Now, for distance runners, the idea of “explosive movements” is probably a little intimidating. We tend to like nice, long, measured efforts where we feel in control. And it’s true that we don’t have to do the same explosive training that a triple jumper or short sprinter would do. But, training your muscles to contract quickly is still beneficial for a distance runner.
When I start an athlete out on plyometrics, we tend to start with very low-impact exercises. In fact, people who work with sprinters and jumpers would probably argue that it’s not plyometrics. And they’re probably right, but these exercises help bridge the gap between long, sustained running efforts and more explosive movements.
As runners we tend to spend most of our exercise time, well, running. But there are a number of things outside of running that you can do to make yourself a better runner. Previously I talked a little bit about core work and its importance and benefits. Today I want to talk about the basics of plyometrics and how it can help make you faster.
Plyometrics are exercises and drills that are designed to produce explosive movements – building strength while also training the nervous system. Without getting too in-depth in the science behind it, the basic idea is that your muscles will contract faster and more powerfully if they are first lengthened.
For example, if you are doing squat jumps, you’re able to jump higher and more powerfully by squatting down first rather than jumping from a standing position. So you’re using the elastic properties of your muscles to “cheat” and get a more powerful contraction that you would be able to otherwise.
Try adding these in slowly, a couple days a week at first and see how you feel. They’re not for everyone, but you may find they’re the missing component that will take your training to the next level!