Many of my clients and friends are getting their running training organised for the winter trail and marathon training season and many are worried about the balance between speed and endurance. Plyometric work is not a new form of training but is often associated with sprinters and power athletes. Long distance endurance athletes need not apply! But I want to let you marathon runners and triathletes enter the "dark side" of strength training rather than just pounding the pavement like you did last year. Resistance and power work is not going to make you bulk up and slow down!
So what are Plyometrics?
Plyometric exercises generate fast, powerful and explosive force through concentric contraction of the muscles and then the movements are stabilized and slowed down by eccentric muscle contractions. Think about jumping on the spot up and down repeatedly and you’ve got a basic plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercises are used to improve the rate of force production in a movement. For example, a sprinter would use plyometrics to improve their speed out of the blocks.
A plyometric exercise will be made up of 3 phases:
1. Eccentric phase- the muscles are lengthened under tension like an elastic band being stretched. They are storing up potential energy here ready to be released into action. Think of bending your knees before jumping up.
2. Stabilization phase- the muscle is stretched and ready to release, so it is held and the joints stabilized ready to go. Think of holding yourself for a brief moment with your knees bent.
3. Concentric phase- the potential energy stored and stabilized is now released and the muscles shorten, exerting maximal force on the object or the ground to create a fast and powerful movement. Think of jumping up as high and as fast as possible.
What are the benefits of Plyometric Workouts?
- Increase in speed of movement- reducing your ground contact time. You should consider that the more time you spend on the ground the more resistance you are under making your muscles work harder and longer which fatigues you quicker.
- Increase in the number of recruited muscle fibres allowing your body to work more efficiently and your legs to generate more force with less effort
- Increase in muscle contraction speed allowing you to connect brain to feet more efficiently
- Increase in muscle elasticity which aids power and reduces injury risk
- Increase in balance and reactivity due to eccentric muscle control which will allow you to keep good form through rough terrain or up and down curbs
- Injury prevention as a result of all of the above
By recruiting more muscle fibres and speeding up your rate of contraction through plyometric training you will be able to use less oxygen when running making you more efficient. This will also allow you to push harder to overtake or sprint to the finish as your body will have muscle fibres in reserve.
So any runners looking to improve your performance must consider adding plyometric exercises in your training. It will help you become more efficient which will allow you to push harder for longer without losing your form.
If you need any advice on what to do or would like a program please get in touch!