Editor’s Note: This article is part of Run College: 6 Weeks to a Faster You. This instructional content is available exclusively to Outside+ members. You can read more about the course and its offerings here.
Hopping and Plyometric Exercises for Power
If you’ve never included hopping in your training before, this might seem a little strange at first. But rabbits are pretty fast, right? And so are the elite runners who hop and bound their way to more powerful strides.
There’s plenty of science to show that the biomechanics of hopping increases your nervous system’s ability to generate rapid force. That’s because it combines muscle strength with power. These exercises are quick, which is important because research shows that strength gains from slow movements provide minimal change in strength at faster speeds. Bummer, we know. You’ve got to move fast to get faster.
The good news is strength training with fast movements increases strength at both fast and slower speeds. Hopping with both legs is an example of a fast movement strength exercise. Hop-training results in better neural-motor control, optimal coordination and balance, and increased power.
Here’s how it works:
Depending upon the drill, project yourself upward or forward. Use more force than you would with running. The goal is to land with stability and quickly recoil off the ground.
When you’re ready (see note below), you should include hopping training two or three times per week during this speed development program. Two times per week is recommended if you are:
- New to hopping and bounding-type exercises
- You have a limited background in strength training prior to this program
- You’re younger than 15 or older than 45
No matter what your age, be sure to limit the number of hops to about 60-70% of what you can do before exhaustion sets in. When you’re tired your technical skill erodes and your effort is less effective. It’s better to do fewer reps per workout and avoid injuries than to do more and deal with lost time because you’re injured.
It’s important to have foundational strength and coordination before starting explosive hopping, plyometrics training or repeatedly sprint training at near maximum speed. The buildup should take a few weeks, so be patient with the process.
Note: Beginners should complete the 6-week program at least once before adding hopping (jumping with two feet), bounding (jumping with one-foot at a time), or plyometric training (jumping on and off boxes).
The decision to add hopping, bounding, or plyometric work depends largely on your current level of strength, as well as your personal injury history. If you haven’t been injured in at least a year, then “jumping” exercises are probably safe for you–provided your strength and coordination levels are adequate. Follow the schedule outlined, progressing to more reps each time through the program.
Intermediate runners are typically strong enough to start jumping exercises during the first round of the 6 Weeks to a Faster You program. However, it is necessary to have a history of no injuries in the last year. If that’s the case, follow the outlined training schedule.
Advanced runners have a lot of experience and skill in sprint-training, so they can add hopping, bounding, or plyometrics during the first time through the 6-week program. However, if in doubt, it is wise to perform a small number of reps and sets the first half of the 6-week program to limit the possibility of injury. Finally, if you are adding a lot of distance work, or long interval or tempo running to your training schedule in addition to the 6 Weeks to a Faster You program, cut back on the amount of hopping, bounding, or plyometric repetitions that you complete in workouts.
Hopping, bounding, or plyometric exercises are essential for improving explosive power, which impacts running speed. However, this type of explosive exercise may cause injury for runners who lack strength and coordination. Therefore, both strength and technical skills need to be developed to an intermediate level before starting hopping, bounding, and/or plyometric exercises. Be sure to start with small amounts of explosive training and build proficiency gradually! Start with basic hopping (two-leg exercises) for a couple of weeks before adding hopping (one-leg exercises). After two weeks, add plyometrics.Section divider