ATHLETE x SCIENCE
ATHLETE x SCIENCE
Plyometrics and Performance
One of the topics I am most interested in relates to plyometric training for endurance runners. An article by Ebben (2001) states that due to the instability of the surface of cross country running, it is estimated that 5-10% of energy in a 3-6 mile race comes from anaerobic sources. With that being said, it is important to train for this anaerobic component, even in a primarily aerobic sport. This can be done via the use of explosive plyometric exercises. Ebben (2001) discusses the principle of specificity as it relates to training in a sport-specific manner. Force application to the ground is extremely important in cross-country running, as it directly generates power for covering the greatest horizontal distance possible with optimal efficiency (Ebben, 2001). Plyometric training, especially in the single-leg modality is highly specific to the single-leg force application that occurs in a runner’s stride (Ebben, 2001). Plyometric exercises with a greater horizontal component are even more specific to running, such as multiple reactive single-leg hops moving forward (Ebben, 2001).
A study by Ramirez-Campillo et al. (2014) examined the use of plyometric training in highly competitive middle- and long-distance runners for the purpose of developing explosive strength in performance. Plyometric training is meant to adapt the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and increase the rate of activation of a muscle’s motor units (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014). This study was initiated because prior research lacked a sufficient number of participants, failed to evaluate the effects in elite runners, applied a very high volume of plyometric activity per study length, and/or failed to include a time trial to assess distance running performance change (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014).
The experiment included a simultaneous application of plyometric and endurance training to test the effect on both time trial endurance performance and explosive strength adaptations (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014). The plyometric exercises included a drop (depth) jump from 20cm and 40cm to test for maximum jump height and minimum ground contact time, a countermovement jump (with arms) for slow SSC action, a 20m sprint test to assess horizontal explosive strength with fast SSC action, and a 2.4km endurance test on an outdoor track (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014). Total plyometric training time was less than 60-minutes per week for the 6-week study (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014). The experimental group experienced a 3-time greater improvement in time trial performance than the control group; in all other explosive metrics, the experimental group improved significantly while the control group showed a reduction in performance (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2014). I thought this study was well-done and covered a lot of the bases that were missing in prior research to-date. It’s important to see these adaptations in the elite population, since they are already highly efficient individuals, small gains in performance are crucial and highly visible with new training strategies. In the general, untrained or even moderately-trained population, it’s very easy to manipulate variable to create positive results; this is much more difficult to achieve in elite populations.
Continue reading the full article and other sport science research at https://simplifaster.com/articles/plyometrics-performance-bone-health/