Sports Science Update: More Support For Plyos

A new Canadian study shows that a little jumping goes a long way for runners.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Running is basically a form of jumping. Plyometrics is a type of exercise that is designed to maximize an athlete’s jumping ability. So it’s not surprising that past research has shown that plyometrics training enhances running performance. It appears to do so by enabling runners to rebound off the ground more efficiently, thus reducing the energy cost of running for them.

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But is plyometrics any better for runners than conventional strength training? Researchers from the University of Montreal recently sought to find out. Thirty-five moderately- to well-trained male distance runners were recruited for their study and separated into three groups. For a period of eight weeks, all of the subjects engaged in the same run training program, while one group added one conventional strength training workout per week, a second group added one plyometrics workout per week, and a third “control” group did no cross-training.

All 35 subjects performed 3000m time trials and tests of running economy before and after the eight-week training period. The researchers found that the running economy of the control group was unchanged after the training period, while members of the conventional strength training group exhibited a 3.8 percent improvement in running economy. But the running economy of the plyometrics group improved almost twice as much, by an average of 6.8 percent.

How did these changes in running economy translate into performance? Interestingly, members of the control group saw their 3000m times improve by almost 3 percent despite no change in their running economy. This shows that running economy is not the only variable affecting running performance. Members of the strength training and plyometrics groups improved slightly more, by 4.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.

What’s cool about these findings is that they show not only that plyometrics is an effective means to improve running economy and race performance, but that a little plyos go a long way. Just one session a week made a big difference.

So, what are you waiting for? Start jumping!

[sgi:MattFitzgerald]

Check out Matt’s new book: RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel.

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