Article by Taryn Strydom, Strong Like A Girl
Running is really an extended series of hops from one leg to the other. Consider your gait next time you go for a run. There isn’t a moment when both feet are on the ground at the same time.
An important function of muscles and tendons in running is to store energy. Just like a pogo stick, your body stores energy from impact and releases it to propel your body forward. A large proportion of your propulsive energy actually comes from the energy stored in your legs from the previous impact.
While this “stretch-shortening cycle” has been known about for some time, standardised methods of training this reflex are fairly new. Improvements in your muscles’ ability to elastically store energy have obvious implications for runners, as more stored energy would mean you could maintain a given pace for less overall energy. That is, your efficiency would improve.
With Plyometric training, you can isolate and intensify the jumping element in your running, therefore, boost running performance without logging in more mileage.
The brainchild of Russian Dr Yuri Verkhoshansky, Plyometric movements, also known as explosive or jump exercise is a general term that’s usually used to describe and refer to any sort of explosive, jumping exercise. With consistent Plyo training, you can increase the force you can produce with each movement, therefore, improve upon all of your athletic endeavours, whether it’s weight training, CrossFit, MMA, or running.
In general, Plyometric training is probably best done during the lead-up to your “competitive season” or your big race. While you probably want a few days’ rest between a Plyometric workout and a race, you also don’t want to wait too long to race after stopping the program, since your gains will likely fade with time.
Plyometric exercises should not be done year-round, but rather included in the race-specific portion of your training (usually the last 4-6 weeks).
Plyometric training can be a powerful tool for improving your running economy, but treat it with the respect it deserves: it’s a high-intensity, high-impact workout that should be done when fresh and reasonably strong already. You should first build a fairly good level of general strength before beginning a Plyometric routine. If you haven’t been doing some weightlifting or body-weight strength exercises like lunges and squats, starting up with hurdle jumps and single-leg bounding is a recipe for injury.
Add a Plyometric session once you have a solid foundation of cardio (you can run for a half an hour without losing your breath), and strength (you have done 8 weeks of bodyweight training, think squats, pushups, planks, core etc.). In the beginning, you might only do a 5 – 10-minute circuit once a week for a couple of weeks before you up the ante. It’s all up to you and your fitness level.
Join our Trail Runner Bootcamp at Grey Goose Game Lodge on Saturday, 14 March 2020, where we’ll focus on Plyometric exercises specifically aimed at runners. You need to be a runner who has a good existing strength base to join, but we will still provide modifications for various fitness levels during the session. Register at www.likeagirl.fit.