The off-season is the ideal time to build explosive power. Plyometrics are high-velocity dynamic exercises that force muscles to lengthen and contract repeatedly at top speeds; this causes neuromuscular adaptations to increase the rate of motor unit activation as well as prevent injury. For these reasons, plyometrics are one of the most functional cross training activities for runners.
Recently published literature shows that explosive strength training combined with endurance running increases running economy and speed in competitive middle and long distance runners. For significant explosive-related and endurance adaptations for athletes, the exercises below should be performed 2x/week with 2 sets of 10 reps for each activity.
Drop Bounce Jumps: Start standing on top of a 16-18” box with knees slightly bent; jump forward off the box landing on both feet in a squatted position. From this position, immediately explode up into a vertical jump and land in the same location, again in a squatted position. This is best performed in front of a mirror with focus on landing equally on both feet and keeping neutral alignment of the knees – do not let the knees come together when landing. Perform 10 repetitions.
Squat Jumps: Start in a squat position, explode vertically into the air and land in a squat, absorbing force equally through both legs, and controlling the knees from coming together. Perform 10 repetitions.
Scissor Jumps: Starting in a lunge position with the right foot forward, jump straight into the air and switch feet to land in a lunge with the left foot forward. Repeat alternating between the two legs until you have completed 10 reps on each side.
Step Hops: Start at the base of a 2-4” step. Hop on one foot forward onto the step and backwards off the step as quick as possible for 10 repititions. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Single Leg Squat Jumps: Standing on right leg, lower into a single leg squat (pictured above) and then jump off the ground bringing the left leg towards the ceiling. Land in the same position you started on the right. Perform 10, and then switch legs.
Skaters: Start in a lateral lunge with the right hand reaching for the left foot. Explode off the left foot and land in a lateral lunge on the right with the opposite hand reaching for the right foot. Perform 20 total (10 each side).