marathon training, triathlon training -
Using Plyometrics to Improve your Triathlon Performance
Plyometric exercises have been successfully used by sprinters and power athletes to develop their fast twitch muscle fibres and improve their performance. The question is can plyometric training improve the performance of athletes in triathlon and other endurance sports? The answer is YES.
Plyometric training utilises the stretch-reflex mechanism, allowing for much greater than normal force to be generated by pre-stretching a muscle (the eccentric contraction) before it contracts. In plyometric exercise, overload is applied to skeletal muscle in a manner that rapidly stretches the muscle immediately prior to the concentric contraction i.e. drop jumping, standing jump, multiple jumps, single leg jumps, hops, and bounds. These exercises develop neuromuscular firing patterns and improve the muscle contractility of specific muscle groups.
Paavolainen et al, 1999, has shown that explosive strength training significantly improved the 5km running performance of well trained runners. The effect was largely due to the neuromuscular adaptations that reduced the time to exhaustion. The researchers also found that the ability to produce force rapidly when the foot is on the ground, thereby maintaining a short ground contact time, is a factor predicting 5km running time. Furthermore, exhaustion during a 10km running trial was associated with a significant impairment in all of these variables ground contact time increased and muscle activation decreased. Hence, plyometric training may improve running performance by ensuring that muscle activation remains high during the full duration of the race. This will ensure rapid force production when the foot is on the ground, reducing ground contact time, and ensuring a high running speed is maintained.
Another study by Spurrs et al, demonstrated a 2.7% improvement in 3km running time and a 4.1% improvement in running efficiency at 16 km/h. The researchers studied male distance runners averaging 60-80km per week. The runners completed a 6 week plyometric program that increased from 2 sessions per week up to 3 sessions/week. Their contacts per session progressed from 60 to 180.
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