Tag Archives: explosive power

Build Explosive Power with the Dumbbell Squat Jump Pyramid

11 Aug

Dumbbell Squat Jump

Here’s a simple but challenging, triple-extension “finisher” we use for some of our athletes at Athletic Performance Training Center to build and develop leg drive and lower-body explosive power.

Here’s how to perform our Dumbbell Squat Jump Pyramid:

  • Grab a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells and do five (5) squat jumps
  • Immediately grab a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells and do four (4) squat jumps, followed by
  • 25 lb. dumbbells – three (3) squat jumps
  • 30 lb. dumbbells – two (2) squat jumps
  • 35 lb. dumbbells – one (1) squat jump
  • Repeat two (2) squat jumps with 30 lb. dumbbells
  • Three (3) squat jumps with 25 lb. dumbbells
  • Four (4) squat jumps with 20 lb. dumbbells
  • Finish with five (5) squat jumps with 15 lb. dumbbells

As your dumbbell weight increases, your repetitions decrease, until you do one rep with your heaviest dumbbell.  Then you reverse the process, decreasing dumbbell weight and increasing repetitions, until you reach the weight and reps with which you started.

Observe proper squat jump technique, as follows:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.
  3. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep. Land as quietly as possible (which requires control) and proceed to the next repetition.

You can adjust the weight of the dumbbells – lighter or heavier – to meet your needs.  For example, a lower-intensity (lighter dumbbells) pyramid might look like this:

Body weight – 3 lb. – 5 lb. – 8 lb. – 10 lb. – 8 lb. – 5 lb. – 3 lb. – body weight

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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7 Ways to Build Explosive Strength

17 Jul

Explosive strength is the key to performance in most sports. It’s the ability to move things—including your own body—really fast.

Whether you’re running, jumping, hitting or throwing, you need to apply maximum force as quickly as possible. This is power. There may be people out there who are stronger than professional athletes, but they aren’t on the field or on the court for one reason. They can’t apply their strength quickly enough.

So how you do you develop power? It all starts with your core—and I don’t mean just your abs. Explosive force is produced from your torso and hips.

To improve this ability, you must perform exercises explosively and emphasize hip extension. Your goal isn’t to max out but to perform each rep with maximum strength and speed.

Some of my favorite exercises for building explosive power include:

  • Squats
  • Trap Bar Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift
  • Step-Ups and Lunges
  • Hang Clean (my favorite) and Push Press
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Plyo Push-Ups
  • Sled Drives, Hill Runs, and Parachute Runs

Perform your power exercises towards the beginning of your workout, directly after your dynamic warm-up. Since you won’t be fatigued from other exercise, you’ll be able to do each rep with max intensity.

For any weightlifting power exercise, aim for three to five sets of three to five reps at 75 to 85 percent of your max and rest for two to three minutes between sets. For plyometrics and sprinting drills, make sure to recover fully between sets, resting three to five times longer than the duration of the exercise.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

6 Ways to Jump Higher

30 Jun

The ability to get up off your feet is obviously important in sports like basketball and volleyball.  But what about other sports?  Well, since your vertical jump is an indicator of your lower-body explosive power (and since lower-extremity strength and power is important for virtually all sports), it’s in every athlete’s best interest to develop his/her vertical jump performance.

Here are 6 ways to improve your vertical jump:

  1. Get stronger.  Jumping is about pushing your body away from the ground.  The stronger you are through the hips and legs, the greater the force you can generate against the ground.  Exercises like squatsdeadlifts (we like using the trap bar), glute-ham raises (on the bench or manual resistance), and Romanian deadlifts should be incorporated into your training plan.
  2. Develop your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers.  Your fast-twitch muscles are your body’s largest and have the most growth potential.  They are responsible for maximum effort jumps, sprints, and lifts.  However, to produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest.  That means, in order to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must work at about 70% or more of your capacity (we benchmark at about 80% of an athlete’s 1RM) – heavy weight, low repetitions for most exercises.
  3. Contrast training.  This strategy will help you accelerate the development of lower-extremity strength and power (and it will also wear you out!).  Contrast training involves performing a strength exercise, immediately followed by an explosive movement.  An example would be to do a set of squats and proceed, without rest, to a set of squat jumps.
  4. Push the Prowler.  We love the weighted sled for the development of hip/leg drive, strength, and power.  You can push it and/or pull it, and adjust the weight to the needs and abilities of each individual athlete.  We use the Prowler as a workout “finisher” for many of our athletes, especially during their off-season training phase.
  5. Plyometrics.  Once you’ve built a strong foundation through strength training, it’s time to add plyometric exercises to your workout.  Plyometric training involves exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, using something called the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).  SSC is basically an eccentric(lengthening) muscle movement rapidly followed by a concentric(shortening) contraction.  Examples of plyometric exercises are box jumpsdepth/drop jumpshurdle jumps, and even jumping rope.
  6. Steer clear of injury.  Vertical jump training should include landing mechanics, since research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  Balance and stability exercises are important additions to any vertical jump training program.  Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion, knee alignment, and hip motion should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Weak Men Can’t Jump

12 Dec

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw last summer while at Cedar Point with my daughters and their friends.  Obviously, it’s a clever play on a similar phrase.  But it’s also true, with regard to the relationship between lower-extremity strength and explosive power, and vertical jump.

Whenever I acquire a new client, I like to discuss his or her training goals.  I feel that the better I understand an athlete’s motivation for training — and what he or she hopes to derive from it — the better I can be a resource for that individual’s development and, ultimately, success.

I’ve found that tops on the list of basketball and volleyball players, and track and field “jumpers,” is the desire to increase their vertical jump.  My advice is always the same, based on volumes of research from the field of exercise science and human performance:  If you want to improve your lower-body explosive strength and increase your vertical jump, hit the weight room and focus on heavy-weight/low repetition squats and squat type exercises, and plyometrics.

Avoid the vertical jump programs that promise huge increases in your vertical jump in a relatively short period of time.  They’re mostly a waste of time and money.  You have to put in the work necessary to improve anything, including your vertical jump.  Understand that not everyone has the potential to jump like a young Michael Jordan, but everyone does have the ability to improve upon his or her jumping ability.  The goal should be to improve on your own current abilities, and not to compare yourself with what someone else can do.  Make sure you do your “homework” and consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength training professional, who can direct and supervise your training efforts.

Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches); plyometric exercises (squat jumps and box jumps); traditional strength training exercises (squats and deadlifts); and non-traditional strength training exercises (kettlebell swings and tire flips) are all examples of exercises that can help you improve your vertical jump ability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Can Help You Run Faster

25 Jul

STFThere are several factors implicated in running speed.  Form and technique are certainly part of the equation (although I train some very fast athletes who don’t have textbook running form).  Stride length and stride frequency are critical success factors for any runner/sprinter.  And research continues to show that lower-extremity strength and power — and the development thereof — can help any athlete improve his or her speed and running efficiency.

Strength training (weight lifting) enhances muscle strength, so your muscle fibers don’t fatigue as quickly.  This leads to better running speed, efficiency, and overall performance.  Exercises that target hip drive (flexion and extension), leg strength, and explosive power can all be incorporated into your workout to increase the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, resulting in improved speed and running efficiency.

Perform strength exercises like kettlebell swings, squats, deadliftsRomanian deadlifts, and lunges.  Add explosive exercises like squat jumps and box jumps.  Choose two of the strength exercises and one of the explosive exercises, and perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions each, two or three days per week, with a day of rest between training days.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Master the Hang Clean to Develop Explosive Power

23 Mar

Hang-Clean[1]Want to jump higher?  Run faster?  Hit and throw harder and farther?  The Hang Clean is one of the best exercises you can do to build explosive strength.  This exercise emphasizes triple (hip, knee, ankle) extension, which is common to movements like running, jumping, hitting, and throwing.  I like the clean from the hang position (as opposed to the power clean from the floor position) because it’s relatively easy to learn and safe to perform, and there are few exercises that produce more power.  Like all Olympic lifts, technique is extremely important — the hang clean must be taught and performed correctly.  Here’s a video of U.S. Women’s Soccer player, Abby Wambach, performing the hang clean.

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we teach the hang clean in 3 phases:

  • Hang Shrug
  • Hang (high) Pull
  • Hang Clean

Here are some tips to ensure that you perform the hang clean with proper technique:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart
  • Hold bar with hands just wider than shoulder width
  • Assume “hang” position, with bar positioned just above knees
  • Use lower-body and hips to jump and drive bar upward
  • Use upper-body to pull bar upward with shrug and high elbows
  • Keep weight close to your body (linear); don’t swing the bar out in front of you
  • “Catch” bar with knees bent, on front shoulders, upper-arms parallel to ground

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Divide Your Strength and Power Training

14 Aug

t1_darius[1]Here’s some food for thought:  Researchers in Greece suggest that athletes shouldn’t mix power and strength training.

If your goal is to jump higher, throw harder, or sprint faster, the Greek study found that individuals who performed separate power workouts gained more explosiveness — a key element of athleticism — than those who combined their power and strength training.

The study suggested the following — once or twice a week, perform 3 sets of 8 explosive repetitions of these exercises:

  • Barbell Squat*
  • Bench Press*
  • Jump Squat
  • Broad Jump

* Use 30% of your 1-rep max (1RM)

To offer a different perspective (but well supported by exercise science and human performance research), at our facility we have helped athletes achieve impressive gains in explosive power by combining strength and power training, using contrast training (a set of heavy lifts, followed immediately with an explosive exercise using the same movement pattern, such as squats followed by jump squats or bench presses followed by explosive push-ups).

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Performance With Contrast Sets

21 Jan

hex-bar-girl[1]One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time. Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed (acceleration) and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

Here’s an example of a simple contrast model for athletes to build explosive power:

  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

Incorporate this superset into your workout for speed development:

  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

And finally, a superset using two explosive/plyometric exercises:

  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 1-3 sets

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Build Explosive Power with this Medicine Ball Exercise

18 Jul

2sb0251bx-medicine-ball[1]

Medicine ball throws are great for developing explosive power, and can be used as an alternative to Olympic lifts.  These exercises strengthen and stabilize the core musculature, reinforce the biomechanics of force generation, reflect the demands and movement patterns of many sports, and can be performed in virtually every plane of motion.

Here’s one of the total-body exercises we use with our athletes to build explosive power.  This triple extension exercise is basically a heavy medicine ball clean and jerk, immediately followed by a forceful vertical or horizontal push/throw.

In the first video, Julianne — one of our high school basketball players — demonstrates the exercise with a 25 lb. medicine ball and a vertical throw, pushing the ball as high as she can.  Note how she uses her hips and legs (with minimal bend at the waist and back involvement) to get under the ball and generate force.

In the second video, Julianne uses the same medicine ball with a horizontal throw, pushing the ball as far as she can.  Mechanics and technique — hip and leg drive — are similar to the first exercise.

We have our athletes perform 3 sets of 4 repetitions, with a one minute rest between sets.  Typically, these types of (power) exercises are placed at the beginning of a workout, following an appropriate, dynamic warmup.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

7 Ways to Build Explosive Strength

3 Mar

Dumbbell-Squat[1]Explosive strength is the key to performance in most sports. It’s the ability to move things—including your own body—really fast.

Whether you’re running, jumping, hitting or throwing, you need to apply maximum force as quickly as possible. This is power. There may be people out there who are stronger than professional athletes, but they aren’t on the field or on the court for one reason. They can’t apply their strength quickly enough.

So how you do you develop power? It all starts with your core—and I don’t mean just your abs. Explosive force is produced from your torso and hips.

To improve this ability, you must perform exercises explosively and emphasize hip extension. Your goal isn’t to max out but to perform each rep with maximum strength and speed.

Some of my favorite exercises for building explosive power include:

  • Squats
  • Trap Bar Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift
  • Step-Ups and Lunges
  • Hang Clean (my favorite) and Push Press
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Plyo Push-Ups
  • Sled Drives, Hill Runs, and Parachute Runs

Perform your power exercises towards the beginning of your workout, directly after your dynamic warm-up. Since you won’t be fatigued from other exercise, you’ll be able to do each rep with max intensity.

For any weightlifting power exercise, aim for three to five sets of three to five reps at 75 to 85 percent of your max and rest for two to three minutes between sets. For plyometrics and sprinting drills, make sure to recover fully between sets, resting three to five times longer than the duration of the exercise.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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