The Benefits Of Plyometrics For Runners

Improve your explosiveness with plyometrics. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Incorporating Plyometrics Into Your Routine

Because plyometrics are explosive and require a quick and forceful recruitment of muscle fibers, they are the last building-block of a successful strength training regimen and should only be implemented once a solid foundation has been built. I recommend at least six weeks of strength training (general strength work, core and leg work) if you’re athletic or have done lots of strength training in the past. For beginners, you should take eight to ten weeks of general strength and core work before adding plyometrics into your routine. Furthermore, it’s essential that you practice good form when implementing plyometric exercises since performing them incorrectly can significantly increase injury risk. Ensuring that you have the proper strength, coordination, and rhythm will mitigate potential issues with form.

Following the “hard days hard, easy days easy principle,” your plyometric workouts should come after your hardest workout days. I prefer to do plyometrics only once a week and use other strength training days for core, hip and preventive work. I suggest implementing plyometrics exercises after speed workouts, since you’re engaging the same muscle fibers in similar bouts of explosive recruitment. If you want to add a second plyometric day, I would suggest having it follow your tempo or threshold session.

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Just like a sound running schedule, there isn’t a “best” or “secret” plyometric routine that is better than any other. As long as the exercises are specific to running, your performance will benefit. Keep the exercises to eight to ten different movements to prevent yourself from doing too much.

Here is a sample from our strength training for runners program:

1. Water Pump (x 15 each leg)

Balance on one leg with your other leg behind you. You can place the trail leg on a bench or other support structire. Slowly bend down, as if in a one-legged squat position. Raise yourself back up.

2. Water Pump Hops (x 15 each leg)

Perform exactly as the regular water pump, but jump in an explosive fashion when driving the leg up. Take a four second break between each jump to allow the stabilizing muscles to be engage by trying to balance and steady the body.

3. Height Skips (x 15 each leg)

Skip across the ground, jumping as high as you can with each skip. Concentrate on the height of your skip, not the distance. Practice landing softly on the ball of your foot.

4. Ankle Jumps (x 15) 

While keeping your legs straight, jump into the air using only your ankles for power. Don’t bend your knees or your hips.

5. Jumps For Distance (x 15) 

From a standing position, jump as far out and forward as you can – like a standing long jump.

6. One-Leg Connect Four (x 3 cycles each leg)

Visualize a square with 4 separate quadrants. Balance on one leg and jump to each quadrant continuously until you’re back at the starting point. That’s one cycle.

7. Toe Taps (x 15 each leg)

Find a surface that is 2-3 feet high. Stand in front of the surface and perform a version of high knees, except tap the top of the surface with each foot.

8. Rocket Jumps (x 15 total)

From a standing position, squat down and jump into the air as high as you can. Jump and land with both feet.

9. Split Squats (x 10 each leg)

From a lunge position, jump into the air. While in the air, switch your legs so that whichever leg was in front of you, now becomes the trail leg. Land with your legs switched and drop into the lunge position again. Repeat.

Start with the easier exercises first so your legs have a chance to ease into the explosive movements. Don’t force the repetitions if you start to get too tired or your form falters. It’s better to perform 10 strong, correct repetitions than 15 sloppy ones.

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