How Safely Build Strength and Power With Explosive Training

men and women doing plyometric exercises
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Explosive power drills are often used by athletes who need to generate a quick burst of maximal effort, such as movements required in football, track and field sports, court sports and even cycling. The types of exercises used to build this quick, explosive power are movements that require a maximum or near maximum power output from the athlete in a short amount of time.

Explosive exercise training routines are one way to increase power output. The goal of explosive exercise training is to ultimately move heavy weights very quickly. But to get to that point safely, without risking injury, it's important to start with light weights and slow controlled movements. Over a matter of training session (several weeks), but the weight lifted and speed at which it's lifted will be increased.

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

The Benefits of Explosive Exercise Training

Research supports the idea that explosive (speed and strength) exercises builds athletic power, but does a better job of that when combined with other types of training. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data suggest that in order to maximize strength, power, and speed of movement, a combination of heavy and light explosive exercise provides superior results than 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.

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.

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

If you increase your training slowly over time and listen to your body for warning signs of injury, 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 (strength plus speed) exercises 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
  • Current Comments, The American College of Sports Medicine, Explosive Exercise, July 1999.