Running Strength Training: Plyometric Training For Distance Runners

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running strength training

Running Strength Training: Plyometric Training For Distance Runners

Running strength training makes you faster, stronger and more resilient to injury. Gerald Smith explores how to improve the start phase with plyometric training. Improving running performance can be a difficult task because there are many aspects of running that need to be improved. For instance, hill running, transitioning from cycling to running for triathletes. In most cases the answer can be simple, if you want to improve your ability to run faster then run more or improve your core strength. However, there are other options that can yield faster results. One option is plyometric training which can be though off as jump training. This trains your muscles to release force as quickly as the string from a bow and arrow. Jumping movements are quick and jumping actually trains the nervous system, and because of its affect on the nervous system you won’t get bulky like a body builder. It will also strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
What you need to know What is it: Plyometric training involves jumping movements and was originated by Eastern bloc countries. Duration: 20-30 minutes Benefits: More forceful leg action during running, with less effort, improved running efficiency, increased time to exhaustion Difficulty ranking: 2 out of 5
Training the nervous system Most of us think that when we train it’s just the muscle we train, but the nervous system is as important as your muscles. This is because your nervous system decides how many muscle fibres you recruit when you run, or how quickly you produce force. For example, during the running stride you may currently be using 60% of your muscle mass in your legs. If you improve the nervous systems ability to recruit a greater amount of muscle fibres to around 70% of your muscle mass, you will produce 10% extra force even if you don’t improve your bodies aerobic (working with oxygen) capacity.plyometric training for distance runners The way the nervous system improves during plyometric training is that it will increase how quickly your muscles will produce force. You can think of your nervous system in the same way you think of a computers processor and random-access memory. The processor is what decides how quickly your computer will run the different programmes on the computer. This means that if your processor is slow than your programmes like word and excel will also run slow. Well the nervous system can also decide how quickly your body will use your muscles to produce force. A great example of this is in Olympic lifting when athletes get under the bar at blistering speeds. Obviously, we can’t upgrade our nervous system like we can with a processor but with training we can improve the speed of our nervous system to produce force. Running strength training plyometric The origin of plyometric training Plyometric exercises were first used by athletes involved in jumping, sprinting and throwing sports, by countries from the Eastern bloc. All these sports are anaerobic (short duration) but its popularity has increased to other sports like football, volleyball, weight lifting and many more. Plyometric training is used for power development. Power can be described as strength and speed combined. Plyometric training can be used to improve running performance because force development and the average force is which determines how quickly you move your body. There are other factors like power to weight ratio, and lung capacity that need be factored as well, but the importance of plyometric training cannot be ignored.  strength training for runners It has also been found that using this type of training also helps the body overcome the physiological hang over caused in Triathlon when you transition from cycling to running so there are many benefits to plyometric training. Now it is well known that running is a sport that requires great lung capacity and conditioning. You won’t need to worry about building large muscles from this type of training because it is trains the nervous system. It must be remembered that even though we want to improve our heart and lungs ability to get oxygen to the working muscles, you still need to produce large forces to move your body. As previously mentioned, plyometric training develops the speed of the nervous system, which in turn utilises the strength of the muscle and the tendons and ligaments. Plyometric training trains the muscles and connective tissues to produce force faster by increasing the rate of force development (speed the muscles produce force). Overall, plyometric training is a great way to improve performance. Check out this exercise program.

Strength training for runners Plyometric plan

via GIPHY

1) Lateral standing long jump

This is a nonstop jumping exercise so try and keep the ground contact time as short as possible. Make sure you use your arms to maximize your distance on your sideway jump. Muscles worked:
  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Hamstrings
  • glutes
  • Abductors
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest. Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and using muscles that are not used in running. Good for injury prevention.

2) Lunge jumps

Like on the previous exercise this is a nonstop jumping exercise and your feet must spend minimum time on the floor. Make sure that your feet are in a lunge position and that you use your arms to jump as high as you can. Muscles worked:
  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus maximus
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest. Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and power in the front of the leg. via GIPHY

3) Clap press ups

Push as high as you can so that you perform a jumping action with your arms. Perform the clapping action quickly and dynamicly. If you find this difficult then do normal press ups. Muscles worked:
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core
  • Triceps
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest. Benefits: You need to build power in both your upper body and lower body, so this exercise helps to balance the strength.

4) Squat Jump

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and then lower yourself to the floor at approximately 90 degrees. From the bottom position jump as high as you can. As soon as your feet touch the floor jump again. This is a nonstop jumping exercise so try and keep the ground contact time as short as possible. Muscles worked:
  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest. Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and power in the front of the leg. via GIPHY

Tuck jumps

Stand with your feet hip width apart and your body upright. Bend your knees and lean your body slightly forward and swing your arms back, and then quickly jump as high as you can while lifting your knees as high as possible. When you land keep your ground contact time as short as possible by immediately jumping again. Sets and Reps: 1 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest. Muscles worked
  • Hip flexors
  • Calf
  • Core
Benefits: Increased hip flexor strength and power for when you raise your knee during your running gait.
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