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The 15 Best Plyometric Exercises for Runners + Benefits

Boost your power and speed with these high intensity exercises.

As runners we tend to focus solely on our running workouts, when it is equally important to weave in all of the other components of being a strong and healthy athlete.

One of these components is resistance training, or strength training. As a certified running coach myself, I strongly suggest that all of my athletes include a couple of strength training workouts a week to their training program.

While focusing on weightlifting in the gym for strength is key, adding plyometric training into your gym sessions is a great way to boost your power, help you run faster, and improve your overall running performance.

In this guide to plyometric exercises for runners, we will show you how these fast, explosive cross-training exercises are designed to improve your endurance, strength, coordination, stability, and conditioning.

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 power output.

There is minimal ground contact time with the ground as the goal is to bounce back off the surface as quickly as possible.

Training your muscles to contract quickly produces explosive power, resulting in improved running economy. 

Can Plyometrics Help With Running?

Plyometric exercises have excellent benefits for short and long-distance running and complement your training plan.

Plyometric drills will improve our…

  • Coordination and stride rate to better our running economy.
  • Stability to avoid rolling ankles on the trails or road.
  • Muscles and joint strength to help keep us injury-free. 
  • Vo2Max, speed, and power, I mean, who doesn’t want to be faster?
  • Endurance at faster paces to race stronger and longer.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Generate more significant power in your body and nervous system by efficiently recruiting muscle fibers.

Even though plyometrics have excellent benefits, they also come with some risks because they are high-impact exercises.

#1: Having a Strong Base

If you are not currently doing any strength training, you don’t want to jump right into plyometrics —no pun intended.

Before starting, you’ll want to have a solid weight training base to ensure your muscles and joints are strong enough to endure the impact of plyometrics. 

In addition to a solid strength training base, you need a cardiovascular base as well. Plyometric exercises raise your heart rate sky-high, so you want to be able to handle those spikes during training.

Plyometric exercises for runners

#2: Focusing on Your Technique

As a coach, I can never stress enough how important proper technique is for any exercise you do at the gym or any sport for that matter. Using the correct technique will help avoid injuries and reap the benefits of the activity.

You must be extra careful with plyometrics, as the impact of these exercises is incredibly high. If the movement is done incorrectly, there is a greater risk of injury. 

Be sure to follow the instructions for each exercise. 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 to correct your technique as you learn.

Do You Need Any Equipment To Do Plyometrics?

Not much! Most plyometric exercises are done with just your body weight.

You may want an exercise mat to reduce impact when you land and a box you can jump on for exercises such as box jumps and depth jumps. If you don’t have a box available, you could use stairs or a bench.

Should Plyometrics Be Done Before Or After Running?

To ensure your recovery days stay recovery days, I would tack these sessions on to your strength training workout in the afternoon or evening after you perform your speed work run session in the morning. 

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

What Are The Best Plyometric Exercises For Runners?

Before we get into the exercises, we want to give you some tips to get started to ensure your sessions are successful and that you reduce the risk of injury as much as possible.

Warm-up

As plyometric exercises are high-impact, you want to be sure you are warmed up before you begin. If you tack on these exercises to the end of your strength training session as a metabolic closing to your workout, you will already be warmed up.

If not, 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, or bike; anything that will get you moving. 

You could also add a few dynamic stretches focused on the muscles you use in your plyometrics, mainly the legs.

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 two sets, increasing reps and sets gradually as you progress over the weeks. These exercises must be eased into your workout.

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

Let’s take a look!

Plyometric Workouts For Runners – Advice For Getting Started

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

  • Land 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, like a pogo stick. 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 proper technique to perform a rep. It’s better to call it quits when your technique begins to waiver. 
  • 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.
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 as the rope passes under your feet. 

Tip: You can jump with both feet or do single-leg jump rope on only 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 together. 
  2. Jump and simultaneously bring your hands over your head and land with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  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 your feet forward to your hands and jump back into a squat position.
  5. Jump explosively straight up in a vertical jump movement. 
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 body off the ground and your arms back behind you. 
  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.
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 between your feet with your hands.
  3. Launch off from the squat position, snap your feet together, and bring your hands over your head in a jumping jack position.
  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 you would 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 in a lunge position on the other side 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 above your head 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

How Often Should Distance Runners Do Plyometrics?

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

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

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

If you are looking to add strength training to your running program in general, check out this next guide:

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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 racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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