Explosive Power Training | Plyometrics & Other Exercises

What is explosive power training?

By definition, explosive strength means the acceleration or rate of force development, or the neuromuscular system’s ability to generate high action velocities. To the point, it means speed strength.

Explosive power is used in all sports where a sudden burst of maximum strength and speed is required. Sprinters launching from the starting blocks, football players and any of the sort that use full force to spring from 0-60. This same force is applied in rugby and football with weight behind it in a scrimmage or tackle. In martial arts, the power behind a strike, a grappling lunge or a sprawl all come from explosive training.

If you’re none of the above, how about this: the same training athletes put in to improve explosive power burns serious calories, increases your core and leg strength and can combine both strength and cardio at the same time.

The term ‘put your hips into it’ applies. This is because when you explode from a squatting position you summon multiple muscle groups and joints. The more muscle fibers you put into a movement, the more power you put into it.

Studies have proven that for optimum results, a combination of both heavy and light exercises is required. Further research suggests that in order to improve your overall explosive power you need to dissect your training into two phases: first you should work on strength, second, you should combine strength and speed.

What exercises should I include?

Going back to those multi-joint, compound lifting exercises. These are proven to be one of the most effective ways in which to develop greater muscle mass and strength. Bigger muscles are achieved by essentially injuring your muscle fibers so that your body treats the ‘injury’ and in doing so rebuilds the muscle, strengthening it. The most instantly effective compound lifts – which take you from a relaxed state to full muscle usage – include squats, cleans and deadlifts.

You can take these a step further by looking at your pre-working state. The likes of aforementioned squats and deadlifts, barbell curls and bench press are all initiated from a contracted pre-working state, meaning that you can achieve greater power.

Using a leg press as an example, push out with full force while easing down until contracted – count three Mississippi if helps to keep you from rushing. Apply this to the following, which will work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core:

  • Split jerks
  • Trap bar lifts

An excellent explosive power exercise is therefore jumping (when your muscles are contracted before you leap).

The beauty of jumps?

You don’t necessarily need weights. When you’ve got your technique down and your movement is on point, a weight vest is recommended for any of the following exercises – this means that the movement would remain as natural as possible, as opposed to having kettlebells or dumbbells weighing down your arms when you jump.

  • Box jumps
  • Broad jumps
  • Squat jumps
  • Frog squat jumps
  • Tuck jumps

While on this thread of movement and strength, add speed. The following place a focus on movement – to which you can add speed as a variable – while the added weight builds your strength. Consider the following:

  • Weighted/ resistance short sprints
  • Barbell lunges
  • Kettlebell lunges
  • Medicine ball throws

So, if you’re neither an athlete, sprinter, or have any interest in applying your health and fitness gains on a sporting field, what’s in it for you? Your strength comes from your larger muscle groups. Your explosive power comes from the same place. Your lower body contains more muscle fibers than the rest of your body, so when you exercise them more energy is used up – more calories burned – than working smaller muscle groups in your arms. Add to that the fact your core will get a rigorous workout without a sit-up or plank, you’ll be working your abs without it being your primary objective. Two birds with one stone.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here:

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