The 15 Best Plyometric Exercises for Runners + Benefits

Runners tend to get a – often deserved – bad wrap for ignoring cross-training.

Today, we’re going to introduce you to plyometric exercises for runners: fast, explosive cross-training exercises designed to improve your endurance, strength, coordination, stability, and conditioning.

By incorporating some of these exercises into your routine, you’ll switch things up – and note improvements very quickly.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • What Are Plyometric Exercises?
  • Why They’re Beneficial For Runners
  • How To / When To Perform Plyometric Exercises
  • General Safety and Technique Tips
  • Our 15 Best Plyometric Exercises For Runners, split into:
    • 5 for beginners
    • 5 for intermediate levels
    • 5 advanced exercises.

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

Plyometric exercises for runners

What are Plyometric Exercises?

Plyometrics are exercises that involve fast, explosive movements such as skipping and jumping that maximize muscle contractions and boost your power output. There is minimal contact with the ground as the goal is to bounce back off the surface as quickly as possible.

By training your muscles to contract quickly, you will produce greater power, resulting in improved running. 

Plyometric exercises have excellent benefits for short and long-distance runners and are a great compliment to your training plan.

Why are Plyometric Exercises Important for Runners?

Plyometric exercises recruit muscle fibers more efficiently and generate more significant power in your body and nervous system alike.

Take a look at all of the benefits it provides for us as runners.

They will improve our…

  • Stability to avoid rolling ankles on the trails or road.
  • Muscles and joint strength to decrease our risk of injury. 
  • Vo2Max, speed, and power, I mean, who doesn’t want to be faster?
  • Endurance at faster paces to race stronger and longer.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning.

Wow, those are a LOT of benefits!

Even though Plyometrics are full of wonderful benefits, they also come with a bit of a risk

They are high impact exercises, and therefore, we need to avoid risk at all costs by:

#1 Having a Strong Base

If you are not currently doing any strength training, you don’t want to jump, no pun intended, right into plyometrics. You’ll want to have a solid weight training base before starting up to ensure your muscles and joints are strong enough to endure the impact that comes along with it. 

In addition to a strength training base, you do need to have a cardiovascular base as well.

Plyometric exercises bring your heart rate up sky-high, so you want to be able to handle those spikes during training.

Related: 6 Downsides of ONLY Running: Why Runners Need To Cross Train

Plyometric exercises for runners

#2 Focusing on Your Technique

I can never stress enough how important your technique is for all exercises and running alike, as it can prevent injuries in general.

Still, you need to be extra careful with plyometrics as the impact is incredibly high. There is a greater risk of injury if the movement is done incorrectly. 

Be sure to follow the instructions for each exercise with care. If possible, watch a video to get an even better idea of how to perform each one. The ideal situation would be to have a trainer with you to correct your technique as you learn.

Do you need any equipment to do plyometrics?

Not much! 

You may want an exercise mat to reduce impact when you land and a box you can jump on. You could use stairs or a bench if you don’t have a box available.

When should I do my plyometric workout? 

To ensure your recovery days stay recovery days, I would tack this on to your strength training session the afternoon or evening after you perform your speed work

Alternatively, if you have a day dedicated strictly to strength training, you could do it then to avoid overtraining. If you have one, ask your trainer when would be the best time to fit it into your training schedule to best enhance your performance.

Plyometric exercises for runners

Plyometrics Exercises For Runners- The Routine

Warm-up

As plyometric exercises are high-impact, you want to be sure you are warmed up before you begin. I suggest 5-10 minutes of light cardio to get your heart rate pumping and your muscles and joints warm and ready to go. You could jog, row, bike, or ski; anything that will get you moving. 

I have split the following exercises into three sections: beginner, intermediate and advanced, so you have a wide variety of routines and a place to start. 

First, I suggest performing 6-12 reps of each exercise for 2 sets, increasing reps and sets gradually as you progress over the weeks. These exercises must be eased into to prevent injury.

If you already do strength training, many of the exercises you perform at the gym most likely have their plyometric version.

Let’s take a look!

Plyometric Exercises For Runners – Advice For Getting Started

Let’s start off with some general tips when performing all plyometrics to reduce impact: 

  • Land very gently, on the balls of your feet, like a cat would. You don’t want to hear your steps in any of the exercises. 
  • Repeat each exercise quickly the moment your feet hit the floor. You want to minimize your contact with the floor as much as possible.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent at all times. Never extend completely. 
  • Engage your core and keep it tight for the duration of each exercise.
  • Never sacrifice correct technique to perform a rep. It’s better to call it quits when you begin to fail. 
  • Be sure to rest the indicated amount between sets.
  • Ease into these workouts.
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
Plyometric exercises for runners

Beginner Plyometric Exercises For Runners

#1 Scissor Jump

  1. Begin with your right foot forward and your left foot back, your left arm forward and right arm back. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees.
  3. Push off with the balls of your feet and switch your stance mid-air. 
  4. Land gently.
  5. Repeat immediately upon hitting the ground.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#2 Frog Jump

  1. Begin in a wide squat position with your feet turned out.
  2. Jump up and forward, landing softly on the balls of your feet.
  3. Jump back to your starting position. 
  4. Repeat.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#3 Jump Rope

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a jump rope handle in each hand. 
  3. Rotate your wrists to bring the rope over your head. 
  4. Jump on the balls of your feet. 

Tip: You can jump with both feet or one foot to increase the difficulty and work on stability. If you don’t have a jump rope, just simulate the motion.

Plyometric exercises for runners

#4 Jumping Jacks

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Jump and simultaneously bring your hands over your head and your land with your feet wider than shoulder-width.
  3. Jump off again instantly and return to your starting position.
Plyometric exercises for runners


#5 Burpees

  1. Lower into a squat position and place your hands on the floor in front of you. 
  2. Jump your legs back into a plank position. 
  3. Do a pushup.
  4. Jump feet forward to hands jump back into a squat position.
  5. Jump explosively straight up. 
  6. Repeat.
Plyometric exercises for runners


Intermediate Plyometrics Exercises For Runners

#6 Reverse Lunge with Knee Up

  1. Stand with legs hip-width apart. 
  2. Step your right foot back and bend into a reverse lunge.
  3. Shift your weight to your left foot. 
  4. Bring your right foot forward and jump off your left foot. 
  5. Land softly and repeat on the same side.
Plyometric exercises for runners


#7 Squat Jump

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Lower into a squat.
  3. Jump up explosively, bringing your arms back. 
  4. Land gently and immediately jump again.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#8 Front and Back Long Jumps

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart in a quarter squat, hands by your sides. 
  2. Launch forward with the balls of your feet, swinging your arms forward and upward. 
  3. Land gently, and immediately jump back to your starting position.
  4. Repeat.
Plyometric exercises for runners


#9 Touch Down Jacks

  1. Begin in a wide squat position with your feet turned out.
  2. In the squat position, touch the floor with your hands.
  3. Launch off from the squat position and snap your feet together.
  4. Jump again and return to the squat position.
Plyometric exercises for runners


#10 Plank Jacks

  1. Start in a plank position with your feet together.
  2. Jump your legs outward as in a jumping jack and then back together. 
  3. Repeat as quickly as possible. 

Tip: Keep your body steady, and don’t allow your hips to move up and down.

Plyometric exercises for runners

Advanced Plyometric Exercises for Runners

#11 Alternating Jumping Lunges

  1. Begin with your right foot forward and your left foot back, your left arm forward and right arm back. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees. 
  3. Bend into a lunge. 
  4. Launch off explosively and switch your arms and legs in mid-air.
  5. Land gently and immediately jump again.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#12 Front Box Jump

Note: You will need a plyo box (common in CrossFit exercises) or step for this exercise. 

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with the box or step about 6 inches in front of you.
  2. Get into a squat position with your arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms up and jump onto the box, landing gently on your toes.
  4. Step down gently from the box and repeat.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#13 Tuck Jump

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. 
  2. Jump as high as you can and bring your knees to your chest.
  3. Land gently on toes and immediately launch off again.
Plyometric exercises for runners

#14 Plyo Push Up

  1. Get into a pushup position. 
  2. Push up explosively and clap while in mid-air. 
  3. Land back into a pushup position and repeat.
Plyometrics


#15 Burpee with Tuck Jump

  1. Do a burpee, see exercise 5, and tuck your knees to your chest when jumping up. 
Plyometrics

Begin with one session per week of just a handful of these exercises, 6 reps, 2 sets.

You can gradually raise the reps and sets as you improve until you reach 12 reps and 3 sets. You can also begin to add in a few more exercises as you improve. 

Enjoy these tips and exercises, and I know you’ll love the benefits they’ll bring!

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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