Plyometric Exercises for Runners

February 3, 2013 | Joe Lopez

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Picture yourself on the starting line of a race. You’re in the blocks. You pull back to create eccentric motion in the lower leg before firing forward to victory. Now imagine yourself being able to shoot off even further. Want to know how? With plyometric training, which is beneficial for all track & field athletes, regardless of event.

Those instinctive motions you go through before a race directly reflect plyometric training. Plyometric exercises develop a muscle’s stretch shortening cycle—when the muscle actively relaxes before a more forceful contraction. During the active relaxation phase, energy is stored and then shot off—like snapping a rubber band—to forcefully contract the muscle and tendon group. The following workout, which I designed, will improve your overall race times. (See also Building a Safe Plyometric Progression.)

Before you begin, review these guidelines:

  • Give yourself plenty of rest to recover between reps.
  • Each exercise should be done at full speed. This workout should take 45 minutes, including the warm-up.
  • To effectively train plyometrically, limit the amount of time you are on the ground. Try to land and re-jump as quickly as possible.
  • Think explosive. These exercises are high impact, so they should not be done for endurance training.
  • Limit your ground strikes to no more than 200 in the beginning. Eventually, you can work your way up to 500 touches in a workout.
  • The heavier you are, the harder it will be to recover. If you weigh 200 pounds or more, give yourself at least 3 days to recover before your next plyometric training session.

Runner’s Plyometric Workout

Ankle Hops

Sets/Reps: 3x10 (cumulative foot touches: 30)

  • Jump up and down bending only at the ankles
  • Keep your knees and hips in with the rest of your body

Knee Tucks

Sets/Reps: 2x10 (cumulative foot touches: 50)

  • Jump up and down, bringing your knees towards your chest at the top of the jump

Bounding

Sets/Reps: 2x20 (cumulative foot touches: 90)

  • Start running, but leap into the air, extend your knees and reach for as long as your stride allows

Dynamic Lunges

Sets/Reps: 2x10 (cumulative foot touches: 130)

  • Start in a lunge position
  • Explode up and switch your legs
  • Land in a soft position with your knees flexed and out

Depth Jumps

Sets/Reps: 2x20 (cumulative foot touches: 150)

  • Stand on 12- to 16-inch box
  • Step off the box and touch ground with both feet together
  • Make sure your knees don't cave in and that you have proper alignment in your knees and hips
  • Jump back up onto another box and land in a flexed knee position or a half squat

Kneeling to Standing Explosive Jump

Sets/Reps: 3x10 (cumulative foot touches: 180)

  • Kneel on a pad or on the floor.
  • Drop the hips lower and explode upwards
  • Flex the knees and the hips and land on your feet in a half-squat position.

Kneeling to Standing Explosive Jump to Sprint

Sets/Reps: 2x10 (cumulative foot touches: 200)

  • Repeat previous exercise but when you land, immediately sprint forward ten yards
Joe Lopez
- Joe Lopez is the New Jersey State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He was previously a member of the New Jersey State...
Joe Lopez
- Joe Lopez is the New Jersey State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He was previously a member of the New Jersey State...
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