Plyometrics for speed, which focus on the stretch shortening cycle, are an effective method for supplementing a speed training program. Anyone interested in improving speed must sprint as part of their training.
This article gives you five plyometric exercises that can supplement your speed training and help you take it to the next level. The exercises focus on first-step speed, horizontal force production, stride length, stride frequency and developing quick feet.
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1. First Step Speed (Towel Sprints)
You need a bath towel and a partner. Give yourself a 5-yard course. Place the towel around your waist and have your partner stand behind you holding both ends. The towel should be tense.
From this position, sprint as fast as you can over the 5-yard course with your partner walking behind you providing resistance. You want to stay tall. Most people hunch forward because of the resistance. This is a bad idea; it teaches you bad sprinting habits.
Do this exercise 3-5 times, and rest 1-2 minutes between reps. Place this exercise at the end of your warm-up.
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2. Horizontal Force Production (Standing Long Jump)
This is an extremely simple and effective exercise for improving your ability both to exert force against the ground in a horizontal direction and to absorb force.
Face the course with your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Quickly move into a quarter squat while allowing your arms to swing back.
Without pausing in the quarter squat, throw your entire body forward, making sure to swing your arms forward as well. Land on both feet.
To make this drill more effective, jump next to a tape measure. This will give you a benchmark and a goal. I start my athletes out with a marker at the 6-foot mark. Once they can hit that, we move to 6 1/2 feet, etc.
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This exercise should be performed in an all-out fashion. With that in mind, do 5 to 10 repetitions per workout, and give yourself about a minute between reps. Do this at the end of your sprinting workout.
3. Stride Length (Bounds)
Bounds are an exaggeration of the sprinting motion. They can be done for height or for distance. To improve your stride length, do them for distance. Remember, the longer your strides (to a point), the faster you can get somewhere!
Set up a 20-yard course. Drive your left knee up, keeping your foot flat. Swing your right arm up. Focus on the distance between your strides. Land on your left foot, then immediately drive your right knee up (keeping the foot flat). Land on it. Continue until you’ve covered the course. Remember to use your arms.
Keep track of how many strides it took you to cover the course. Next time, try to cover it with one less stride.
Bounds are normally done for 20 to 100 yards. It’s best to start with 20 and gradually work up. Normally, athletes do 3 to 5 sets with up to two minutes rest between sets. Do them at the end of your warm-up, before you begin the sprinting part of your workout.
4. Stride Frequency (Scissor Jumps)
Begin this exercise in a lunge position with your left leg in front and a 90-degree angle at your left hip, knee and ankle. Your right leg should be extended behind your body, but your right knee should not be touching the ground. Keep your upper body tall.
From that position, jump up. While you’re in the air, switch legs so you land with your right leg forward and your left leg behind. Immediately upon landing, reverse directions and jump again, switching legs. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Remember, this drill needs to involve very fast jumps, so don’t rest!
Scissor jumps are normally done for sets of up to 10 repetitions. Perform 3 to 5 sets, resting for up to two minutes between sets. Do this exercise toward the end of your workout, after you have completed all your sprints.
5. Quick Feet (Jump Rope)
Few exercises develop quick feet, overall athleticism and conditioning as well as jumping rope. Stand up and hold the rope at waist level. Rise up onto your toes. Using mainly your ankles, jump over the rope with both feet as your wrists rotate the rope. This should be a smooth and effortless movement. If you have to jump really high, you are making it too difficult.
Jumping rope is typically done for time. When you’re starting out, attempt to go continually for 30 seconds, and gradually bump up your time. Jump rope for a total of two minutes (one set of two minutes, four sets of 30 seconds or some other combination).
For most athletes, speed training is divided into two types: acceleration (i.e., short distances) and maximum velocity (longer distances). Scissor Jumps, Standing Long Jumps and Towel Sprints are best done on acceleration days. Jumping rope and Bounds are best done on maximum velocity days.