If you go to any local road race, you will no doubt see most of the runners performing static stretching before the start. While static stretching does a good job of loosening the muscles, athletes can obtain more benefits from plyometric drills, which is essentially “active stretching.”
Different from static stretching, the goal of ploymetric drills is to produce fast, powerful movements, and increase the overall explosiveness of the muscles. In this way, ploymetrics not only loosens the muscles, but will improve the muscles’ running power. Some of the popular plyometric drills for runners include:
- High knees: Run in place and get your knees as high as possible. Try to land on your toes and increase speed. This drill does a great job stretching the hip flexor, strengthen the legs, and teach balance.
- Quick steps: Run forward while taking very quick baby steps. Try to get your feet up and down from the ground as quick as possible. Quick steps teaches the body to relax in the midst of very fast arm and leg action. It also helps develop fast twitch muscles without too much exertion.
- Running backwards: Run backwards while landing on the ball of the foot. This drill helps to develop the lower quads and calves.
- Kick-outs: This is the high knees drill with an exaggerated “kick out” action of the foot when going down to the ground. This drill not only increases flexibility of the hip, but also the hamstring.
- One foot hill hops: Find a hill with a slight elevation and hop up the hill on one foot. This is a difficult drill, and you should not do too many of these too soon. The drill promotes balance and flexibility of the ankle and calves.
This is just a small sample of plyometric drills for runners. There are many more exercises do a great job strengthening and stretching the muscles. I will post some more of these drills in a subsequent post.