“Jump around! Jump around! Jump up! Jump up and get down!” ~ House of Pain
If you want to increase speed as a runner, a good place to start is by incorporating plyometric drills into your weekly run workouts. A lot of new runners look at adding drills to your workouts as something that only “serious runners” do, but runners of all levels can reap benefits from jumping, leaping, and skipping! (And don’t worry, it is totally okay if doing these drills makes you feel like a kid again!) I started doing plyometric workouts about a year and half ago when I was going through the running study at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training and I have seen serious improvement. While I fell off the wagon with doing these exercises while I was pregnant (not a good idea for pregnant ladies to go jumping around), it is time for them to reappear on my training schedule!
“[Plyometrics] teaches the proprioceptors of your muscles and joints to push off the ground with greater force.” ~ Donald Chu, Ph.D., Jumping Into Kinetics
The many benefits of including plyometrics in your training include increasing your speed, increasing your flexibility and agility, improving your running coordination, and decreasing your likelihood of injury. In addition to these benefits, one major advantage to adding plyometrics to your routine is that it does not add much time to your training. Many plyometric drills can be incorporated into your schedule by only adding a few minutes to each workout.
Distance runners are most likely to benefit from plyometric workouts. As distance runners, our running economy is directly proportional to our muscle’s ability to use oxygen efficiently. Plyometric workouts utilize different types of muscles (fast-twitch) than are used in distance running. The quick, powerful bursts of movement increase the speed of your muscle contractions and boost your speed performance. When both types of muscles (slow-twitch and fast-twitch) are strengthened, you will find that you will reach the point of fatigue much later than a runner who only works on distance runs. Thus, your running economy improves. Plyometric training will helps distance runners use their muscles most efficiently.
To reap maximum benefits from plyometric training, you only have to add drills to your workouts 1 or 2 times per week! There are lots of plyometric exercises out there, but here are a few of my favorites:
(Please keep in mind that you do NOT have to start out jumping as high as is seen in this video. You can start much lower, on a step or curb, for example, and increase height as you get stronger.)
Here is an example workout schedule that would build up your plyometric abilities over 5 weeks. Starting out slow might help you build your strength and coordination. Try and incorporate each weeks’s workout twice per week! As you progress in your training, you can always add other plyometric exercises. You can view and print a list of additional exercises here, or click here to download a .pdf.
Keep in mind that it is best to do plyometric drills on dirt, grass, soft tracks, or cushioned floors…you know, just in case you do lose your footing.
Do YOU incorporate plyometric training into your workouts? If so, how have you seen improvement? What other plyometric exercises do YOU do?