Explosive exercises will increase your speed and lessen your chance of injury.
Plyometrics – dynamic, high-velocity exercises that build explosive power – force your muscles to lengthen and contract over and over again at top speeds (just like running does!), which makes them the most functional strength training a runner can do, says sports-medicine physician and Ironman competitor Dr Jordan D. Metzl. Add plyometrics to your routine at least once a week, says Dr. Metzl, and your runs will feel easier, you’ll be more resistant to injury, and you’ll even get faster. For the exercises below, do four sets of 15 reps of each move, and work up to seven sets.
Build Efficiency: “Explosive exercises enable the legs to function as a stiffer spring when the foot makes contact with the ground. As a result, it takes less energy to run,” says Dr. Metzl. In fact, in a study, runners who did eight weeks of plyometrics improved their running economy more than those who lifted weights.
Prevent Injury: By building up the muscles’ ability to absorb impact, plyometrics take pressure off connecting tendons, Dr. Metzl says. Plus, research in the Journal of Athletic Training shows that plyo exercises help stabilise and align the knee joints upon impact, likely reducing knee-injury risk.
Improve Speed: A Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study reports that runners who completed just six weeks of plyometrics improved their 2,400 metre race times by 3.9 per cent. Plyos boost lower-body power, helping you maintain speed throughout your runs–and kick it in the final stretch.
Plyometric Lunges work your entire lower body with an exaggerated running motion. Lunge forward with your right foot, lowering down until your left knee almost touches the ground, and swinging your left arm forward. Explosively push up off the ground and switch legs midair, landing with your left leg forward. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.
Jump Squats strengthen your glutes to power through runs and reduce strain on your knees and hips. With your feet turned out slightly and your arms extended out, lower down into a squat position until your butt is just lower than your knees. Jump up quickly, landing as softly as possible without letting your knees fall in toward each other.
Plyometric Single-Leg Toe-touches improve your balance and work your glutes and hamstrings. Stand on your right foot with your left leg extended out and arms out to your sides. Bend your right knee and reach forward to touch your right foot with your left hand. Straighten back up and jump up. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Burpees strengthen your whole body and boost your cardiac capacity. 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 up as high as you can.