The Benefits Of Plyometrics For Runners

Improve your explosiveness with plyometrics. Photo:

How do plyometrics benefit you?

Numerous studies have confirmed that adding plyometrics into your training routine can improve VO2 max, running efficiency and help you improve performance at shorter distances up to 10K. A 2003 study conducted on beginner runners showed that after completing a six-week plyometric routine, the runners demonstrated a 2.3-percent improvement in their running economy at speeds between 10:00 and 7:30 mile pace—meaning they used less oxygen at these speeds than they did before the plyometric training. The control group, meanwhile, demonstrated no significant changes in running economy.

Obviously, that’s a large range of paces and might not be pertinent to runners who are more experienced or trying to race faster. Another study conducted in the same year, however, provides insight for faster and more experienced runners. In this study, researchers found that after plyometric training subjects demonstrated improvements of 2.7 percent in their jumping ability, 3K time, and running economy at 8, 7, and 6 minutes per mile. This result is encouraging, showing that for more experienced runners, the potential benefits of plyometric training is even greater.

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It’s always helpful to conduct these types of training studies on elite athletes as well. Unlike recreational runners, elites are more likely to be training optimally compared to non-elite runners. As such, gains in fitness and physiological markers are less likely to be attributed to simply adding more exercises.

A 2006 study conducted on elite runners found that after 9 weeks of plyometric training, runners showed a 4.1% improvement in running economy at 5:20 mile pace and a nonsignificant trend toward improvement at 6:00 and 7:00 mile pace. The authors interpreted this as an indication that plyometric training is more beneficial at higher speeds, since the impact forces are much higher. Additionally, since there was no change in maximal oxygen uptake ability (VO2 max), the results point to the muscles, not the heart or blood vessels, as the cause of the improvement in economy. While the blood delivered the same amount of oxygen to the muscles before and after the 9-week training program, the plyometrics-trained runners could go faster with it.

This series of studies makes a fairly convincing case for the merits of plyometric exercises in a training program, and the results indicate that the faster you’re trying to run, the more important muscle explosiveness and elasticity become. So, how can you add plyometrics into your training schedule?

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