Plyometrics, also called jump training, should be a key part of any runner’s workout. Not only will it help you prevent common running injuries by strengthening your muscles, but it will also help condition your body for longer runs. Ultra runners, in particular, should be adding plyometrics workouts to their routine.
As a recent study found, plyometrics reduced the muscle and energy expenditure of ultra runners who added 3 plyometric workouts a week to their normal running routine.
Adding plyometrics also doesn’t need to take up a lot of time. For great results, you only need 3 different exercises with 3 sets of 10 repetitions per plyometric workout. So, if you want more bang for your workout buck, we’ve got some plyometric regimens for you to incorporate into your regular workout routine.
Plyometrics will stress your leg muscles, so you will need to warm up for 15-20 minutes; however, static stretching is not recommended until the end of a workout. Instead, a dynamic warm-up that incorporates running drills will prepare your body for an explosive plyometric workout.
Even if you are physically fit, it is best to start easy and ease your body into its new routine. For a beginner plyometrics workout, we recommend:
- Single-leg hops – For one complete set, you will need to: hop in place 10 times, hop side-to-side 10 times, then forward-to-backward 10 times, and then repeat on your other leg.
- Bench taps – Find a solid object the height of your knee (a park bench is usually a good fit for this) and face the bench. You will lift one leg at a time to tap your toe on the bench, quickly. For a full set, alternating from one foot to the other, rapidly tap the seat of the bench with your toes. You’ll want 10 taps per foot, so 20 total for one set.
- Rocket jumps – With your feet shoulder-width apart, lower your rear into a squat position – deep enough that your fingers can touch the ground. From here, jump up and simultaneously raise your arms above your head, reaching for the sky. When you come down, go right back into the squat and continue with no breaks. 10 full jumping extensions will be a full set.
If you feel like you have a good handle on the above workouts (or just want to know what you’ll be doing next), try these tougher plyometrics below:
- Switch lunge – Begin in the lunge position. With your right knee in front, bent at a 90 degree angle, and your left leg behind you, bent just enough to hold your left knee just above the ground. Position your arms behind your back to help you move forward explosively. Now, you’ll jump upward and switch your legs in the air, landing with your left knee in front, bent at a 90 degree angle and your right leg behind you – knee just above the floor. You’ll need to do this 10 times for each leg (20 times total) for a complete set. See an example here.
- Box jumps – Find a box that is about 6 to 12 inches high (higher for more experienced jumpers). This can be done on a
park bench or set of stairs. Position yourself in front of your box, dropping down into a 90 degree squat. In one explosive movement and using both feet, jump onto the box, swinging your arms forward to help give yourself more forward momentum. Then jump backwards off the box, making sure to land with bent knees, for one full repetition. Repeat this full motion 9 more times for a full set of 10. See an example here.
- Kneeling jump squat – Put yourself into an upright (don’t rest your behind on your calves) kneeling position, with your knees spread a bit wider than your hips. Bring your hands up above your head (you will be swinging your hands down as you complete the move) to help give you the force to explode up from your knees to achieve a squatting position. This is a difficult move we recommend you try with some padding (yoga mats, towels) in front of you in case you miss making the complete movement. See an example here.
Again, our suggestion is 3 sets of 10 repetitions, done 3 times a week. You are welcome to tweak these to suit your needs.
As you add plyometrics to your running workout, be ready to see improvements as you jump on your treadmill or head out the door for your runs.