A plyometric exercise is one in which you cause your muscles to create large forces in relatively short periods of time. Think about jumping rope, a jump shot in basketball, hopping or agility work. In reality, runners are very likely to benefit from plyometric work because running is just a series of single leg hops, after all. Sure, it is several thousand hops over the course of several miles, but you are still using the same mechanics. Let’s jump into why this can help you. (That was bad, I know.)
In a study published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal, several authors performed a review of literature examining the effects of plyometric training on sports performance.1 There were several benefits noted which are positive across the spectrum of sport, but let’s highlight how they will benefit you as a runner.
· Increased Achilles tendon complex stiffness
o Improved resilience to Achilles injury!
· Improved force transmission through leg
o Reduced forces adding up on structures
· Improved running economy
o More efficient musculature and faster speeds
· Improved maximal strength
o Increase your injury resilience both while running and in daily life
· Reduced injury risk
o Improve landing mechanics and your force acceptance
So, clearly, it looks like runners have much to gain from adding a plyometric routine into their training regimen. But how much is enough? Many of our patients here at Precision Performance are competing/participating in multiple events (running, biking, swimming, tennis, yoga) – how can you be expected to add in even more to your plan? Well there’s great news in that this study found only twice weekly sessions of 80+ foot contacts were sufficient for significant improvements. That’s only 10-15 minutes per session, two times per week!
But where do you start? As with any change to your training plan – it’s best to reach out to your coach or healthcare provider first. This may be something that could be incorporated into your regimen already. Don’t risk overtraining! Once you run it by them and are ready to get started, here are some great ideas.
- Jump rope is a fantastic way of training yourself to utilize the elastic properties you have in your Achilles tendon and to harness it for running. Break out your old jump rope and practice jumping on both feet for 30 seconds or so. Remember, you don’t have to be Rocky to get some benefits from plyometrics. Keep the volume low at first.
Single Leg Plyo Hops
- This is an exercise we like to utilize for our patients that need some lateral stability with their gait. If you’re wondering if that applies to you – it does. Runners are very linear athletes and often neglect lateral movements, which are very beneficial for injury prevention and maintaining your form as the miles stack up.
- Make sure you start small on this exercise and do not jump way to the front or way to the side.
- Ten hops front and back and 10 hops side to side on each leg is a great place to start.
- Here’s a video of this exercise.
Small Step Plyo Jumps
- If you have a step at home, this is a great exercise to take advantage of some elevation.
- Remember to jump high enough to clear your toes on the step – we don’t need a wrist injury from a fall!
- This is a double leg drill!
- Twenty hops will be enough to get your legs burning
- Here’s a video to this exercise.
Let’s do the math to figure out if we met our 80 foot falls goal: ~50 jump ropes, 10 hops each foot single leg plyo hops and 20 hops small step plyo jumps = 80. Nailed it!
Now just incorporate these exercises twice per week and you are good to go.
Questions about how a previous injury or current injury impacts your ability to add in plyometrics to your routine? Concerned that you are at an increased injury risk while running? Reach out to me and we will talk!
Dr. Belmore is a doctor of physical therapy, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Titleist Performance Institute Certified golf specialist.
1: Booth, Mark A., and Rhonda Orr. "Effects of plyometric training on sports performance." Strength & Conditioning Journal 38.1 (2016): 30-37.