There’s a lot of research that supports the benefits of plyometric training for sprinting and that sprinters have good jumping ability (Chelley, 2010, Smirniotou, 2008, Kale, 2009, Barr, 2011, Bissas, 2008) to name a few. So of course we consider plyometric training the domain of the speed/power athlete.
But what about long distance runners can having the ability to jump well, help with your 5k race? and should you include plyometrics in a distance runner’s program - would it be ’functional’ for them?
It’s all about running economy!
Here’s a great article that measured a significant improvement in 3k performance due to improved musculotendon stiffness (MTS) and eccentric loading during foot strike which aids in the rate of force development (RFD) through the stretch shorten cycle (SSC) and ultimately in running economy (RE).
Here’s a summary
Background and Objective
Recently various authors have cited running economy (RE) as one of the best predictors for successful middle to long distance running, surpassing the previously well regarded VO2max. (Conley, Krahenbuhl, Burkett, & Millar, 1984; Daniels, 1998; Noakes, 1991). Traditionally a favored method of improving RE was to perform long slow distance training, known as LSD training.
However increasing your volume and distances can also increase injury risk. So what else is there to improve RE, well recent research has shown the effects of utilising simultaneous explosive-strength training (plyometrics) and endurance training produced a significant improvement in the 5-km running performance of well trained endurance athletes. Paavolainen, Hakkinen, Hamalainen, Nummela, & Rusko et al. (1999)
Although what has been debated are how are the improvements made to the SSC are they neurological or mechanical? And the authors set out to identify which it was. The take home message for us is the fact that it does improve endurance run performance!
The results of this study clearly show that a 6-week plyometric training program led to improvements in 3-km running performance. It is believed that such performance increases occurred as a result of the increase in MTS and consequently maximal force production and rate of force development (RFD). It is suggested that changes in such variables had a positive effect on running economy, which has been proven to be one of the best predictors for distance running performance. And to answer How? – the researchers conclude it was due to mechanical improvements via the MTS.
In other words, having more elastic recoil in this case in the lower limbs allows you to run more efficiently! Know any distance runners that wouldn’t want that!
Applying this Knowledge
There are some fundamental principles that can help guide our strategies:
- Principle of Overload - Controlled overloads through proper periodisation
- Principle of 3 Dimensions - Consider that our muscles can load in the 3 planes
- Principle of the KiKinetic Chain – The right degree of mobility
- Principle of Specificity - How you train is how you adapt
Is plyometric training ’functional’ for endurance runners?
You bet it is!
R.W. Spurrs*, A.J. Murphy, M.L. Watsford, W.L. Spinks & A.G. Whitty Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003
Gary Gray, Dr David Tiberio, Doug Gray Gray Institute