Do you get frustrated when your overall race time doesn’t budge no matter how much you find yourself boosting your training mileage? Maybe it’s time to mix it up off-season with body-weight power work.
Less is more
Researchers this past summer in Japan determined that adding some explosive movements like plyometrics – rapidly stretching and contracting muscles to increase muscle power – actually improved runners’ 5 kilometre distances times. As well as better times, runners noticed improved leg strength, balance and agility. Repeatedly jumping off the ground with controlled impact is one example of a plyometric move.
However, it is the way in which you do plyometrics that determines your success – if you do a plyo move without control and proper form, you risk injury. For instance, when you jump in the air, the way you land is key – if you don’t bend your knees to cushion your landing when you hit the ground, you can injure your knees or ankles.
TOP TIP: Think about making every jump count – when you jump, use your arms for added momentum and balance. Always bend your knees to cushion your impact.
BONUS TIP: Use a visualization technique: think of yourself as “light as a feather” and mix up the tempo of the move. As you get stronger, speed it up but always pay attention to proper form. Focus on the quality of the jumps, not the quantity.
Power up your training with these four essential moves:
1. Squat Jump
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed straight forward. Bend your knees into a squat and bring your arms in front of you so you feel your weight on your heels. Extend your legs to explode into the air, raising your arms over your head at the same time. When you land, bend your knees. Repeat 10 times, without pausing.
2. Split jump
From a standing position, move your front leg into a lunge position, thighs parallel to the ground. Extend your legs to jump into the air and, while in the air, alternate your legs so you land with your opposite leg in front. Without pausing, repeat 10 times, alternating legs.
3. Side hops
Stand with your feet together. Bend your legs and jump with your right leg out to the side, landing softly on your right foot. Without pausing, jump back on your left foot. Hop back and forth on each leg for 60 seconds.
4. Side shuffle
*BOSU ball required
Stand with one foot on the BOSU ball, the other on the floor. Jump sideways so your opposite foot is on the ball, the other by the side on the floor. Repeat the shuffle, side to side shifting your weight from one foot to the other. You can add to your momentum by raising your arms overhead as you explode over the ball. Try to keep your landings as short as possible.
Keep in mind: Do all 4 moves, rest for 2-3 minutes then repeat the entire sequence. Start by doing plyometrics twice a week on non-consecutive days.