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plyometrics: warm-up benefits

jumping – photo ©

I read an article recently in Runner’s World that disclosed the results of some tests on a range of 5km runners with PBs between 16 and 22 minutes. These tests discovered significant observable benefits in the runners. The runners were asked to complete a basic plyometrics-inspired warm-up routine. Interval-based training sessions of 1km repeats showed improvements of >3% better pace in those who completed the warm-up.

Plyometrics are a long-established and beneficial exercise routine. The exercises date right back to Soviet-era athletics. The exercises are honest, old skool workouts. No equipment required, only hard work. Some of you may be familiar with the name Werner Gunthor – a former Swiss shot put athlete. Some of his old training videos are on YouTube and are legendary amongst those who have stumbled upon them. Werner demonstrates immense, explosive strength. Some of the videos show his workouts, aided by plyometrics exercises. It no doubt formed a big part of his shot put success (3 world championships, 1 European, plus an Olympic bronze).

one of Werner’s legendary training clips: ever scale the bleachers two rows at a time? After you’ve already exhausted yourself with other actions?

squat jumps

Jump-based warm-ups were part of my guinea pig trial this year. Every weight session began with a series of jump exercises. I initially thought that it was just a sensible way of waking up the body and getting everything moving. However, I learned that it isn’t just a casual warm-up. It is an incredibly effective way of getting all the leg muscles firing, in advance of leg-based lifts.

plyometrics: example squat jump © Strength and Health Science on Flickr (
plyometrics: example squat jump © Strength and Health Science on Flickr

The reasoning behind the research in the Runner’s World article seems to echo this. If more muscle fibres are firing in advance of use, their performance capacity can be maximised. Jumps are easy to do: the starting point is basic bodyweight jumps. Advanced variations with dumbbells/resistance bands also exist, if there is a desire to push it a little further.

same old excuses

Why aren’t we all doing this? Calisthenics, plyometrics, body weight exercises of all types – the research has been around for decades. However, us casual runners still say, “I’ll do a mile warm-up and then start the session”. We are hopeless to do anything but run. The research study I partook in really opened my eyes to supplementary training. Perhaps it’s time to start including some plyometrics in my warm-up routines too?

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