Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Plyometrics and a 5 Round Pyramid Workout

As a runner, I am always looking for ways to safe-guard myself from injuries, ideal strength training workouts, and ways to improve my overall performance. It's not always easy to incorporate in the necessary cross-training into running, especially when you itch to get out and run, run for fun.

I will admit that I had gotten really lazy about my leg workouts, but finally forced myself to re-incorporate them into my workouts. Not just for aesthetic reasons, but for injury prevention and power/strength.

Another way to increase your power and strength is through plyometric exercises. Another admission is that I've slacked off with plyo workouts. I used to do them at least once a week, sometimes twice a week in conjunction with leg workouts. You're probably asking, "Why is this a bad thing?" or "What's your point?"

As a personal trainer and running coach, it's not just important for me to train properly, but to learn how to train others properly, effectively. This means I'm always trying to read up on ways to prevent injuries, ways to effectively incorporate leg workouts into a running plan, and ways to help clients who are quite simply short on time. This is where plyometrics come into the picture.

Plyo Intro

Plyometrics (or Plyo), also known as jump training, can help athletes improve balance, speed, power, stamina, and agility. Plyo can be especially good for distance runners who tend to primarily use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which enable lower intensity and higher endurance because they take longer to fatigue. Plyo exercises, however, engage fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the most powerful, but also lowest in endurance, fatiguing quickly.

Plyo training is based on research evidence that shows the stretch-shortening cycle prompts the stretch reflex of muscle and improves muscle power. It is the eccentric stretching (loading) followed by concentric shortening (contracting) of the muscle. The faster and greater the load, the more powerful the reflex and subsequent contraction.

One study found that runners who incorporated plyo workouts into their training plan were able to run 25 percent less mileage than the run-only group, but still improved their reactive leg strength and jumping power. This goes back to learning to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers that are responsible for explosive strength.

Simply put, plyometric training can help runners better maximize muscle recruitment, which can lead to increased running economy. The more muscles you recruit, the more oxygen you use, thus lowering your running economy. But if you can learn to maximize muscle recruitment, you will use fewer muscles, thus lowering your oxygen use.

According to Dr. Jason Karp, coach and exercise physiologist, “Increasing the rate at which muscles can produce force helps improve how oxygen is used to maintain any given speed. It’s really about exploiting the elastic properties of muscles and tendons and how they utilize elastic energy.”

Not only can plyo help increase power and speed, it can help runners do so with fewer miles on the road. Which, for many of us, can help lower the risks of injury.

Plyometrics workouts are not just for runners or other athletes, they are great fat-burning workouts because they engage several muscle groups simultaneously. You will elevate your heart rate, engage muscles, thus kicking up your calorie burn. Even better? Plyo workouts are short, so they're ideal for those who are short on time but looking for an efficient, effective workout.

Caveats 

There are a few caveats about plyometric workouts, however. Because of the rapid stretching of the muscle fibers, plyo exercises can cause injuries if you do not take precautions.

First, it is crucial that you always warm up, increasing your body temperature and loosening your muscles, preparing them for the work load.

Second, it is important that you perform the exercises properly with good form.

Third, if you're new to working out and/or plyo training and do not have adequate strength, it is important to ease into the training beginning with easier or modified versions of exercises. This is when having a trainer, coach, or physical therapist is beneficial.

Plyo Workout

After all the talk about the benefits of plyo workouts, I wanted to share one with you. As indicated in my third caveat above, if you're new to exercising or new to plyo, watch the videos or speak with your trainer for proper form, modify exercises as needed, and begin this workout slowly beginning with only 1 or 2 rounds.

Begin your workout with a 10 minute warm up that includes dynamic moves (examples: high knee pulls, butt kicks, jumping jacks, side to side lunges, knee repeaters, and squats) to warm up your muscles. Always end your workout with a 5-10 minute cool down that includes stretching.

You will do each exercise for the indicated time followed by an equal rest, then move to the next exercise. After completing all 7 exercises, rest 60 seconds before moving to the next round.


Video Examples

Plie Jacks
Alternating Split Jumps
Lateral Skates 
Squat Jumps
Lateral Hops
Tuck Jumps
Plyo Jacks

Do you incorporate plyo workouts into your training 

Sources:
Running Competitor
WebMD
Runners World