What is plyometrics?
This is typically for about 30 seconds, and then you will rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat. Plyometrics helps you recruit more muscle, thus helping you run faster and more efficiently. Studies show that after two months of plyo training, you will see results.
Understanding muscle recruitment process
When you do speed work or exercises such as plyometrics, you begin to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers help with speed and with rapid movements like jumping. They contract quickly, but they tire out quickly, too, so they use a lot of energy. It is to your benefit to have both, especially if you are a long distance runner. This can allow you to run not only farther, but faster while doing so.
In order to improve your ability to run, you have to maximize your muscle recruitment. The more muscles you recruit, the more you empower your body to leave the ground and go faster. However, you also want to use as few muscle fibers as necessary when you run, because the fewer muscles you use the less energy you expend, resulting in longer runs and better running economy.
Why is running economy important?
Using fast-twitch muscles is key, because you may start out using just slow-twitch muscle to hold your steady pace but after a while, those slow-twitch fibers will fatigue and fast-twitch muscle fibers will need to be recruited to keep you on pace. That's where plyometrics come in. You need fast-twitch muscle fibers in your arsenal and plyo will help you get them.
When you increase your running economy, you become a more efficient runner. This means you can maintain a given speed over a longer distance. The better your muscles are at producing force against the ground at a quicker pace, the less time your body actually spends on the ground. Again, this is where plyometrics can come in handy. It is jump training; and during plyo, your body will get used to spending time off the ground.
Plyometrics can help distance runners recruit muscle fibers more efficiently. Recent studies have shown that plyometrics will improve your running economy. A recent article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning followed 35 runners for 8 weeks. All ran the same mileage and subscribed to either a weight-training program or a plyometric routine. In just 8 weeks, the study showed that plyo improved running economy more efficiently than the weight-training program did.
Putting plyo into practice
Remember to start gradually. You will want to begin with just two sessions per week, otherwise, you run the risk of injury. Do just two sets of ten repetitions. Allow full recovery between sets. Do these exercises on a soft surface, such as grass, carpeting or a gym mat because you will be jumping up and down.
- Alternate bounding: To perform an alternate bound, begin with a very long running stride and exaggerate the knee lift. Bound for 30 yards and then rest for one minute. Do this four times. As you get better at this, you can increase your distance to 80 yards.
- Skipping: This exercise is simple. Just skip for 30 yards and then rest for one minute. Do these for four reps. Gradually increase your distance to 80 yards as you build up your endurance.
- Lunge jumps: Start in a lunge position and then jump straight up in the air and move forward. Make sure to push off your front leg. Land again in the lunge position. Repeat for 10 yards and then rest for 45 seconds. Do this for three reps, working your way up to six repetitions. In later sessions, you can increase your distance, working your way up to 80 yards.
- Two-foot hops: Standing up straight, keep your feet together and simply hop forward side-to-side for 10 yards. Rest for 45 seconds. Do this for three sets. Work your way up to a maximum of six sets.
Try these exercises for eight weeks and see how your running economy improves. Chances are that you will see an improvement in your running with you now being able to run faster and farther.