Strength conditioning for runners – Plyometrics

Nov 16, 2020

There are 4 key strength aspects for runners which should be trained in the following order are:

  1. Posture
  2. Pelvic Stabilisation
  3. Strength
  4. Plyometric Power

This article will focus on the 4th aspect – Plyometric Power exercises. Click on the links above to read about the other aspects.

What are Plyometrics?

Plyometrics are explosive exercises that require a quick and forceful recruitment of muscle fibres (mainly through jumping exercises). They are the last building block for a reason and should only be implemented in your training once a solid strength foundation has been built. Doing plyometric work before your body is strong enough can result in injuries.

Why do Plyometrics?

Running economy can be achieved through optimal muscle recruitment, which can be trained through plyometric exercises. Various studies have shown that even less than two months of this type of training will translate into tangible improvements in the efficiency of a runner.

Plyometric moves will additionally increase the rear leg drive by building up the fast-twitch muscle fibres in your legs, resulting in the ability to have a bigger and stronger stride. Studies have shown that this improved explosiveness in the leg muscle fibres also leads to a boost in VO2 max and maximum speed.

The Rules:

Power plyometrics can expose a runner to a higher risk of injury, so reduce your risk of injury during plyometrics by following these rules:

  • Ensure you have a solid strength base and no injuries or recurring niggles before you attempt any plyometric training.
  • During the landing, your shoulders should be over your knees, and your knees should be over the toes, i.e. no sideways, forward or backward lean during the landings.
  • Your knees and hips should always be slightly bent and “soft” with the feet shoulder-width apart. Locking the knee or hip joint can result in an injury upon landing.
  • ALWAYS try to land softly on your feet, with full foot contact with the ground, keeping more weight on the ball of the foot than the heel. This allows for a quick turn-around on the landings, so that you spend as little time as possible on the ground, achieving maximum power output and also reducing the risk of a landing impact injury.
  • Always do plyometrics before running or any other exercise. Avoid doing plyometrics when you are fatigued, as you will sacrifice form and concentration and may then sustain an injury.

The Exercises

I have selected exercises that are not constantly featured , such as the Depth Jump and the Squat Jump. These are good, of course, but they are not the only plyometric options runners have. Here are a few new exercises that you may not have tried before:

Hurdle Hop

Step 1: You’ll need a barrier of some type, use the hurdle at your local track, or even just a cone. Stand in front of the hurdle with feet shoulder-width apart; this is the starting position.

Step 2: Bend your knees slightly and jump over the barrier with both legs. Keep your feet and knees together throughout the jump.

Step 3: Land in the starting position and jump over the next barrier. If you only have one hurdle, turn around and jump over it again.

Plyometrics hurdle hop

Ankle Jumps

Step 1: Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart; this is the starting position.

Step 2: Using only your ankles, hop up in place fully plantar-flexing your ankles with each jump. This means that you’re pushing the balls of your feet into the ground to fully flex your foot as your jump vertically.

Step 3: Land in the starting position.

Plyometrics ankle jumps

Forward Bound

Step 1: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent and your arms at your side; this is the starting position.

Step 2: Quickly bend your knees and pump your arms backward as you jump up and forward. Try to jump as high, as far and as fast as you can.

Step 3: As soon as you land, repeat the hop forward.

Note – the goal of this exercise isn’t only the distance. Work on achieving height, speed, and distance to result in completing the reps as fast as possible with proper form.

Plyometrics forward bound

You can also read:

Strength Conditioning for runners: Posture

Strength Conditioning for runners: Stabilisation

Strength Conditioning for runners: Large muscle strength

Elsabe Hunter

Elsabe is a strength coach at Fit.STRONG Coaching. She is a fully qualified, REPSSA registered Personal Trainer who believes that age is irrelevant and fitness is for everyone. She specialises in sports specific training and conditioning, weight loss, rehabilitative exercise and functional fitness. Read more about Elsabe here

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