Produce greater power by training the muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully from an actively pre-stretched position.
One of the most important functions of muscles and tendons in running is to store energy. Like a pogo stick, your body can store energy from impact and then release it to propel your body forward. As such, a large portion of your propulsive energy actually comes from the energy stored in your legs from impact previously made with the ground. This is why you can leap higher and longer if you do a “countermovement” before jumping, like swiftly bending your knees, which allows you to reach much higher into the air than slowly bending your knees.
While this “stretch-shortening cycle” has been known about for some time, standardized methods of training this reflex are fairly new. Improvements in your muscles’ ability to elastically store energy have obvious implications for runners, as more stored energy means you can maintain a given pace using less overall energy. In short, your efficiency would improve.
Plyometrics are exercises that aim to develop strength and speed by conditioning the neuromuscular and elastic characteristics of the muscle. The main objective of plyometric training for runners is to produce greater power by training the muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully from an actively pre-stretched position.
Over the following pages, we’ll take a look at the research backing the benefits of plyometrics for runners and then explain how to effectively incorporate these exercises into your training program.