Here is some research (which I would normally post on the Facebook Fan Page), but since it is from my old McGill backyard at the University of Montreal (otherwise known as U of M) , I feel I should give them some exposure.
While our sprinters do BOTH plyometrics and conventional weight training (mix of Olympic lifts, Power lifts – bench and squats, and regular strength training for ancillary exercises), distance runners could certainly improve on the strength in their legs as well as flexibility (in my opinion).
The argument presented is plyometrics helps with bounding and bounding lifts you off the ground more efficiently, thus reducing the energy cost of running for distance runners. This results in faster times, at least in theory.
Control data: 3 control groups (no plyos nor weight training, plyometrics and conventional weight training), 35 subjects, 3000m time trials, running economy tests before and after an 8 week training period.
Armchair coaches: I’ll bet a lot of you would like to see a 4th group with BOTH plyometrics and conventional weight training!
Results: improvements of 3%, 4.8% and 4.1% for the none, plyometrics and conventional weight training.
The bottom line is ANY improvement in strength and elasticity of your leg muscles will result in faster running. Of course, that extra strength and possible muscle mass must be translated to applying force to the ground while in a running motion.
I can see the resistance (no pun intended) in a distance runner doing free weights in the weight room, but keeping plyometrics fun while doing low hurdle hops and stadium stairs can be more beneficial!
So preliminary results suggest Plyometrics are better than Conventional Strength Training? Some questions to ponder:
- is it more running specific?
- is it the higher intensity?
- is it from higher CNS stimulus?
- is asymmetrical training better (in the weight room, machines can have a fixed range of motion, thus free weights are preferred)