Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plyometric Training

Like most runners, Jen doesn’t like plyometics.  Why?  Because Jen can’t jump.

Actually take that back!  Now she can.  If you missed it, read here.

What is Plyometrics? 

Plyometrics is just a fancy term for “Jump Training.”

The American College of Sports Medicine’s Resources for the Health Fitness Specialist (Liguori, 2014) gives a more detailed description: “Plyometic training refers to a specialized method of conditioning designed to enhance neuromuscular performance.  Unlike traditional strength-building exercises such as bench press and squat, plyometric training is characterized by quick, powerful movements that involve a rapid stretch of a muscle (eccentric muscle action) immediately followed by a rapid shortening of the same muscle (concentric muscle action).”

I’m a runner.  Why should I try Plyometric Training?
Plyometic training has been shown to improve running economy, balance, flexibility, coordination, strength and explosive power.  You may not realize it but running is a form of jumping.  And to improve your running, you must practice jumping.

Plyometrics isn’t just for sprinters and field events.  While distance runners mainly depend on slow-twitch aerobic muscle fibers, plyometric training helps to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers more efficiently.  If you are running 25-30 miles a week, you may be improving endurance and overall fitness but you are not changing your muscle power.  You can train your legs to turn over faster and push off harder by plyometric training.

How often should I incorporate Plyometic Training into my routine?
All you need is 10 minutes 2-3 days per week to make a difference.

Example Plyometic Workout for Runners:

Begin with a dynamic warm up.  Example: Wake Up Call, Walk + Squat, Leg Swings, High Knees/High Heels, Jumping Jacks.

1.     Toe Taps
Stand in front of a box or platform.  Alternate tapping the top of the platform with your toes.  Mimic a running motion with your arms as you are tapping your toes.  This is a quick exercise so keep moving and get that heart rate up!

2.     Single Leg Hops
Stand on one leg.  Jump up and down.  Then switch to jumping side to side and forward and back.  Repeat on the other leg.


3.     Squat Jumps
Begin by squatting.  Jump as high as you can in the air and land softly back in a squat position.  Repeat.

4.     Switch Lunge
Begin in a lunge position.  (Look for those nice 90-degree angles!)  Jump upward from lunge position and switch legs while you’re in the air.  Land softly in a lunge position with the opposite foot in front.  Repeat.

5.     Box Jumps
Look for a sturdy box or platform that is 12-24 inches high.  Start in a standing position.  Slightly squat downward and jump onto the box.  Take off with both feet and land on both feet.  You may use your arms for momentum.  Either step down off the box or jump down backward.  Repeat.  No resting in between jumps!  Increase height of the box as you progress.

Final thoughts:
Always warm up before beginning any plyometric training.  If you’re new to these exercises, start slow.  Low repetitions (1 set of 6-8 repetitions) and build (gradually increase number of sets and repetitions).  These exercises are meant to be done fast with minimal time spent on the ground.  Always make sure you are wearing proper footwear and jumping on a shock absorbing surface such as a suspended floor or grassy field.  If you’re too ambitious or exercises are done incorrectly, this can lead to injury.  Listen to your body.  If it’s telling you something, back off and see your doctor or physical therapist.

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