The ability of muscles and tendons to store and release elastic energy have been considered to be more important factors than previously thought to achieve a higher level of performance during distance running. However, few training studies have directly evaluated the effect of plyometric training on improving running performance. PURPOSE: To elucidate the effects of body weight plyometric training, integrated into an 8 week run training program, on running performance, running economy, and biomechanical variables in jump exercises. METHODS: Twenty subjects were randomly assigned into two groups and performed running training 2 to 3 times per week for 8 weeks. RUN group (n = 12) performed only running based training, consisting of 30 – 60 minutes of jogging and running. EXP group (n = 8) performed running training along with strength and power training, which consisted of basic strength exercises and body weight plyometrics. The EXP group was prescribed training information directly from a self-coaching system, which is a portable electronic system utilizing tri-axial accelerometer technology. Group results were measured pre and post using the 5-km distance running time, running velocity at OBLA, reactive leg strength (evaluated by index of flight time divided by contact time), peak power average of 10 reactive jumps, and counter movement jump height. RESULTS: Total average time spent for actual running throughout the training period in EXP group was significantly (p ≤ 0.05) shorter than RUN group, (800 ± 28.3 and 593 ± 33.1 minutes for RUN and EXP group respectively). Both training group significantly (p ≤ 0.05) improved the 5-km running time and running velocity at OBLA. However, there was no statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05) difference between the groups. Only the EXP group significantly (p ≤ 0.01) improved the reactive leg strength, peak power in the reactive jumps, and counter movement jump height. CONCLUSIONS: The strength and plyometric training integrated into the 8 week running program improved running performance and running economy to the same extent as the running only training, but with approximately 25% less running volume than the running only training. The increase of reactive leg strength and power appear to transfer into improved running economy more effectively, versus running only training. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Training with the portable self-coaching system used in this study appear to improve running performance more effectively than traditional running only training, and prevent injuries or overtraining syndrome often associated with run only training, while also building a foundation for subsequent training and development of running performance. ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This investigation was supported by Myotest, SA and New Balance Japan, Inc.
1Sports Science, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan; 2Sports Science, Osaka Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan; 3Tamagawa University, Tokyo, Japan; and 4Osaka University of Health and Sports Science, Osaka, Japan