How to Build Strength and Power With Explosive Training

men and women doing plyometric exercises

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Explosive training is training that combines strength and speed to increase your power output. Explosive power drills are often used by athletes who need to generate a quick burst of maximal effort. This type of training is helpful for sports including football, track and field sports, court sports, and even cycling.

The types of exercises used to build quick, explosive power are movements that require a maximum or near-maximum power output from the athlete in a short amount of time. The goal of explosive exercise training is to build enough power to ultimately move heavy weights very quickly.

However, explosive training can involve risk. To reduce your risk of injury, it's important to start with light weights and slow, controlled movements. The amount of weight used during a workout and the speed at which it is lifted should be increased over several weeks and many training sessions.

Explosive exercises at their final level are often referred to as plyometric or ballistic movements.

Benefits of Explosive Exercise Training

Research supports the idea that explosive (speed and strength) exercise builds athletic power, but is more effective when combined with other types of training.

For example, in a study conducted on recreational endurance runners, researchers showed that mixed maximal and explosive strength training was more effective than traditional approaches (such as circuit training) in increasing overall fitness and adaptive processes that may be helpful when increasing training loads (such as when a runner is training for a marathon).

Other published reports suggest that in order to maximize strength, power, and speed of movement, a combination of heavy and light explosive exercise provides superior results when compared to either training style alone.

Further evidence suggests that in order to maximize power output or speed of movement, the first phase of training should focus on increasing maximum strength and building a strong foundation. The second phase is devoted to power and speed training.

Explosive Training Programs

A sample program 12-week training program designed to increase power and speed may have the first five weeks consisting primarily of heavy strength training. The next six weeks would consist of a combination of heavy and high power explosive exercise training, and the final week would be devoted to high power movements.

In developing a program to boost explosive power, it is smart to work with a coach or trainer who specializes in this type of training. A qualified coach can choose sport-specific exercises that will help you improve your performance in your designated activity. Additionally, since good form is essential for safety, a coach can watch your alignment throughout each exercise and provide adjustments and tips for safety and efficiency.

Explosive Power Exercises

Standard explosive exercises use large muscle movements such as squats, power cleans, weighted or unweighted vertical jumps, heavy ball throws, or even hill sprinting. Smaller muscle exercises like bench presses or push-ups can also be used to build power but will limit the overall results to those muscle groups.

Exercises that help build power include:

Exercises should be selected to match your fitness and sports goals, so keep in mind the principle of ​​specificity of training. Your exercise choices should simulate the movement patterns of your sport.

If you increase your training slowly over time, listen to your body for warning signs of injury, and work with a qualified expert, it is unlikely that this training will lead to injury. In fact, some evidence suggests that the risk of injury in many high speed or power sports can be decreased by doing explosive exercise training on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line on Explosive Exercise Training

Explosive exercises, or exercises that test strength and speed, can improve physical performance during many fast-paced sports and may reduce an athlete's risk of injury during activities that involve high power outputs with quick acceleration, such as most racket and field sports.

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Article Sources

  1. Taipale RS, Mikkola J, Salo T, et al. Mixed maximal and explosive strength training in recreational endurance runners. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(3):689-99. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a16d73

  2. Baker D. Acute effect of alternating heavy and light resistances on power output during upper-body complex power training. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(3):493-7.

  3. DeWeese, B. H., Hornsby, G., Stone, M., & Stone, M. H. (2015). The training process: Planning for strength–power training in track and field. Part 2: Practical and applied aspects. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(4), 318–324. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2015.07.002

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