Use these plyometric exercises from coaching editor Phil Mosley for research-proven running benefits, adding power and functional strength to your run performance.
1. Walking Lunges
This is the first part of your warm-up, so don’t do anything too vigorous. Step forwards and bend at your front knee, keeping it above (not beyond) your toes. Keep your back straight and keep your rear foot planted, toes down. Your rear knee should move near the ground and you’ll feel a stretch in your rear leg. Now do another walking lunge on the other leg. Keep this going for a minute, but don’t overstretch.
2. Standing Squats
This is the second part of your warm-up. Plant your feet hip width apart. Lower your bottom towards the ground, keeping a straight back. Keep your knees over your toes and keep moving your bottom towards the ground until you get to a comfortable stopping point. Now come back up. Well done, that’s one squat. Do this exercise for a minute at a steady, consistent pace – but not fast.
3. Star Jumps
You may remember this warm-up exercise from school. Also known as jumping jacks if you’re not from the UK (or you’re too cool to say star jumps). Start by standing tall, with your feet together and your arms together above your head. Then jump into a star position, before jumping back into the starting position. Keep going for a minute and you’ll be nicely warmed up to start your plyometrics routine.
4. Feet Together Jumps
This is where the warm-up ends and the hard work begins. The aim is to explosively jump as high as you can off both feet, landing carefully. See if you can do 20. If not, do as many as you can, making sure you stop before any pain or exhaustion. Then aim to build them up over time. Tip: if you live in an upstairs flat, make sure your neighbours aren’t in – they may not share your enthusiasm for plyometrics.
5. Alternative Leg Lunge Jumps
This exercise is a little like walking lunges except you’re a) jumping and b) not walking. Start in a lunge with your right leg facing the front and your left leg facing the rear. Leap up in the air, switch legs in mid air and then land with your left leg facing the front and your right leg facing rearwards. Don’t let your front knee go beyond your front foot, and focus on balance and keep your back straight. Try for 20 reps.
6. Multi-Directional Hops
Start this exercise by hopping on the spot 15 times, with a spring in your step. Done that? Now hop side to side 15 times, over a distance of about 30cm. Now do another 15 hops but this time in a forwards and backwards direction. Once you’ve completed that, do the whole thing again but on your other leg. Aim for speed and precision in your hops, rather than randomly hopping all over the place.
7. Ankle Jumps
This exercise requires you to jump up towards the ceiling, using only your ankle muscles for propulsion. Over time it’ll improve the toe-off phase of your running. It’s not easy though. Start with your legs at hip width and knees straight. Without bending your knees, use your calf muscles to propel you skywards. Do this for another 19 reps and you’re done. You may not get very high at first, but you’ll soon improve.
8. Standing Leaps
This exercise is a bit like a long jump, but without the running start. Make sure you have plenty of clear space before you attempt it. Start with your feet at hip width. Crouch down with your arms straight behind you. Then leap forwards. Use your arms to give you some momentum if you like. It doesn’t matter how far you leap as long as you give it an explosive effort. These are hard, so attempt 10-20 reps.
Team Talk: Starting Out
“Practising plyometrics and other running drills is a great habit to get into when you’re new to running, as it will help condition your body for the impact of hitting the road. But to keep it safe, do these exercises on a surface with some give, such as a flat stretch of grass, or a couple of gym mats on top of each other. Otherwise you risk impact injuries or just very sore feet!”
Liz Hufton, Triathlon Plus Editor