Ask any runner what they do to train and they will often answer: “I run!” However, in order to maximize performance and reduce the risk of injury, it is essential that runners include strength training into their routine. A proper strength-training program targeted for runners will include plyometrics.
Plyometrics, often called Jump Training, are exercises that involve a rapid stretch in the muscle followed by an immediate forceful muscle contraction. The rise of plyometric exercises began in the 1970s and they have continued to grow in popularity.
Plyometrics are important because when you break down the action of running, it is a continuous cycle of single-leg hops to the opposite foot. Every time your foot strikes the ground, it has to absorb the force and transfer that force into forward momentum.
Plyometric exercises take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle, which maximizes the mechanical and neurophysiological properties of the muscle, resulting in an increase in maximal force production. An increase in force translates to increased power in your running stride!
Research also supports that implementation of a plyometric program will improve your running economy. This improved economy leads to a drop in ground contract time, decreased landing forces, and improved neuromuscular control, resulting in a reduced risk of injury and seconds off the clock. Squat jumps, single-leg hops, scissor jumps, and bounding are examples of plyometric exercises appropriate for runners.
It is important to note that prior to starting a plyometric program, you have the proper strength and coordination in order to complete all of the repetitions with good form. Seek a fitness professional for guidance on the appropriate plyometric exercises for you!
Pamela Geisel, MS, CSCS, CPT is a Performance Specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance. She graduated with honors from Towson University with a bachelor’s in exercise science and received her master’s in exercise physiology from Adelphi University. She has been in the fitness field since 2007 and has a special interest in using strength training to maximize performance and reduce injury for runners. Geisel is a long-distance runner and has completed five marathons, more than a dozen half-marathons, and many 5K and 10K races.