Many runners like to do one thing—run. Strength training, cross training, or any form of exercise that isn’t directly running usually falls down the totem pole of interest and thus training priorities.
Plyometrics often fall in the camp of types of training that get relegated to the “if-there-is-time” pile.
However, plyometrics can be a great training tool to improve your speed and explosive power.
Not sure what the best plyometric exercises are to increase your speed and explosive power? Keep reading to learn about the benefits of plyometric exercises for speed for runners and why you should start jumping your way to better fitness.
We will cover:
- What Are Plyometrics Exercises?
- Benefits of Plyometrics for Runners
- 7 Plyometric Exercises For Speed
Let’s get started!
What Are Plyometrics Exercises?
Plyometrics are high-impact, explosive exercises that require your muscles and tendons to generate a lot of force rapidly.
Plyometrics build power, strength, and speed by conditioning your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems to support rapid force generation.
Examples of common plyometrics exercises for runners include box jumps, burpees, depth jumps, jump squats, and vigorous bounding.
Benefits of Plyometrics for Runners
Plyometric training is one of the most frequently overlooked types of exercise, particularly for runners.
Although many recreational runners or general gym goers who are not training for a specific sport decide that plyometric exercises are mainly reserved for serious power athletes, plyometric exercises can be beneficial for nearly everyone.
Even if you’re a beginner just starting to get in shape, adding just a few plyometric exercises into your weekly workout routine can help you run faster with little time invested.
The following are some of the primary benefits of plyometrics exercises for runners:
- Increasing heart rate and strengthening the cardiovascular system
- Burning a lot of calories and revving your metabolism
- Increasing bone density, and strengthening the muscles and connective tissues
- Improving athletic performance
- Providing an efficient form of exercise that requires little equipment
7 Plyometric Exercises For Speed
When it comes to plyometrics training, don’t preemptively count yourself out just because you’re a “slow” runner or a beginner in the gym.
No matter what your fitness level is, if you want to become a stronger, faster runner, consider adding a few plyometric exercises to your weekly workout routine.
Even if you don’t habitually or deliberately include plyometrics exercises in your training, you’ve likely already done one or more plyometric exercises in the past that you aren’t even aware of.
Although there are quite a few plyometrics exercises to help you run faster, here are a few of the best plyometric exercises for speed:
#1: Jump Squats
Jump squats are the plyometric version of a regular squat, so they involve performing a powerful, explosive vertical jump between each rep or a regular squat.
Here are the steps to perform a jump squat:
- Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, chest up, and back straight
- Perform a regular squat by bending your knees and sitting your butt back as if reaching to sit in a chair.
- Push through your heels and then your midfoot and toes to explode upward as high as you can jump, simultaneously straightening your knees, ankles, and hips and using your arms to power your body upwards into the air.
- As soon as you land from the jump, bend your knees to cushion the impact, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
- Move rapidly and powerfully from rep to rep.
Many runners are acquainted with burpees, perhaps in a love-hate relationship type of way.
This challenging, total-body exercise is essentially a jump squat, and full push-up cycled together continuously in one fluid motion.
The jump squats portion is what makes burpees a plyometric exercise.
Here are the steps to perform a burpee:
- Begin by performing a full squat as described above.
- Then, drop your hands to the ground in front of your body about shoulder-width apart.
- Press all your weight to your palms and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in a proper push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes.
- Complete one full push-up by bending your elbows to 90 degrees and lowering your chest towards the ground (without touching it) and then pushing through your palms to raise your body back up until your elbows are extended but not locked out.
- Shift all your weight into your palms and jump your feet forward towards your hands, springing your body up into the highest vertical jump, reaching up towards the ceiling.
- While you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
Bounding can be equated to exaggerated skipping.
When bounding to improve your running speed, you should focus on trying to attain as much vertical height as you can with each skip.
Here is how to do this one of our plyometric exercises for speed:
- Perform a skipping motion, using your arms and engaging your core to bound forward and upward, springing powerfully from your calves.
- Reach towards the sky with your opposite arm with each bound.
#4: On-Box Jumps
Jumping up onto a box with both feet is a dynamic plyometric exercise that strengthens your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and smaller hip muscles and gets your heart pounding.
Here is how to do on-box jumps:
- Stand facing a plyometric box with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side, and knees bent slightly. Start with a box that’s 8-10 inches high, and then progress to increasingly taller boxes as you get stronger and more competent with your technique.
- Bend your hips and knees to drop into a partial or full squat, and then use your arms to drive your body upward above the box such that you land both feet on the box.
- Jump backward back down off the box and then repeat.
#5: Clapping Push-Ups
Although most plyometric exercises for speed primarily work the legs, having strong, powerful arms can also improve sprint speed by enabling you to have a more explosive arm drive.
This challenging upper-body plyometric exercise is a variation on a standard push-up that requires you to generate enough power to get both hands off the floor simultaneously so that you can clap between reps.
Here are the steps to do clapping push-ups:
- Begin in a regular push-up position with your toes and hands on the floor, your core engaged, and your hips in line with your body. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Perform a regular push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest towards the floor.
- On the way up, press forcefully into the ground through your palms to propel your entire upper body and hands off the ground, keeping your toes on the ground.
- Quickly clap your hands together under your chest and then get your hands back into position—shoulder-width apart—to catch your body on your landing.
- Move continuously and rapidly into the floor again.
#6: Medicine Ball Broad Jumps
This is a weighted plyometric exercise, but you can start this exercise with no weight.
As you get stronger, build up to using a 10-pound medicine ball, as adding resistance will increase the strength component and improve the ability of your muscles to generate more force.
Here are the steps:
- Start by standing upright, holding a medicine ball straight overhead with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Drive the medicine ball down towards the floor as you flex your hips and knees to prepare for the jump. This is the eccentric phase of the plyometric exercise, where you are storing elastic energy.
- Explode off the balls of your feet, throwing your arms in front of your body and releasing the ball ahead.
- Jump out as far as possible, focusing on maximizing your horizontal distance. Keep your trajectory at 45 degrees relative to the floor.
- Land softly with your knees bending to absorb the impact load of your body.
#7: Depth Jumps
This tough plyometric exercise is great for developing explosive speed for jumping higher.
This exercise has a strong eccentric (lowering) muscle action because you start on a raised box rather than the floor.
Therefore, you get the true stretch-shortening cycle that activates the central nervous system and increases muscle firing rates, and increases the force the muscles can generate.
- Start on a plyometric box that’s 6-30 inches high, depending on your experience level.
- Step down, one foot at a time, as if you’re sort of falling into the ground, storing energy in your legs.
- The instant both feet have landed, jump as high as you can, straight into the air, without pausing or lowering into a partial squat beforehand.
- Throw your arms upward as you jump for momentum.
- Pause and rest before doing another rep.
When it comes to plyometrics training, don’t preemptively count yourself out just because you’re a “slow” runner or a beginner in the gym. No matter what your fitness level is, if you want to become a stronger, faster runner, consider adding a few plyometric exercises to your weekly workout routine.
For some more plyometric exercises for runners, check out our guide full of more step-by-step instructions and gifs.