A word like plyometric could cause most new runners to flinch in pain, but they are not as complex as the name makes it sound, and are great for runners. But first, what exactly do plyometric exercises mean? To put it simply, they are dynamic, high-velocity exercises that build power, and force your muscles to lengthen and contract at top speeds, which makes them the most functional strength training exercises for runners.
Also, by building up the muscles’ ability to absorb impact, plyometrics take pressure off connecting tendons. Plus plyometric exercises help stabilize and align the knee joints upon impact, which reduces knee injuries.
If you do plyometric exercises, it takes less energy to run because explosive exercises enable the legs to function as a stiffer spring when the foot makes contact with the ground.
Jump squats help tone the calves, glutes, hamstrings, core, and quadriceps. For a squat jump get into a standard squat position, but keep your arms stretched outwards. Lower yourself into the deep squat position, stopping when your thighs are below the knee level. Instead of getting back up slowly, push up through your legs and launch yourself straight up, off the floor. Swing your arms over your head from the sides while jumping. Land back into the deep squat position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, and jump your feet back so that you’re in a plank. Do one push-up. Jump your feet back to your hands, and from this crouched position jump as high as you possibly can. Burpees are great even if you are not running as they provide a full-body workout, right from your feet to your neck.
Stand with your feet at a hip-width distance with arms bent and held to the sides. Lift your right leg up, bending the knee slightly and kick foot forward.Remember to keep your ankle flexed and push through your heal as you finish the kick. Next, place the right foot down and switch to the other leg. Repeat the same action for the left leg. Front kicks train the hamstrings to forcefully contract as your strike your feet on the ground. This strengthens the hamstrings which prevent injuries.
Bend and Reach
Unlike other plyometric workouts, the bend and reach exercise is slower paced. This exercise will help to prepare the spine and hips for various difficult movements by adding flexibility over time. Start with your arms stretched overhead, palms facing inward, fingers and thumbs extended and joined. In a squatting movement, allow the straightened arms to reach as far as possible between the legs. As you come back up, also stretch your torso by curving your back and extending the straightened arms.
Mountain climbers are a very good exercise to engage your core and strengthen your glutes. Start in the push-up position. Facing the ground, place your palms facing downwards with your arms pressing into your sides. Maintain the push-up position with the legs extended behind you, and core engaged. Raise your left knee to your left shoulder, then return your foot to the floor. Alternate legs, bringing your right knee to your right shoulder, then returning it back to the floor. This exercise needs to create a similar rhythm as if you are running.
Slowly bend both knees until your back knee barely touches the floor, before jumping upward and about a foot to the side. Make sure you land softly and in the same lunge position. Put in the next rep immediately. Use your arms to help generate power and height, while exploding upwards. Do this as part of a plyometric workout or as a finisher on lower body day. 5 to 8 reps on each leg for three sets should be good enough, but don’t forget to rest between sets.