Despite the proven benefits of plyometric and strength training for endurance athletes it is still not a widely used training method and is often neglected for a variety of reasons including, time constraints, lack of knowledge of its benefits, or fear that it will lead to muscle gains that could potentially harm endurance performance. Recently there has been a large number of studies published in support of the benefits of strength training for endurance. In a recent study published in the Journal of strength and conditioning research the inclusion of explosive strength training/plyometrics significantly improved running performance during a 2.4km endurance run (by nearly 4%).
About the plyometric training research
The researchers randomly assigned 36 highly competitive middle distance and long distance runners into two groups – one group completed endurance training and explosive strength training whilst the control group completed endurance training. The athletes performed a series of tests prior to and after a 6 week training period to assess whether explosive strength training improved performance. Following the six weeks of training the control group did not show any improvements whilst the strength training group significantly improved their performance in a number of tests including: 1) a counter movement jump test; 2) drop jump tests (from 20 and 40cm); 3) 20m sprint time and most importantly; 4) a 2.4km run test. The researchers concluded that concurrent strength and endurance training could be beneficial for middle and long distance runners.
Plyometric/explosive strength training research summary:
Including strength training/explosive strength training as part of your endurance running program is a time effective means of improving running performance. In this study explosive strength training improved run time during a 2.4km test by nearly 4% – this is quite a significant amount and would equate to around a 24 second improvement in 3km run time (based on a 10min 3km run time). Of particular importance was that this improvement occurred in highly competitive middle and long distance runners and therefore it is likely that greater gains would be achieved in less well trained athletes.
Further reading on strength training for endurance:
Click here to read more about the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes.
Ramírez-Campillo R, Alvarez C, Henríquez-Olguín C, San Martín EB, Martínez C, Andrade DC, Izquierdo M. EFFECTS OF PLYOMETRIC TRAINING ON ENDURANCE AND EXPLOSIVE-STRENGTH PERFORMANCE IN COMPETITIVE MIDDLE AND LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jul 8. [Epub ahead of print]