Plyometrics for Runners: Explosive Workouts for Speed and Power

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Can I just say how excited I am about plyometrics? It’s like the secret ingredient that takes your training to a whole new level. Trust me, once you experience the benefits, you’ll be hooked. So, let’s dive right into the world of plyometric training, shall we?

I first stumbled upon plyometrics a few years back when I embarked on a P90X program. Little did I know that this discovery would change my entire fitness game. Since then, I’ve made it a non-negotiable part of my workout routine. And let me tell you, the results have been incredible.

But enough about me, let’s talk about YOU. If you’re wondering how to get started with plyometrics, you’ve come to the right place. This article is your ultimate guide to all things plyometric. By the time you finish reading, you’ll not only have a solid understanding of what plyometric training is, but you’ll also have a killer plyo routine in your arsenal.

So, what can you expect from this adventure? Well, we’ll cover everything from the basics of plyometric training to its three fascinating phases. We’ll delve into the specific benefits that plyometrics can bring to your running game. And of course, we’ll discuss the nitty-gritty details like proper form, warming up, and when to add plyometric workouts to your training schedule.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve even prepared a fantastic plyometric routine tailored specifically for runners like you. It’s like a treasure trove of explosive exercises that will have you leaping and bounding with joy.

Now, here’s the deal. If you’re not really into the theory behind plyometrics and just want to jump straight into the training routine, no problemo! Just skip ahead and get ready to sweat it out. We won’t judge.

Other than that are you ready? Let’s get started.

When to Add a Plyometric Workout For Runners

So, when should you add a plyometric workout to your routine? The answer lies in having a solid foundation of cardio and strength. Aim to reach a point where you can comfortably run for half an hour without gasping for breath.

Additionally, ensure that you’ve completed at least eight weeks of bodyweight training, where you’ve built strength and mastered the foundational exercises. Once these milestones are met, you’re ready to introduce plyometric training into the mix.

How to Get Started With Plyometric Exercises

If this is your first foray into the world of plyo, it’s important to start with lower-impact moves and gradually increase both intensity and volume over time.

To begin, devote no more than 5 to 10 minutes for your plyometric circuit, once a week, for the initial couple of months. This cautious approach allows your body to adapt and minimize the risk of injury. It’s also a great idea to incorporate plyometric movements into exercises you’re already familiar with and can perform safely.

For example, if you’re comfortable with lunges, add a jump to the top of the movement, elevating your explosive power. If push-ups are a breeze for you, try incorporating plyo push-ups—adding a jump at the end of each rep.

Remember, form matters! Whether you’re grounded or airborne, maintaining proper form is crucial. Focus on executing each movement with precision and control.

Ready for some beginner-friendly bodyweight plyo exercises? Here are a few to get you started:

  • Burpees: A full-body exercise that combines a squat, plank, and jump. It’s a challenging but rewarding movement to ignite your plyometric journey.
  • Jump tucks: Explosively jump up, bringing your knees towards your chest mid-air. It’s like spring-loaded power unleashed.
  • Jump squats: Begin with a squat and then explode upward, propelling yourself off the ground. It’s a fantastic way to engage your lower body and improve your vertical leap.
  • Split lunges: Perform lunges with a twist by incorporating a jump-switch in mid-air. This dynamic movement works your lower body muscles in a whole new way.

Start with three sets of 10 to 12 reps of each exercise, gradually increasing the number of repetitions and sets as you gain strength and confidence. Listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and don’t be afraid to modify the exercises to suit your current fitness level.

Take Enough Rest

Let’s face it, plyometrics can be demanding on your muscles, bones, joints, and tendons. It’s like putting your body through an intense obstacle course that requires time to recuperate and rebuild.

As a beginner, it’s important to space out your plyometric workouts with ample rest days in between. Aim for a minimum of two to three days of rest, or even more if you feel the need. Trust me, neglecting recovery is a recipe for regret. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way myself.

Imagine your body as a finely tuned machine, and each plyo session as a rigorous test of its capabilities. Just like any machine, it needs time to cool down, recharge, and repair. By giving yourself sufficient rest, you allow your muscles to recover, your bones to strengthen, your joints to regain their flexibility, and your tendons to rebuild their resilience.

So, here’s a practical tip: if you’re already running three times a week, try incorporating one plyometric session into your routine, and reserve the remaining days for total body strength and core training. This way, you’re striking a balance between explosive power development and overall strength enhancement.

When I first started my plyo journey, I vividly remember feeling the soreness that lingered for days after each workout. It was a clear sign that my body needed ample time to adapt and adjust to this new form of training. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay! Everyone’s body responds differently, and it’s important to listen to yours.

In fact, during the initial months of my plyo training, I stuck to just one workout per week. I followed the plyometric DVD workout from P90X, and let me tell you, even with just that one session, I still experienced significant soreness. It was a clear indicator that my body required ample time to adapt, recover, and grow stronger.

Basic Plyo Gear

Keep in mind that you’ll need a few equipment to get the most out of plyometric training.

These include:

When it comes to plyometric training, having the right gear can make all the difference. Let’s take a look at some of the essential equipment you’ll need to maximize your plyo game.

Box Sets

First up, we have the star of the show—the box set, also known as the trusty plyo box. This versatile piece of equipment comes in various platforms of different widths and heights, offering you a range of options to level up your plyometric exercises.

When selecting your plyo box, make sure to choose one with a top and bottom surface that provides enough friction to prevent any unwanted slipping. Safety should always be a priority, so opt for a box with a sturdy steel frame that can absorb some of the impact, reducing the risk of injury. And remember, always keep your plyo box on a level surface to avoid any unexpected accidents.

Master The Basics First

Plyometric training is no joke—it’s high-intensity and can put you at risk of injury if you’re not properly prepared. So, start by honing your skills in fundamental movements such as push-ups, planks, squats, and lunges.

These four exercises lay the foundation for most plyometric moves and will help you build strength and technique. Once you feel confident in these key movements, you can gradually progress to more challenging exercises like jumping burpees or hand-clap push-ups. But before you jump into those, let’s go through the checklist:

  • Firstly, make sure you’re landing correctly from your jumps. Land on the forefoot, keeping your knees tracking over your toes, and distribute the weight evenly throughout your legs. This ensures a safe and stable landing that minimizes the risk of injury.
  • Secondly, it’s crucial to have a solid foundation of basic strength and endurance. Plyometrics require power and stamina, so make sure you’ve built up the necessary strength to handle the demands of these explosive movements.
  • Thirdly, focus on developing proper core strength and stability. Your core acts as a powerhouse, providing stability and control during plyometric exercises. Strengthening your core will enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injury.
  •  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, ensure that you’re injury-free before diving into intense plyometric training. If you’re nursing any lingering injuries or discomfort, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional to address those issues before engaging in high-impact exercises.

Warming up For A Plyometric Workout

Before you ignite your explosive power and dive into the thrilling world of plyometric workouts, it’s crucial to lay the groundwork with a proper warm-up.

Think of it as priming the engine of a sports car, revving it up to unleash its full potential on the open road.

So, let’s rev up that engine and prepare your body for the exhilarating journey ahead!

To kickstart your warm-up, we’ll begin with a burst of dynamic jogging on the spot. This not only elevates your heart rate but also raises your core temperature, signaling to your body that it’s time to shift into high gear.

Once you’ve got your blood pumping and your body buzzing with anticipation, it’s time to delve into some dynamic stretching. But hold on a second, we’re not talking about the sleepy, static stretches of yesteryear. We’re diving into the realm of dynamic stretches that take your muscles on a captivating journey from your head all the way down to your ankles.

As you stretch dynamically, envision your body as a well-oiled machine, gracefully moving through a full range of motion. Embrace the fluidity of your movements as you release any tension lurking within your muscles..

Now, it’s important to note that certain plyometric exercises may require specific equipment to ensure your safety and maximize your performance.

One essential piece of gear is a trusty plyo box, a versatile platform designed to withstand the impact of your explosive jumps. Look for a plyo box with a solid steel frame, providing a sturdy foundation to absorb the forces you unleash.

And don’t forget about a well-padded mat that acts as a cushioning buffer, protecting your joints and providing a comfortable surface to perform your plyometric feats.

Top 7 Plyometrics For Runners

I recommend performing these exercises twice a week after a solid dynamic warmup.

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, change up the order of the exercises each time you do this plyometric workout.

1.     Jump squats

Ideal for strengthening the glutes, which can provide you with power on the run and reduce the risks of overuse injuries like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome.

This move also works the quads, hamstring, calves, and most core muscles.

Bonus benefit, shaping your butt.

Proper form

Start with your feet turned out slightly, toes pointing forward, arms extended and back straight.

squat down until your butt is just lower than your knees, then press up through the heels jumping off the ground as high as possible, then land softly without letting your knees fall in toward each other, then descend into the next squat.

Do 12 to 15 reps to complete one set.

Aim for two to three sets.

2.    Burpees

The burpee is a total body conditioning exercise per excellence.

This is one of the best exercises for the core muscles, thighs, shoulder, arms, and chest—and if you only have 5 minutes of free time for plyo training, then do the burpees, please.

Proper Form

Assume a feet hip-width apart stance, then bend your knees and place your hands on the floor.

transfer all of your weight into your hands, jump your feet back so that you end up in a push-up position.

Then, bring your knees to your chest, assuming a low squat position, and press up and jump as high as you can with hands overhead, feet going airborne.

Clap your hands overhead or even straighten your legs like air split for more challenge

Without delay, hit the ground again to perform the next burpee.

3.    Jumping lunge

This is one of the most running-specific exercises you can do since jumping lunges target all of your running muscles in the most efficient and explosive way.

Proper Form

Begin in a lunge position, weight distributed equally on both legs

Next, jump straight up into the air as high as possible, reversing the position of the legs and landing with your feet in the opposite positions, then immediately lower down into a deep lunge.

Make sure to land with a good lunge from—knees behind or in line with the toes—and to use your arms to help you jump higher.

Do three sets of 12 to 16 reps, alternating sides on each jump.

4. Side hops

One of the best plyometrics for runners that works all of your lower body muscles, including your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads—all key muscles for running and most athletic activities.

Proper Form

Start by standing on your right foot with your right knee slightly bent and your left foot up.

Next, begin hopping on the right foot as fast as you can with minimal ground contact.

Imagine that you are jumping over a set of hot coals.

Hop in one place 12 times, then hop side to side for 12 times then hop forward and backward for another 12 times.

Aim for two to three sets on each foot.

Make sure to keep your hips steady and nearly motionless through the exercise.

Avoid bouncing around.

5.    Single-Leg Lateral Jumps

Along with increasing power in the legs, this plyo move also improves balance.

Plus, this plyo moves boosts ankle strength and stability as well as control and proprioception, which is your own sense of the relative position of your body and strength of effort being employed in each movement.

For those who have ankle instability, you may use an ankle brace.

Choose the breathable one.

Proper Form

Stand on your right foot with your left knee slightly bent and left foot off the ground.

Then, drop into a half squat and jump diagonally as high as you can to your left, landing in a half squat on your left foot.

Repeat, jumping diagonally while engaging the whole core to your right.

That’s one rep.

if this is too easy for you, then do it with eye closed.

Aim for three sets with 10 reps each.

6.    Box Jumps

These build explosive speed, rev up your body’s ability to absorb force, and they target the muscles that contract the most when running, the hamstrings and glutes.

Proper Form

Pick a jumping box of challenging height or stack aerobics steps 6 to 14 inches high.

Be careful.

From the ground, squat down and jump with both feet onto the box, swinging your arms forward to generate enough momentum.

Next, jump backward off the box, and land softly on the ground with knees slightly bent.

For more challenge, try with one leg.

Don’t try this without a steady posture and a nice balance.

Do 12 reps aiming to complete three sets.

7.    Bleacher hops

Another powerful exercise to add to your arsenal.

This one works you on all levels.

It’s also a great cardiovascular and endurance exercise—just like hill sprint on steroids.

Proper Form

Find a set of steps—whether at the nearby park or at your local high school stadium, stadium or even a building with a large flight of stairs—then with feet shoulder-width apart,  hop up the steps with both feet together and as fast as you can with no breaks until you reach the top.

Don’t rely on your flexibility, use your momentum.

Next, walk back down and repeat.


Plyometrics for Runners  – The Conclusion

There you have it.

Now not only you know what plyometrics training is all about but also have a plyometric workout you can start doing right away.

That’s pretty cool.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Keep running strong.

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