I’m delighted to welcome Matt Barnett to the blog. Matt is a strength and conditioning coach, and colleague of mine, in south west London. Matt has a great pedigree, with previous role as Strength and Conditioning coach at Sale Sharks Rugby Union team.
Matt has already helped me with my plyometric work, so, as I’m always looking for ways to help you improve your running, I had to get him on the blog!…so, over to you Matt…
Plyometric workout for runners – Get a spring in your step!
Any strength and conditioning textbook will tell you that the aim of plyometric training is to utilise the stretch shortening cycle, to aid force production, by taking advantage of the stretch reflex, elastic properties of the tendons and series elastic component of the muscle.
The stretch reflex is an automatic regulatory action, that is triggered by the stretch of a muscle fibre(s) and the speed of the stretch. It is a reflex that can stop the muscle from being damaged by over stretching, or stretching too rapidly to control. This is why it is important to be strong i.e. your muscle must be strong enough to cope with the loads involved!
If all that may as well have been written in Dutch, then all you need to know is: Plyometric training is taking advantage of the elastic properties of your tendons and muscles to aid you in producing more force.
Lower body plyometric training is jumping, leaping and bounding. You may ask, as a runner, why do I need to jump and bound? Simple answer: it’s the easiest way to regulate your training load and volume. It makes it easier for your coach to prescribe the volume and change intensity. Plus, jumping involves triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips, all of which you perform when running.
Your next question is probably: why do I need to include plyometric training into my routine – I don’t jump around my 10k race! Well, again, without getting too complicated, your ability to produce force repetitively when running is going to determine how competitive you will be in the race, but the biggest factor, will be how you can conserve energy through the start, and middle phases of your race, so you can finish with a bang! It’s all about economy. Utilising the elastic properties, along with the stretch shortening cycle, will require A LOT less energy expenditure across a 10k, half marathon, full marathon or triathlon. If in each step, you can save just a small percentage of energy, you can reduce fatigue.
The next big reason to incorporate plyometrics into your training, is to increase the flight time of your gait, by increasing both vertical and horizontal ground reaction forces. So, for each step, if you can cover, even 1/2cm more, think about the total distance extra you won’t need to run over a marathon; improved economy.
Hopefully by now, you’re wanting to jump around the gym and incorporate plyo into your training. Great! But first, I should tell you that there are two rules to plyometrics. Each you must buy into, otherwise your risk of injury shoots through the roof.
#rule 1 – be strong!
I mentioned this at the top of this blog, but I cannot stress how important it is to be strong. Your body must be able to cope with the loads you are demanding of it. Various studies have shown between 1.5 and 2x body weight is the area to aim for, so for an average 70kg male, you’re looking at between 105-140kg 1rep max squat. It sounds like a lot, but if you incorporate strength training into your programme you will reap loads of rewards (Probably a topic for another blog).
#rule 2 – start slowly.
Your tendons need to adapt. This can take up to 4-6weeks. Again, this is to stop you getting injuries.
So get STRONG and start SLOWLY……
Beginners Plyometric Workout for Runners
So, a beginner’s plyo programme can be incorporated into your warm up, after some stretches and dynamic stretches…..
1) Ankle Bounds.
2-3sets of 6 bounds with 3-5min recovery
2) Low Hurdle Hops (bilateral)
2-3sets of 6 hops with 3-5min recovery
3) 10cm Drop Jump
2-3 sets of 2-3 jumps with 5min recovery
Total volume = 28-45 contacts
I would strongly advise that you get your technique assessed by a qualified professional before attempting a more complex routine, and more definitely does not mean better!
Plyometrics is all about quality of movement, and having the shortest possible contact time with the floor. If you make a heavy thud on landing, then regress the exercise, your contact should aim to be as quick as a single clap.
Last note, is to listen to your body. If you’re fatigued because you have run 10km every day this week, then your plyo routine will just add more load onto your tired legs and only open you up to an increased risk of injury.