A Great Plyometric Exercise to Build Downhill Speed

Plyometric Drills

Plyometrics take numerous forms; there are perhaps as many different types of activity as there are coaches to prescribe them.

My personal favorites come from Chu's book, where he outlines a series of jumps aimed specifically at benefiting the motor action of pedaling. Even for trained cyclists a plyometric program of 20 to 30 minutes should be the absolute limit when beginning this type of training.

Here is a sample plyometric exercise:

Stadium hops: At the foot of a set of stairs or (preferably) the bleachers of a local football stadium, stand in a squatting position equal to the three and nine o'clock positions of your cranks. With your hands stable on your hips or the back of your head, jump up the stairs.

Remember, you are a cyclist and not a long jumper; use your arms only for stabilizing and not to increase the velocity of the jump.

When performing this exercise, the lift-off is not really a hop but a powerful upward-driving action. Try to achieve complete extension of the leg and foot. The last contact should be with the big toe as it pushes off and propels you upward, leaving the foot pointed straight down.

As you land on the next step, fall into the same squat position (three and nine o'clock positions of your cranks ) and explode upward immediately with the same complete extension.

Depending on the width of the step, it may be more comfortable to land two or three steps up. Gradually introduce higher-intensity efforts so that by the third and fourth workout you are doing two to three sets at 85 to 90 percent effort. By the fifth or sixth workout, you should be up to 95 to 100 percent effort.

The frequency and duration of a plyometric training session should be determined by the state of fitness, experience and condition of the athlete.

Stronger cyclists can train more often and include more jumps into their routine. But no more than two sessions per week, with a maximum of 60 to 80 jumps per session should be performed by even the most experienced individual.

Some other things to be aware of when performing plyometrics:

1. High-volume, low-intensity plyometrics give the body's soft tissues a chance to catch up with the stress of jumping. An accompanying low-intensity weight-training schedule is recommended as a stabilizing element.

2. Progress with simple exercises and emphasize technique.

3. Work on correct takeoffs and landings.

4. Warm up well, and keep the sessions short (10 to 20 minutes). Between sets it's a good idea to stretch and walk around. Make sure you are completely recovered before starting the next set.

You should have a sound conditioning base and have incorporated stretching into their program before engaging in plyometrics. Plyometrics should not be completed more than two days per week during the off-season and early season, and once per week during the competition season.


Dr. Edmund R. Burke was among the pioneers in applying scientific principles to endurance sports training, especially cycling. As an exercise physiologist, he was responsible for several advances in sports drink formulation and almost single-handedly developed the subcategory of performance recovery drinks. A former director of the Center for Science, Medicine and Technology at the U.S. Cycling Federation in Colorado Springs, he worked with the U.S. Olympic cycling team during the 1980 and '84 Games. Dr. Burke is the author of 17 books on fitness, training and physiology, including the best-selling Optimal Muscle Recovery.

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