Adding plyometrics into your regular routine will boost strength and speed by improving the elasticity of the muscle via the stretch-shortening cycle. That is, when the muscle is stretched before an explosive contraction, like bending through the knee before a single leg jump, it contracts more powerfully and quickly.
Because these exercises are explosive in nature, it is best to weave them into your program after you have established a solid base of strength-training, once per week, and in rotation with your strength-training program. Perform these exercises after your runs to focus on good form, as performing plyometrics with sloppy form can quickly lead to injury. Here are three plyometric exercises for runners. By the way, plyometrics are a little like child’s play once you get the hang of it.
- Power skips: Keeping your arms in running form, skip for a total of 20 on each leg, focusing on landing lightly on the balls of your feet and increasing the height of each skip.
- Leg bounding: With an exaggerated running form, bound forward by jumping with each stride, focusing on an exaggerated knee lift for 20 seconds. Walk back to recover and repeat 2-3 times.
- Squat jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend into squat position with your hips back and knees bent. Tap the floor with your hands and jump up reaching your hands to straight over your head. Bend your knees as you land, touch the ground again, and repeat for 20 seconds.
It’s not uncommon for runners to acquire muscle imbalances that create more work for the body when we ask it to run or move (inefficiency). In fact, even runners that strength-train regularly can fall victim to muscle weakness if they’re not addressing the imbalances directly.
For example, prolonged sitting can cause the glute medius on both sides to weaken or shut off, causing instability and lateral shifting in the hips. This weakness hinders your running form via wasted lateral movement and can also cause overuse injuries like Iliotibial Syndrome and other issues down the chain.