"Plyometric exercises are high-impact, explosive movements that require muscles to exert maximum force in a short period of time," says Pamela Trujillo, NASM, CPT, Master Instructor at SLT. "This type of training is beneficial for runners because it trains your muscles to produce power, which improves strength, speed, endurance, and overall cardiovascular conditioning." Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Plyometric exercises for running have some serious scientific clout: Studies have shown that training these explosive, taxing movements improves your running economy, which ultimately means you can run faster for longer periods of time. That said, with plyometrics, you're going to want to make sure you can walk before you start sprinting.
"There is a higher risk of injury [in plyometrics], so beginners need to ease into it and master proper form and technique first," says Trujillo. "Start with low reps one to two days a week, and gradually build up the intensity. This could take several weeks to several months," she says.
Make sure you space out those sessions so that your muscles have plenty of time to recover in between, and try to schedule these on your strength training days rather than the days you run. "I prefer not to do plyos on days that I run since running is already high-impact," says Trujillo. " If you're combining plyos with weight training, you’ll want to do the plyos first, since they require a lot of strength and energy. You don’t want to be fatigued when doing plyos!"
All rested up and ready to try those plyos? Below, Trujillo walks you through five essential exercises to help you practice your explosiveness so you can fly on your future runs. Make sure your laces are nice and tight—and let's get started.
5 plyometric exercises to help you pick up speed on your next run
1. Jump squats
"Jump squats give you power and strengthen your glutes, which can help reduce overuse injuries like runner’s knee or IT band syndrome," says Trujillo.
To try jump squats for yourself, stand up and bring your feet to hip distance apart. Point your toes out slightly so that they're in line with your knees. Squat down and bring your hands in front of your chest. Use the power of your legs to leap upward, sweeping your arms back behind your body as you do. Land back in the squat and continue repping through your jump squats.
2. Split squat jumps
According to Tujillo, split squat jumps are a great way to add power to your stride. "[They] target all the muscles required for running and help you exert more force in your foot strike, which increases stride length and propels you forward faster," she says.
Ready to give them a shot? Come to a short lunge stance with your right leg forward. Your front knee should be just above the ankle, and your back knee should hover just over the ground. Push through your feet to jump into the air, swapping your legs in the air so that your left leg is forward and your right leg is back. Keep alternating sides.
As a full-body conditioning move, burpees are one of the best plyometric exercises for runners. Bonus: They'll work your core, which is key to stabilizing your body while you're logging mile after mile.
Ready to burpee? Come to standing. Jump straight up and land with your hands down on the ground. Shoot your legs back into a plank pose. Without pausing, jump your feet back forward and spring straight up into a jump. Continue this movement pattern.
4. Skater hops
Boost your hip strength and your coordination with these side-to-side hops. Start with your feet together. Spring your left leg out to the left, bringing your right leg behind. Spring off the left foot and jump to the right, bringing your left foot behind your right leg as you do. Keep going back and forth.
5. Reverse lunges with knee drive
"Reverse lunges also work all the muscles required for running and help you exert more force and power in your foot strike," says Trujillo.
Start by lunging your left foot back, so your knee hovers just above the ground. In a dynamic fashion, spring the left knee forward up to hip height. Swap legs and try it on the opposite side.
Put the pedal to the metal with this quick treadmill HIIT workout:
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