Whether you’re just getting into running, preparing for your first 5K, or attempting a full marathon, you might be wondering how you can get a little faster on your feet. One way: Add plyometrics to your training.
Plyometrics, which are movements where you jump explosively and spend as little time on the ground as possible, have been found to improve running speed and efficiency. “When you run, you need to produce force against the ground as quickly as possible,” says Jason Karp, PhD, a running coach and owner of Run-Fit. “Plyometrics improve your muscle’s ability to produce force quickly.”
What makes plyometrics so unique is their ability to target two kinds of muscle movements: shortening and lengthening. “When you do quick movements where you jump, land, and jump again, your muscles are being asked to lengthen quickly, then shorten quickly, and then lengthen again,” he says. “This combination actually produces more force than if you just did a shortening move or a lengthening move alone.”
Plyometrics can be pretty intense, so Karp recommends starting with some basic movements and building on them each week.
Six-Week Plyometric Exercise Routine for Runners
These moves all target your glutes, quads, calves, and core. Try to spend as little time on the ground as possible between jumps. Do the routine twice each week in addition to any running you’re doing.
Stand on left leg. Hop 10 times, then hop forward and back 10 times, then hop side to side (shown here) 10 times. Repeat on right leg, rest, then do one more set.
Stand on your left leg in front of a step or small platform. Hop up onto the step and walk down. Stand on right leg and do the same. Repeat 10 times on each leg. Rest, then do one more set.
Same two movements as Week 1.
Same two movements as Week 2, plus:
Double Leg Bound
Start in a squat position, then jump forward with both legs as far as you can. Repeat 10 times. Rest, then do one more set.
Alternate Leg Bound
This move looks like an exaggerated running motion, but you’re bounding forward as far as you can from one leg to the other (not pictured; it will look like a combination of running and jumping). Repeat 10 times on each leg. Rest, then do one more set.
Same four movements as Week 3, plus:
With hands on hips the entire time, squat down, then jump straight up as high as you can. When you land, lower back down into a squat position smoothly, then immediately jump again. Repeat 10 times. Rest, then do one more set.
Same five movements as Week 4, plus:
Stand on a one-foot tall box. Jump onto the ground with both feet and land in a squat. then jump straight up as high as you can. Step up onto box, repeat 10 times. Rest, then do one more set.
From the ground, jump up with both feet onto a box about a foot high, then immediately jump back down to the ground. Do 10 reps. Rest, then do one more set.
Same seven movements as Week 5.