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.
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.
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Walking calf raises – there is a slight lengthening aspect to this exercise, but there is no impact. That combination makes it a great exercise for beginners.
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Body squat – another good exercise with a slight lengthening aspect and no impact.
As you begin to feel more comfortable with these exercises, you can progress to exercises with more explosiveness and slightly more impact.
Remember, though, that more explosiveness and more impact means more chance of injury, so don’t rush into these. Start with 1 set of 6 reps, and build from there. If at all possible, do them on grass or another soft surface, and I usually recommend keeping your shoes on to protect you better from the impact.
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Frog leaps – a great power exercise for competitive middle distance runners.
Rocket jumps – basically body squats with more power; these are useful for everything from 800 to 10k.
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!