Plyometrics For Runners – The 7 Exercises You Need

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

I’m a big fan of plyometrics for runners. In fact, plyometric training helps  increase calorie burn, challenge conditioning, improve explosiveness, all of which is key for improving athletic performance.

I started doing plyometrics years ago when I discovered it by going through a P90X program.

Since then, I try to always schedule a plyo workout into my workout schedule.

How do you actually get started?

That’s where today’s post comes in handy.

By the end of this article, you’ll not only understand what plyometric training is all about but also have the exact plyometric routine.

Here’s exactly what you’re going to learn:

  • What is plyometric training?
  • The 3 Phases Of A Plyo Exercise
  • The Benefits of Plyometrics for runners
  • How to Get Started With Plyometric Training
  • When to add a plyometric Workout
  • Proper Plyo Training Form & Technique
  • Warming up For plyo Training
  • The Plyometric workouts for runnes
  • And so much more….

It’s a lot but I promise, but it’s also fun!

(If you don’t want to learn more about plyo theory, then just skip the next paragraphs and head straight to the training routine).

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I’d use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. 

What is Plyometrics For Runners

Unlike classic weight lifting that involves picking up heavy objects then putting them down in a long, and slow manner, plyometric exercises require fast and explosive movements designed to increase power and speed.

In principle, plyo exercises take advantage of fast cyclical muscle firing known as ‘stretch-shortening cycle (SSC).

During plyo training, your muscles undergo an eccentric contraction followed by a fast transition to a concentric contraction.

Sounds complicated?

Let’s break this down.

When you think about plyo exercises, think explosive movements such as:

  • Skipping
  • Box jumps
  • Jumping lunges
  • Squat jumps
  • Clap press-ups
  • Single leg jumps

As you can already tell, these exercises tend to be fast and powerful movements that start with a muscle lengthening—or eccentric—action and is immediately followed by a muscle-shortening—or concentric—action.

The purpose of plyo training is to maximize muscle contractions, quickly, which boosts the output of muscle power.

The 3 Phases Of A Plyometric Exercises

Most plyo movements are comprised of three phases.

  • The first is known as the eccentric phase, or landing phase and it consists of rapid muscle lengthening movement—the pre-load of the agonist muscle group.
  • The amortization (dynamic stabilization) phase, or the transition phase is the second and involves a short resting period. This time needs to be as little possible or else energy stored during the 1st phase diminishes..
  • The third phase is known as the concentric phase or take-off phase and it consists of an explosive shortening movement that uses the stored energy to boost the force the movement.

To plyo train, you must repeat this three-part cycle as fast as possible with good form.

The aim behind this is to reduce the amount of time you spend between the eccentric and concentric movements.

After every plyo session, you should feel like battery acid has been pumped through your veins.

Intensity to the extreme.

runner doing plyometric exercises

The Benefits of Plyometrics Training

With consistent plyo training, you can increase the force you can produce with each movement, therefore, improve upon all of your athletic endeavors, whether it’s weight training, basketball, MMA, or running.

Just keep in mind that plyometric training works best when it’s used in combination with other workouts and not as a substitute for running or weight lifting.

Plyometric Exercises for Runners

The most efficient plyometrics for runners are the type that improves push-off power, ankle range of motion, increase stride length, and improve overall cardiovascular conditioning.

Not convinced yet?

Let’s check some of the research.

The Benefits

Study I

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who did a 6-week plyometric training routine improved their 2400m race times by roughly 4 percent.

This improvement is the result of increased lower body power and explosiveness, which is the baseline on which top speed is maintained throughout a run.

Study II

Plyometric training improves running economy more than lifting weights, according to an 8-week study conducted at the University of Montreal.

If you are not convinced yet, you can always do your own research.

Feel free to use your free time to google some!

Basic Plyo Gear

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

These include:

Box Sets

Also known as a plyo box, this is an essential plyometric exercise equipment.

Plyo boxes are designed various platforms of different widths and heights.

When choosing a plyo box, choose one with enough friction a the top and bottom to prevent slipping. You should also keep them at a completely level position to avoid accidents.

For more safety, consider getting a box with a sturdy steel frame to help absorb some of the impact.

Master The Basics First

Plyometric training is high-intensity, so it makes you prone to injury.

That’s why you master the key movements first before racking up the intensity.

I’m talking about push-ups, planks, squats, and lunges.

These four exercises are the basis of most plyo moves.

Once you build basic strength and good technique, you can move onto more challenging exercises, like jumping burpees or hand-clap push-ups.

Here’s the checklist:

  • To land correctly from jumping—landing on the forefoot, knees tracking over the toes, distribute the weight all over your legs
  • To have basic strength and endurance level
  • To have proper core strength and stability, and
  • To be injury-free.

When to Add a Plyometric Workout For Runners

As a beginner, you might be super excited.

But take at least two to three months to build the foundation by working on your overall endurance and strength before adding explosive training into your training program.

Add a plyo session once you have a solid foundation of cardio (you can run up a half an hour without losing your breath), and strength (Do at least 8 weeks of bodyweight training, think squats, pushups, planks, core and leg work) before you proceed to plyometric training.

How to Get Started With Plyometric Exercises

If this is your first time trying plyometric workouts, start with lower-impact moves and increase intensity and volume slowly.

Better safe than sorry, right?

As you get started, do no more than a 5- to the 10-minute circuit once a week for a couple of months before you up the ante.

I’d recommend starting by adding plyo exercises movements into exercises you already know how to perform safely.

For example, if you can do a proper lunge, add a jump to the top of the movement.

If you’re great at pushups, try plyo push-ups—a push-up with a jump.

Just keep in mind that form matters, both in during the ground portion and the “airborne” portion.

Here’s a list of some beginner-friendly bodyweight plyo exericesto try:

  • Burpees
  • Jump tucks
  • Jump squats
  • Split lunges

Start with three sets of 10 to 12 reps of each exercise, then gradually increase the number of repetitions and sets as you get stronger.

Take Enough Rest

Plyometric training puts a lot of stress on your muscles, bones, joints, and tendons.

When you’re just starting out, space out your plyo workouts with at least two to three days, or more if you feel the need to.

Don’t neglect recovery—or else you’ll regret it.

Believe me, I know!

For instance, if you are running three times a week, do one plyo session and use the other remaining days for total body strength and core training.

For the first several months of plyo training, I only did one workout per week (the plyo DVD workout from Pp90X), and I still got sore for days after.

My body needed a lot of time to adapt and adjust and that’s perfectly okay.

Plyometrics For Runners

Proper Plyometrics Form & Technique

As with any other high-intensity exercise, proper form maximizes efficiency and lowers injury risk.

That’s why I have included video tutorials (the best YouTube has to offer) along with practical tips on how to develop and keep proper plyometric training technique.

Here’s what to pay attention when doing plyometrics:

  • Keep your knees behind the toes throughout the movement.
  • Engage your core and keep your back flat
  • To generate jumping power, sink deep into your heels then absorb the impact as you sink back into the movement.
  • Do not compensate to perform a jump.
  • Don’t strike the floor with your sole. Use balls of your feet for better shock absor
  • Land softly. The less sound you make the better. Embrace your inner ninja.

Warming up For  A Plyometric Workout

A good warm-up kicks your body into gear.

To get started, do 5 to 10 minutes of jogging on the spot to increase your heart rate and core temperatures.

Next, stretch dynamically your body, starting from your head all the way down to your ankles.

Pay special attention to your range of motion and release any tension in your muscles.

Note – To perform some plyo exercises, you’ll need a few equipment such as a plyo box and a well-padded mat to help with the impact.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Exercises For An explosive Plyometric Workout For Runners

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.

Medicine Ball Slam

Stand tall with 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.


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.

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.

Skier Jumps

Begin in plank position, body in a straight line from head to heels and feet together.

While activating your core, thigh, and gluteal muscles, jump your feet toward the outer side of the right arm (keeping the feet together), hop back to the starting position, then jump the feet into the left side.

Continue jumping in and out from side to side as fast as possible for one full minute to complete one set.

Lateral Plyo Jumps

To improve your agility and explosive power, do the lateral plyometric jumps (and other plyometric exercises such box jumps, jump knee tucks, lateral leapfrog squats, and hurdle jumps)

Start with a short box or a step next to you that you can clear in one lateral jump.

Dip into a squat position as low as you can and quickly explode upward and sideways to the left over the box and land gently on both feet.

Immediately squat down and push upward and back to the starting position.

Weighted Box Jumps

Stand in front of a sturdy jump box or a weight bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand by the sides.

lower into a quarter squat, then jump off with both feet and land softly with bent knees on top of the box, then come to a standing position.

Last up, step down slowly, and jump back again as fast as possible while keeping good form.

Plyometric Push-up

Begin by assuming a regular pushup position on a well-padded mat or carpet, arms fully extended, hands around shoulder width and body in a straight line from head to toe.

Set up in the standard push-up position on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat, perform a push-up, but explode off the ground enough for their hands to come off the floor and clap midair.

Next, lower the chest to the ground, push up explosively with enough force for the hands to come off the floor and catch some air, then land softly.

Once you hit the floor, have them go immediately into the next push-up, exploding up again as hard as possible.

Frog Jumps

Stand tall, feet hip-width apart, then squat down while keeping your back upright, head u.

Then jump into the air, raising your knees as high as possible.

Aim for 10-12 reps to complete one rep.

Alternating Split Lunges

Assume a split lunge position with the right foot forward, and the left knee is almost touching the ground.

While keeping the shoulders pulled back and back flat, jump as high as possible, scissoring the legs mid-air, and landing in a lunge with the left leg forward.

Then, explode back up and switch feet position, ending up with the right leg forward again.

Continue by alternating legs as fast as possible with good form.

Lateral Hops

Begin by standing on the left foot with the left knee slightly bent or micro bent and right foot an inch or two off the ground.

Next, jump off the left leg and move laterally to the right.

Land on the right foot and bring the left foot behind the right, pause for a moment, and then immediately hop back off to the left, landing on the left foot.

That’s one rep.

Do 12 to 16 reps to complete one set.

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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