Endurance athletes might not see the relevance of including exercises in their weekly routine that develop power. However, skipping plyometric training leaves serious performance gains on the table and may increase your injury risk.

Sprinters and athletes in power sports like rugby swear by plyometric training as it helps to boost power output – your ability to apply force over a set period. However, the fact is that this type of training has numerous benefits for endurance athletes.

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Plyometrics defined

Plyometrics is an advanced form of training that improves power by training nerve cells to stimulate a specific pattern of forceful muscle contraction.

Plyometric exercises load and unload muscles via a process known as a strength-shortening cycle (SSC) – an active stretch (eccentric contraction) of a muscle followed by an immediate shortening (concentric contraction) of that same muscle, which ultimately generates an explosive movement.

The eccentric phase forcibly tenses and loads a muscle. An amortisation phase punctuates the transition from the eccentric to the concentric phase and includes an isometric contraction when the downward movement stops as the muscle transitions into the explosive unloading phase.

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The plyo benefits

Plyometric training can deliver numerous performance benefits for runners when incorporated correctly into a comprehensive and properly periodised training plan.

1. Increased Power and Speed

Plyometrics trains your fast-twitch muscle fibres, crucial for generating quick bursts of force. This translates to better hill climbs, stronger finishes, and higher average speeds, which can shave time off your race PBs across every distance.

2. Enhanced Running Economy

This type of training develops explosive strength without necessarily adding more muscle mass, which effectively increases your power-to-weight ratio to make you a more economical runner.

Strengthening your leg muscles and improving neuromuscular coordination with plyometrics also makes your body more efficient at using oxygen while running. This means you can maintain a faster pace with less effort, saving precious energy for the closing stages of a race.

And plyometric exercises can enhance coordination and proprioception (body awareness), leading to more efficient movement and better running form, which can minimise energy leaks.

3. Improved Cardiovascular Fitness

Plyometric training can improve cardiovascular fitness by helping to build a stronger heart and circulatory system.

The high-intensity, near-maximal nature of plyometric exercises elevates your heart rate and oxygen consumption significantly, mimicking the demands of certain interval training protocols1.

This repeated exposure to elevated cardiovascular stress trains your heart and circulatory system to become more efficient at delivering oxygen to working muscles, improving your VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake) over time2.

Plyometric training also enhances mitochondrial function to support energy production. By stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis, plyometric training increases the number and function of mitochondria3, which translates to improved energy utilisation and better endurance.

In addition, plyometric training stimulates the growth of new blood vessels (capillaries) around working muscles4. This enhanced vascular network improves blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to muscles, ultimately contributing to better exercise tolerance and fatigue resistance.

4. Lower Injury Risk

Plyometrics strengthens muscles, tendons, and connective tissues, making them more resilient to the pounding of marathon and ultra-marathon training loads and race distances. This can help increase your resilience to common running injuries. Plus, it helps to develop better mobility while improving coordination and building stronger bones.

Prepare to plyo!

Plyometric exercises are intense, explosive jumping movements that place significant stress and load on your muscles, connective tissues, bones and joints.

As such, there are several elements to consider before you include plyometric movements into your programme.

1. Start strong

It is important to have a good strength base and conditioning level before performing plyometrics. insufficient strength, especially in your core, will increase your injury risk.

2. Progress properly

Your plyometric training should progress gradually, from lower intensity to higher intensity drills, and follow the principle of progressive overload.

Start with less intensive plyometric exercises during the early stages of your new programme before advancing to more advanced movements. Generally, as intensity increases, volume will need to decrease.

3. Always warm up

It is essential that you warm up properly before placing your ligaments, tendons and muscles under the intense stress and strain of a plyometric exercise.

A suitable warm-up should include some light cardiovascular exercise to improve blood flow to muscles, followed by mobility work and dynamic drills.

4. Focus on form

Proper technique is crucial. Focus on form over height or speed to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks.

5. Land properly

Don’t jump if you don’t know how to land. A good landing requires that your knees remain aligned over your toes, your trunk remains in a slightly bent-over position, your head stays up, and your back is aligned and flat.

Focus on landing softly on your toes and rolling onto your heels. This is done by using the whole foot for landing, which will help dissipate the impact forces placed on your joints.

6. Opt for suitable landing surfaces

To prevent injuries, the landing surface should ideally absorb shock. The best surfaces include a grass field, rubber mats or a sprung aerobics floor.

7. Recover fully between sessions

Recovery time between sessions should be 48 to 72 hours, which means no more than 2-3 plyometric sessions a week.

Always consult with a healthcare professional before engaging in a plyometric programme, especially if you have suffered from previous injuries. Engage with a qualified coach or fitness professional for personalised advice and guidance for the vest results.


  1. Buchheit, M., LeClerc, A., & Millet, G. P. (2017). High-intensity interval training and heart rate variability. Sports Medicine, 47(1), 31-41.
  2. Aagaard, P., Simonsen, E. B., Petersen, H. P., & Christiansen, J. S. (2000). Influence of plyometric training on muscle strength and aerobic capacity in endurance-trained runners. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 82 (3-4), 203-210.
  3. Gomez-Bruton, A., Aguilera-Castells, J., Fuentes-Jordan, M., et al. (2019). Plyometric training increases mitochondrial content and function in skeletal muscle fibers of young men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1906-1915.
  4. Kraemer, W. J., Nindl, B., Harman, E., et al. (2000). Effects of plyometric and weight training on muscle hypertrophy and strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(1), 356-360.