It’s worth spending more time out of the saddle or at the running track and doing some jump training if you want to get from A to B quicker, no matter the distance.
Sports scientists looked at the effects of jumping exercises (plyometrics) on 18 competitive road cyclists (1). The cyclists performed four to five weeks of jump training, substituting some of their normal workouts with three sets of 20 explosive single leg jumps and 5 sets of 30-second high intensity sprints with 30 seconds’ recovery. Meanwhile another group of cyclists carried on as normal. Compared to and above the traditionally training cyclists the explosively trained cyclists boosted their 1km power by 8.7%, their 4km performance by 8.1%, peak power by 6.8% and their oxygen cost was reduced by 3.0%.
These results are obviously something for endurance athletes to get very excited about. A reduction in oxygen cost reflects what’s called “performance economy” (PE). If you can run or cycle, for example, at a higher speed using less energy whilst applying greater force then your overall performance will be significantly enhanced.
Another team of white-coated sports boffins considered runners’ PE, specifically wanting to discover the factors that enhanced metabolic, CV, biomechanical and neuromuscular systems (2).
The researchers had this to say: “More recently, research has demonstrated that short-term resistance and plyometric training has resulted in enhanced RE (running economy). This improvement in RE has been hypothesised to be a result of enhanced neuromuscular characteristics.”
Plyometrics, include hopping and bounding and drop/depth jumps and is seen to produce the neuromuscular benefits mentioned by for example, enhancing “leg stiffness” i.e. boosting the energy return and power capabilities of your legs. This means they’ll be less absorption and more energy return on each and every stride for runners, thus increasing power. Cyclists will have greater crank power.
So jump around and look out for a commensurate jump in your endurance performance. References: Sport Med, 2015 Jan;45(1):37-56. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0246-y. J Biomed 2008;41(3):506-14. Epub 2007 Dec 11