Plyometric Training for Runners – The 5 Plyo Exercises You Need

As a runner, I spend most of my time training in one plane of motion — what’s known as the sagittal plane — usually performing the same repetitive movement.

As a result, to keep my body stabilized, improve balance, and enhance coordination I try to do cross-training workouts that use as many planes of motion as possible.

These include the frontal plane, the side-to-side motion (think jumping jacks), the traverse plane, and rotational motion (like swinging a baseball bat.)

One of my favorite training methods for accomplishing this is plyometric training. Plyometrics are typically used to enhance athletic performance overall, but they also provide many handy benefits for runners.

In today’s post I’ll talk about why runners need plyo training, as well as how to add it to your training routine.

Are you ready?

Let’s get this ball rolling.

Demystifying Plyometric Training

Whether you’re chasing a new 5K race PB or you’d just like to get into better shape, plyometric training should be part of your exercise routine.

Also known as jump training, plyometrics build explosive strength through the use of natural dynamic movements such as jumping, bounding, hopping, and skipping. This type of training improves explosiveness, body control, and power. In fact, the gains you can make from plyo training can quickly transfer to better running performance, and that’s a good thing if you ask me.

Plyometric training can take many forms depending on your fitness level, training goals, and personal preferences.

Why Plyometric Training?

Plyometric training provides many benefits that make it worth your time. This type of training is key for sports that require sudden bursts of activity, whether it’s jumping, changing direction, or sprinting. Runners benefit a lot from plyometric training.

There are plenty of well-respected studies that support plyometrics’ effectiveness, including:

If weight loss is your goal, plyometric training can surely help. Most plyo exercises are full body moves that require every bit of effort you can muster. That effort raises your heart rate through the roof and increases both your calorie burn and your metabolism.

How to Plyo Train

It’s key to have a solid base of total body endurance, strength and good form before you attempt any of the exercises shared below. As a rule, spend at least a few months doing total body exercises before starting plyometric training. Some of the best total body exercises include squats, deadlifts, push-ups, lunges, and planks.

The 5 Plyo Exercises You Need

If I were asked to list the five exercises that will most drastically improve your total body endurance and power while running, these would be it. They work very well because they’re convenient, easy to master and effective, all while yielding great results.

I recommend performing these exercises twice a week after a solid dynamic warmup like the one I shared here. Do this routine on your non-running days, since explosive training requires so much focused energy and effort.

Perform each exercise for 8 to 12 reps each. Rest and repeat one more time before moving on to the rest of the routine. To keep things challenging and interesting, change up the order of the exercises each time you do the workout.

  1. Dumbbell Squat Jumps

Begin by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and holding them so that your palms are facing the midline of your body while your feet are hip-width apart.

Keeping your chest raised and your spine long, lower your butt down to a full squat position, then explosively press your feet into the ground and jump as high as you can.

Land softly with knees bent, then immediately squat down and jump again.

  1. Medicine Ball Slam

Start by assuming an athletic stance with your feet shoulder-width apart and the medicine ball held directly overhead or tucked behind your head. Reach back as far as you can, then explosively swing your arms downward to slam the ball to the floor in front of you as hard as you can.

Squat down, pick up the ball and repeat as fast as you can without losing form.

  1. 180-bounds

Begin by standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower slightly into a squat by bending your knees and hips, then jump forward and land softly in an athletic position facing the opposite direction (that’s your 180 degrees). Immediately explode upward and turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction so that you’ve returned to your starting position.

  1. Box Jumps

Stand in front of a sturdy and secure box that’s at least one to two feet high, with your feet directly under your hips and your hands by your side.

Keeping your back straight and your head up, squat downward by bending at the knees and hips, then leap onto the box with a soft landing, swinging your arms forward for momentum.

Jump backwards off the box, reset your feet, then immediately jump back. That’s one rep.

  1. Bench Taps

For this exercise you can use a bench, box, or a chair if that’s all you have.

Begin by standing in front of a bench with feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips or by your sides.

Keeping your core engaged and back flat, rapidly alternate tapping the top of the bench with each foot while staying light on the toes for extra agility.

Perform 30 to 40 taps.

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There you have it! The plyometric exercises above will help you boost your athletic power and improve your running performance like nothing else.

Now it’s your turn. Do you do any type of cross training? Are plyometrics on your list?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong

David D.