Leap into Plyometrics

As you probably already know today…2016 is a Leap Year. We get an extra day this month to work on being the best version of ourselves. What will you do in your training today to get better?

I will in the spirit of Leap Year be doing a series of jumps, leaps, and bounds in my workout. On Mondays I break up my training by doing strength training in the morning and some type of run in the afternoon. During my strength session today I will be pairing strength exercises with a plyometric exercise. Many runners still tend to shy away from weights, using mostly body weight exercises or lighter weight for fear of bulking up. It is very important for runners to not be afraid of heavier strength training as it can not only help them ward off injuries, but also help make them better and more efficient runners.

Older runners tend to lose running efficiency when their stride begins to shorten.  Strength training is a great tool to help fight these decreases in performance.

Recently someone reached out to me and asked how to maintain strength while training for long distance aerobic events. I recommended the following outline to their program. I am currently using the same program for myself as I get ready for Spring races including a Master’s Track and Field event.  I suggested doing between 3-4 sets of 3-4 reps using weight between 85-90 % of your one rep max or 1RM. In my training I am also pairing each of these strength exercises with a similarly paired plyometric or explosive exercise.

For example I will perform a set of front squats using 85-90% of my 1RM for the 3-4 reps mentioned above, followed immediately by a set of jump squats to a bench.

So in the spirit of Leap Year here are a few factoids about Plyometrics:

Frank Wilt a track and field coach created the term plyometrics in 1975. This type of explosive training took hold and many coaches began to use these exercises to try to combine strength with the ability to improve power.

The definition of plyometrics is defined as exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible. (Jumping Into Plyometrics -SecondEdition page 2, Donald A. Chu,PhD) .

There are three different phases of plyometric exercises.

  • Eccentric phase (deceleration)
  • Amortization phase (the brief period of time where the muscle stabilizes and prepares to transition from loading or storing the energy to releasing it)
  • Concentric phase (releasing the stored energy).

Plyometrics  targsquat_jump_plyometricset your  fast twitch muscle fibers (Type II), which are good for high intensity exercises like sprinting, football, the track and field event of the high jump, etc. Many runners ignore this type of muscle fiber. Long distance running uses Slow Twitch muscle fibers (Type I), which is good for running over a long distance.

You may think as a distance runner you do not need explosive exercises but think of powering up that hill, or that final kick as you see the finish line and your new PR in sight, and you can see how plyometrics can help you.

Before incorporating plyometric exercises, athletes and clients alike must have the ability to balance efficiently, and possess adequate core strength, joint stability and range of motion. Plyometric drills may not be suitable for those with chronic or limiting conditions (1,2).

Try to incorporate plyometrics into your own workout. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, and make yourself a more powerful runner, but you may become a faster running by improving your running economy and maintaining your stride rate.

Sources

1.Clark, MA, Lucett, SC, Sutton, BG. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012.

2.Clark, MA, Lucett, SC. NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010.