The dynamic warm-up is one of the most valuable aspects of any running, exercise, and performance program. But too often do we focus solely on tissue temperature rather than specific movement limitations and/or the demands of the upcoming activity. This often leads to a “warm-up” that has been taken too literal and only prepares the body in some aspects but not the most vital.
With running in particular, it’s important to realize that the activity consists of distinct weight bearing phases, including: foot strike, stance, and push-off. Therefore, all three of these areas need to be included in your warm-up to properly prepare the body.
Where I think runners typically go wrong is by neglecting plyometric movements to bridge the gap from stretching and mobility to the activity of running. Research shows that running places anywhere from 2-6 times bodyweight on the muscles and joints due to it’s repetitive bound and land action. Therefore, we can’t expect to be ready for running without some type of jumping and landing to prepare the body for this degree of loading.
There are two categories of plyometrics:
When adding plyometrics into your program, it’s important to start simple and learn the basics of shock absorption before creating power. Shock absorption is important for runners to properly distribute the impact of each ground contact and increase the load bearing capacity of the bones, joints, and muscles. This can be done with exercises, such as the vertical jump & stick, and single leg vertical jump & stick.
Once proper deceleration and positioning is mastered through these landing-based plyometrics, adding a more explosive movement with power-based plyometrics is important. Power-based plyometrics mimic the repetitive, elastic movement of running to a greater degree. Instead of “sticking” each landing, emphasis is placed on landing and quickly getting back into the air. The transition between landing and jump is called the amortization phase and needs to be minimized to as quickly as possible. The faster the transition, the more power can be created within the stretch-shortening cycle. This can be done with exercises, such as ankle hops, squats jumps, and single leg repetitive jumps.
Power-based plyometrics, in addition to being very important to bridge the gap from the warm-up to running, can also have an impact on running economy. Increasing elasticity in the lower extremity can be a positive factor to reduce overall energy expenditure during running. If your muscles are elastic and therefore more able to store and create energy, the demand on the body to fuel these muscles decreases. This leads to a more efficient movement pattern.
To learn more about how to use plyometrics to bridge the gap and boost your running, watch the video below…
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART