Plyometric and Running, Cost Benefit Analysis

Benefits, Risks, and a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Everyone has a different opinion of Plyometrics, known as Plyo’s or jump training.  Some think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And they are responsible for every tremendous athletic achievement since the first Olympic games.  Others believe they are joint destroying and an injury waiting to happen.  The truth lies somewhere in between.  Yes, they are a valuable training modality. And yes, they are very taxing on not only the nervous system but also the musculoskeletal system. So, with that being said, let’s run a simple cost-benefit analysis on them. And see if incorporating Plyo’s into your training protocol makes sense. 

Understanding the Science of Plyometrics

Plyometrics are designed to train the “Stretch Shortening Cycle.” This is a unique property our muscles have, similar to a spring or rubber band.  Because of the way muscles are constructed, with lots of overlapping fibres. It allows them to change shape (Relax vs contract).  The rate we can contract determines how much “power” our movement produces.  So, ideally, the quicker we can acquire, the more powerful we will become.  Plyometrics use a mode of jumping, landing, and pre-loading. The muscle tissue uses our body weight as resistance to physically manipulate the muscle into contracting quicker, creating more power.  

The Advantages of Plyometrics in Distance Training

Plyometrics are very effective at training the stretch-shortening cycle and have yielded impressive results for some athletes.  Every runner could benefit from having a higher power output. So think about feeling more powerful in each stride, covering more distance, and having an excellent reserve to really “kick” at the end of your race.  Also, jump training has been shown to increase bone mineral density and reverse the effects of osteoporosis, highlighting the need to incorporate some form of jump training for all ages!  These are the benefits of our cost-benefit analysis.  

Now, to Explore the Costs of Plyometrics  

Every person is different; everyone’s body is diverse. So, everyone has a different training history, injury history, and pain tolerance. Fitness instructors and trainers can provide guidance, but ultimately, you are the best judge of what your body can and cannot do and what you can and cannot tolerate. When done correctly at a high power output, Plyometrics will require heavy loading and absorption of force on your joints and musculoskeletal structure.

Potential Injuries and Recovery in Plyometric Training

Because of this, conditions such as osteoarthritis, ligament and tendon injuries, and muscle tears may happen.  These are rare, and if done correctly, there is minimal chance.  However, more likely, it is the “wear and tear” felt by doing such a taxing training method.  Plyo’s are synonymous with making people sore the next day.  These effects will go away after several days with proper rest and recovery. So, This is a perfect time to test out your new fancy foam roller.  

Safe and Effective Jump Training

Even with these contraindications, I still highly recommend that every athlete of any age do some jump training.  Try to make the exercises more accessible on the joints. Including using a soft surface to jump and land on and varying the height and distance required to jump, you can make adaptations. 

Overall Cost/Benefit Analysis

Plyometrics are worth the cost if done correctly. Build up your tolerance for jumping and power training. It will help you run your best race yet! Incorporating the principles of Smart Strength Growth can be an intelligent way to approach your training.  Always remember, “work smarter, not harder.”  

Alex Harris