Can the inclusion of a plyometric training program improve performance in middle to long distance runners?

The importance for runners to achieve their personal best, whether this be in a quicker time or longer duration, how they get there has always led to much debate between runners, coaches and health professionals. The inclusion of strength training programs has been met with much resistance in the running community, with many runners fearing it will make them “too bulky” or it will “slow them down” with regard to maximal strength training where mass and strength are the main goal, this may be the case, however there are many ways to incorporate strength training into a schedule to actually enhance performance. A recent study by Ramirez-Campillo et al (2014) evaluated the effects of a 6-week plyometric training program on competitive middle to long distance runners. Participants were split into two groups (Group 1: Plyometric group performed 30mins 2x week of plyometric training alongside their normal training regime, and group 2: a control who continued training as normal). Prior to commencement of the 6 week intervention all individuals performed 4 athletic tests and were encouraged to perform all out. the plyometric group were then instructed on the plyometric drills. the groups were then retested at the end of the 6 weeks. The study found a significant improvement in performance in the plyometric group compared to the control (3x) in all 4 performance tests. the results of the Ramirez-Campillo et al (2014) study demonstrated that including as little as 60 mins of explosive strength training per week (i.e plyometrics) will have a positive impact on running performance without taking anything away from overall training intensity and frequency. the results of this study support the inclusion of a plyometric based intervention alongside a running schedule to improve performance, it is important to seek professional advice before beginning any form of strength training to ensure proper form, reducing the risk of injury.

Ramirez-Campillo, R., Alvarez, C., Henriquez-Olguin, C., Baez, E. B., Martinez, C., Andrade, D. C. and Izquierdo, M. (2014). Effects of plyometric training on endurance and explosive strength performance in competitive middle and long distance runners. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28(1), 97-104