The Runner’s Handbook: The Importance of Power Exercises

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Who doesn’t want to run faster? Well, maybe those guys who want to run longer. But trust me, eventually, even they’ll want to run faster. And you’ll all want to know how. Quick and simple — power exercises.

By adding power exercises into your workout regimen, you’ll increase your speed by leaps and bounds, literally. Power exercises hone the neuromuscular system to produce high levels of force as quickly as possible, which if you’re a runner sounds pretty good. What’s also key about power training is that it builds on stability and strength training movements. Training for power can be achieved by increasing the weight (force), think strength movements (lifting, pulling, pushing), or increasing the speed/explosiveness with which weight is moved (velocity).

As runners, what we’re looking for is quality explosiveness, which is where bodyweight plyometrics — a form of power training — comes in. Plyometrics call for the stretch of a muscle immediately before an explosive action, known as the stretch shortening cycle, which utilizes stored energy.

According to a Japanese study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, incorporating plyometric training into a runner’s routine can improve their speeds. Over an eight-week period researchers monitored runners who stuck to a running-only routine and runners who cut back their running by 25% while adding in plyometric exercises and found that both groups actually improved their 5K times, regardless of the miles put in. It was all about putting those legs to use. And for those who went the plyo route, they improved reactive leg strength utilizing fast-twitch muscle fibers allowing them to push off hard and faster.

5 Power Exercises to Supplement Your Running Routine

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I’m going to be straight forward, these movements are going to take a lot out of you — they call for serious concentrated energy. So you’ll want to give them a go before the strength or cardio segment of your routine, but of course after you’ve warmed up, preferably with dynamic stretches.

Five movements at one set for 6-10 reps is sufficient.

Jump Squat

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly out so that knees track in line with toes. Extend arms in front of you with hands at shoulder height.
  2. Sit back and down into a squat, placing your weight in your heels as you get a stretch through your hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Take a deep breath, brace your core, position your chest high with your back straight and exhale as you explode out of the squat driving through the hips and squeezing through the glutes.
  4. Repeat for recommended reps.

Bounds

  1. Stand in prefered running stance, take a deep breath, and brace your core before bounding forward in a leaping jump.
  2. Follow through with opposite leg.
  3. Preform for about 30 meters, for three sets.

Bench Taps

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  1. Stand in front of a bench with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, position your chest high with back straight and exhale as you explode your knees up in an alternating fashion rapidly tapping your toe to the bench, as arms pump in running motion.
  3. Perform for about 30 seconds, for three sets.

Lateral Box Jumps

  1. Stand next to a box (or platform) with feet hip-width apart and extend arms in front of you with hands at shoulder height.
  2. Sit back and down into a squat, placing your weight in your heels as you get a stretch through your hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Take a deep breath, brace your core, position your chest high with back straight and exhale as you explode out of the squat driving through the hips and squeezing through the glutes and laterally pulling feet up and onto the center of the box.
  4. Jump back down laterally and repeat for recommended reps.

Medicine Ball Side Throw

You didn’t think we’d let you down on the core-front, did you? This is a power movement that actually calls for a little weight.

  1. With a medicine ball in hand, stand about 3 feet from a sturdy wall with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend arms so that medicine ball is at chest height, bend knees slightly, brace core and twist through torso bringing the ball away from the wall.
  3. Take a deep breath and exhale as you quickly twist in the opposite direction through your torso throwing the ball as hard as you can against the wall.
  4. Catch the ball as it rebounds and repeat for recommended reps.

Ellen Thompson is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer at Blink Fitness in New York City, where she serves as Head Trainer at the Penn Plaza location. Ellen’s approach to training is that “anything is possible.” Endurance, strength, and stability/agility training are at the core of her fitness programming. She holds a master’s degree in New Media Publishing and Magazine Editing from the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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