Extract from the August 2011 issue of Runner's World
“The emphasis in all plyometric exercises is on ‘intensity technique’ – the more dynamic the move and the greater the power generated, the fewer foot contacts are required,” says Sawyer. “As training phases progress, maintaining quality is crucial. Fatigue shouldn’t set in at any point to allow for full optimum development. If you start to tire and compromise the precision of your movement, then you need to take it back a stage.”
TWO-FOOTED ANKLE HOPS
Stand straight up with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Hop upwards and forwards slightly using only your calf muscles, emphasising a full range of vertical movement. Hop forwards for five metres. Complete three sets in total, moving up to a maximum of six sets as you improve.
Place small hurdles 30cm apart over the five metres. Hop as before, but this time focus as much on the precision of your foot placement between the hurdles, as on powerful upward motion.
Set up the hurdles as above but start the process by initially dropping from a small height – a box or step set just below knee-height. This creates an even more dynamic stretch on the first hop.
SPLIT SQUAT JUMPS
This works on single-leg explosiveness. Start in a split squat position – one leg in front of the other, back knee close to the ground without touching it. Jump as high as possible, propelling yourself forward. Cycle legs in the air to land with your other leg forward. Cover 10 metres, for three sets, progressing to a maximum of six.
Add a weighted vest. Most gyms now have a couple of these for free use, or they can be purchased to take bodyweight exercises to a more advanced resistance level without the stress or unwanted bulk of lifting free-weights.
Drop from a box or step set at knee height on the first jump to emphasise the first stretch. Spilt squats mimic the single-leg motion of running, so use your opposite arm to generate upward momentum and improve your form.
Bound forward as far as possible with one leg then move straight into the next bound with the other leg. Concentrate on creating a constant rhythm, rather than pausing unnecessarily between bounds. Bound forward five times and repeat for three sets
Build up to six sets of 10 reps. This is similar to the split squats, except you should be striving for as much horizontal distance as possible on each and every bound.
Add a weighted vest. Ten bounds with added weight is a test of power-endurance. It is vital that you maintain form with a straight back and knee over the foot to avoid the chance of injury. Look to point your foot slightly inwards rather than splaying out.
SINGLE LEG TRIPLE JUMP
This is a cross between the split squats and bounding. Cover as much distance as possible in three consecutive jumps on one leg, then repeat for the other leg. That’s one set. Do three sets of two reps.
Add a weighted vest. The reps and sets are low for a reason. This exercise is an extremely stressful one, and while that provides more muscle development in a shorter time, it is vital that you focus on quality, not quantity.
Drop from a small height, again, knee-height or lower. The idea is to enhance that first stretch, not lose all your forward momentum into the ground as you drop. If you struggle to move forward off the drop then decrease the height.
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