56; MILL HILL, LONDON visited originally for three private studio sessions. Was suffering high blood pressure and 2 stone overweight. Needed bar for first session while orientating with balance. We set up a patterned routine from my book and planned a weekly fitness prescription diary in advance, to include swimming and speed walking for further aerobic fitness activities. In the second week we created a deep relaxation, bounce and flexibility tape for private home use. By week 3 David was really gaining confidence and stamina, and really felt positive regarding his progress. He has been following his programme for over 9 months now. “My doctor was surprised that my blood pressure readings improved so quickly. My resting heart rate has also improved dramatically and within six months I had lost the extra weight that I was carrying. But most importantly I feel so well and full of surplus energy – my whole life had taken a turn for the better.”

JENNY BELCHER; AGE 32; BOOGIE BOUNCE FITNESS TRAINER, TAMWORTH visited for a private 8 hour studio training day. A qualified fitness professional Jenny was keen to introduce Starbound ‘Boogie Bounce’ fitness classes in Tamworth. We focused on formats for varying session structures, safe technique instruction, attention to the capacity of age groups, and creating choreographic flow throughout hour workout sessions. 18 months later: “I can’t imagine fitness training without a bouncer these days. I’m now teaching two hundred ladies a week, all on bouncers! Everyone comments on how much energy they have at the end of a session – and how it provides a pick-me-up for hours afterwards. For them it’s about getting fit, losing fat and having fun!”

VANESSA B;  FULHAM LONDON; AGE 47; attends Starbound Personal Prescription sessions weekly. Working with a naturopath Vanessa has developed a predominantly alkaline menu plan, to help with her arthritis. She began bouncing with a bar but is now completely independent. She uses her bouncer mornings, immediately after rising for gentle pulsation, before following a mobility routine, and again throughout the day for a few minutes at a time. She practises the lymphatic reflex sequence daily. Her condition is much improved but she still has bouts of inflammation – particularly when under stress. During this time she must not exercise. While sessions began very simply she gradually progressed to more complicated routines. Care is taken not to include routines that require force across a joint. “My muscle tone has improved quite noticeably. My sense of balance is so much better that I never use the bar at all these days. The bouncer has given me a new lease on life. As long as I use it every day, and watch my food I feel so much better for it. My son has Down’s Syndrome, and like many of his friends is very overweight and has suffered from bad constipation. He loves the bouncer and has lost nearly one and a half stone. His constipation has cleared and he uses the loo regularly.”


  1. Trampoline Central said..

    Mini Trampolines are a fantastic way to keep fit in your own home and are ideal for those that struggle to get out of the house for whatever reason. They are relatively cheap and do not take much space to store. I know many people who use mini trampolines while watching their favourite soaps to while away the time while exercising and keeping fit. Trampoline Central sell mini trampolines of good quality on their website Trampolining Equipment - Mini Trampolines

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About Michele Wilburn

Michele Wilburn is a trained teacher, fitness professional, presenter & author of Starbound®. Over the past ten years her research has focused exclusively on programme development for the mini-trampoline, with leading international pioneers, practitioners and the public alike. The Starbound® Workout has evolved to encompass numerous session formats for people of all ages and stages of health and fitness. She presents Starbound® studio workshops in London and can be reached on 0171–284 1918.

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