Tag Archives: explosive power

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.


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6 Ways to Jump Higher

19 Feb

highjump[1]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 squats, deadlifts (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 jumps, depth/drop jumps, hurdle 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.


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Weak Men Can’t Jump

9 Sep

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw this 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.


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Strength Training Can Help You Run Faster

5 Jun

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, deadlifts, Romanian 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.


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Master the Hang Clean to Develop Explosive Power

8 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 hip 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 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


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