The 7 Best Plyometric Exercises for Runners

Box jumps, pogo hops and depth falls are among the best plyometric exercises for runners.
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If you want to get faster or feel stronger when you run, incorporating plyometric exercises into your cross-training routine may be your answer.


Plyometrics are moves that involve jumping, bounding and quick force production. In conjunction with regular strength training, they help build power.

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The more powerful you are, the less oxygen and energy you must expend as you propel yourself forward as you run. This is because your muscles can contract faster while producing more force with each stride — ultimately leading to more efficiency and faster running speeds.

Not only can plyometrics help you run faster, but they can help you become more resilient to injury. Plyometrics are basically "shock training." The nature of the fast, explosive movements prepare your body for the impact it will experience while running.

Running is a high-impact exercise — there's no way around that. But with every hop, skip, leap, jump and bound done during plyometric exercises, you're training your joints and tissues to better absorb force upon landing, more efficiently store energy in your muscles and generate more force off the ground and into your next step. These drills can also increase bone density and strengthen connective tissue, which helps with injury reduction.


The key with this type of exercise is to emphasize quality over quantity. Power development typically comes from lower volume reps, high-quality effort and long periods of rest.

Chose two or three of the following exercises to perform at the beginning of a strength session after a dynamic warm-up, or after a hard run once or twice a week. Sets, reps and recovery between sets varies with each exercise, so we've listed each below.


1. Depth Fall

Before you train to jump or hop with greater force, velocity or height, it's important to first train for proper landing and force absorption.

Depth falls do just that by training your joints and tissues — mainly your glutes, quads and hamstrings — to absorb shock and impact effectively upon making contact with the ground.



Sets 2
Reps 6
  1. Start by standing on an elevated surface, like a soft box, around 6 to 10 inches high with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend your right leg off the surface and let yourself fall gently into that leg with control into a single-leg squat stance.
  3. Land softly on your right foot with your knee stable. Your left leg should be off the ground with your left knee bent.
  4. Stick and hold that landing for a 1- to 3-second count.
  5. Repeat on opposite leg and continue alternating for all 6 reps.
  6. Rest 45 to 60 seconds in between each set.


You can make this exercise easier by standing on top of a weight plate or another lower, sturdy surface. Additionally, instead of landing on one leg, you can land on both legs in a half-squat position.

You can make this exercise harder by increasing the height of the object you're standing on.

2. Pogo Hop

Pogo hops help translate to decreased ground contact time during your runs, or the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground during your running stride. The less time your foot spends on the ground after your initial contact, the greater your running efficiency becomes and the less injury risk you'll have.

You can add this move to your cross-training sessions and/or incorporate a set or two before a handful of your runs each week after a dynamic warm-up.


Sets 2
Reps 20
  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and bend your knees slightly for momentum.
  3. Simultaneously swing your arms forward in line with your shoulders while jumping into the air.
  4. Land softly on the balls of your feet with bent knees. Quickly let your heels tap the ground, then rapidly jump up off the ground again, pushing the floor away from you.
  5. Repeat for all 20 reps.
  6. Rest 1.5 to 2 minutes in between sets.


It may be helpful to envision jumping rope (without holding a jump rope) when performing this move.

3. Alternating Pogo Hop

This is an advanced progression of the pogo hop (above) because landing on one foot requires more balance than landing on two feet. This move trains single-leg power and landing.

Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
  1. Start by standing on your right leg, with your left leg bent as to not touch the ground.
  2. Bend your elbows and use your arms to propel yourself upward as you push through your standing leg to off the floor vertically.
  3. At the top of the jump, extend your left leg and land softly onto your left foot. Make sure your right foot doesn't touch the ground.
  4. Continue to alternate the leg you push off the ground with for all 30 seconds.
  5. Rest 1.5 to 2 minutes in between sets.

4. Switch Hop

This pogo hop variation gets you moving with power and coordination as you switch your legs between hops — a skill necessary for runners. This is solid addition before a run to prime your muscles and running technique.


Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
  1. Start in a split-stance position with your left foot in front, foot fully planted, and your right foot in back, toes bent.
  2. Adjust your arm position to replicate a running stance: Your right elbow bent in front of your torso and your left elbow bent behind your torso.
  3. Push off your front leg and rapidly switch arms and legs while in the air so that you land on the opposite leg.
  4. Repeat, alternating legs for all 30 seconds.
  5. Rest 60 to 90 seconds in between sets.


Start slower and then begin to rapidly increase your height and pace as you get into a groove.

5. Multi-Planar 4-Point Hop

Yes, running is a repetitive up, down and forward movement, but your knees, hips and ankles need to resist rotational and lateral forces acted on them upon landing. That's why this pogo hop exercise is a must.

You can use cones as a marker if you have them, but you could also hop to the corners or edges of a floor tile or just use your imagination.


Sets 2
Reps 4
  1. Start on your right leg at the center of the area where you plan to jump. Your left leg should be bent and not touching the ground. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  2. With a soft bend in your right knee, use your arms to propel you to hop off the floor to a point in front of you.
  3. Land softly on the ball of your right foot, quickly let your right heel tap the ground.
  4. Quickly hop backward to your starting position at the center.
  5. Repeat hopping to the right, center, back, center, left, center.
  6. Perform 2 to 4 cycles per leg for 1 to 2 sets. Rest 45 to 60 seconds after completing both legs.


You can make this move easier by hopping on both legs instead of just one.

6. Approach Box Jump

Box jumps train your joints and tissues from a bent-leg position, rather than a straight-leg position. This variation is important in your training because running incorporates these different joint angles.

Sets 2
Reps 6
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart about two large steps from a box that's about knee height.
  2. In one explosive move, step your left leg forward, let your right leg meet it evenly (so your feet are now shoulder-width apart) sit your hips back and down into a half-squat position and swing your arms up as you hop off the floor onto the box.
  3. Land with your feet even and shoulder width apart in a half-squat position. Stick and hold that landing for 1 to 2 seconds.
  4. Alternate your leading leg with each rep.
  5. Rest 2 minutes in between sets.


To make this move easier, you can start with a basic box jump and progress to the approach box jump over time. You can also adjust the height of your box to make this move easier or harder.

7. Explosive Push-Up

Running power doesn't just come from your legs. Your chest also produces power as you swing your arms during your stride. Transferring force effectively through your core from your upper to lower body is a recipe for running success.

Sets 2
Reps 8
  1. Stand facing a chair, bench, box or any other elevated surface with your hands flat on it.
  2. Walk your feet back until your body is at about a 45-degree angle and in one long line. Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists.
  3. Tightening your glutes and quads and bracing your core, bend your elbows so they are moving in toward your ribcage — not out laterally from your shoulders — and lower yourself as close to the chair as possible while keeping your spine in one straight line.
  4. Instead of pushing directly back up, explode upward and lift your hands off the elevated surface.
  5. Land with your elbows slightly bent to absorb the impact.
  6. Repeat for all 8 reps.
  7. Rest 2 minutes in between sets.


The higher your elevated surface, the easier this exercise is. To increase the difficulty, you can decrease the elevation or perform with your hands on the floor.