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20-minute workout: plyometrics

The Pro: David Otey, personal training manager at Equinox Sports Club in New York City

The Workout: While actually running is certainly necessary to get better at running, hitting the weight room could be your secret speed-enhancing weapon. Specifically, adding in plyometrics can help boost your proprioception (your body’s awareness of where it is in space), your reaction time, power generation, joint integrity, and individual leg development, according to Otey. “Joints take a pounding on a run so it is important for the body to know how to properly absorb this force,” he explains. “A plyometric program can do just that—and ward off back, hip, and knee injuries,” he adds.

But outside of ensuring you get plenty of power moves in the latter half of this routine, you’ll start with a focus on building strength—unilaterally—in the hamstrings and glutes. “Because running is always a forward motion, most injuries are due to disproportionate strength between the front and back of the leg. The more we can work on the deceleration, which is mainly hamstrings and glutes, the stronger your running conditioning will be,” says Otey.

The barbell hip thrust is perhaps the cornerstone of this routine: Hip-dominant movements, such as the barbell hip thrust, can help with horizontal movement efficiency (AKA running), according to research by Dr. Bret Contreras. In other words, you may find you’re able to run faster and for longer.

Due to increased stress on the joints and bone, plyometric training is best integrated into your program no more than twice a week.

Directions: Complete each of the following exercises, one after the next. For the first 3 (strength training) exercises, do 3 sets of 12 reps of each move with 90 seconds rest between sets. For the last 3 (plyometric) exercises, complete 3 sets of 10 reps of each move with 90 seconds rest between sets.

From a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart, step to your left side with toes facing forward. Descend the left leg into a lunge maintaining a straight line between your ankle, knee, and hip. Once in the lunge, extend both arms above head while looking up towards hands. Return to starting position and repeat to the right side. Continue alternating directions until you’ve completed all the reps. 

With barbell placed on front of hips, place feet shoulder-width apart, creating a 90-degree angle between ankles, knees, and hips. Extend your hips off the ground to raise the bar from the floor until hips are fully extended. (Keep chin tucked down to maintain rib cage in proper position for optimal movement.) Descend back to the starting position and repeat.

Begin with one foot planted on the ground and your other foot placed on a bench or plyo box behind you. From this split position, descend to the ground until your back knee approaches the floor. Throughout the movement, maintain alignment between your ankle, knee, and hip. Drive heel into the ground to return to standing position while squeezing your glutes. Do all the reps on this side before repeating on the other. 

Begin with right foot on a plyo box and left foot placed on the ground behind you. Accelerate vertically, using left leg, with as much power as possible. Complete all reps on this side, then repeat on the other side. Throughout the movement, the leg elevated on the box is responsible for acceleration and deceleration.

Set up two plyo boxes about two feet apart. Step up to the first box to stand on top. From box, drop to the ground. Once contact is made with the ground, quickly rebound off of the floor jumping to next plyo box with muscles absorbing the impact. Land on upcoming box as soft as possible, slowly decelerating to squat position. Stand up, turn around, and repeat.

From standing position, hop laterally to one side. Landing on single leg, decelerate into lunging position and spring out of loaded position laterally. From acceleration, land on opposite leg in the same manner as previous leg. Continue movement until repetitions for both legs are complete.