What Is An Explosive Strength Training Program Like?
Strength is one of the most important physical capacities for sports performance. Years ago, muscular strength was not as fashionable as it is now. In fact, in endurance sports such as athletics or in other sports such as soccer or basketball it was not a physical capacity that was exploited too much. However, with advances in sports training accompanied by scientific progress, it has been shown that all other physical capacities (endurance, speed, agility, power, etc.) depend on strength.
However, strength has multiple dimensions and there are different ways of training and applying strength. Thus, for example, the force to be applied by a rowing athlete who has to row for a total of 5-9 minutes is different from the force to be applied by a javelin thrower. This is how the so-called endurance strength, maximum strength, explosive strength, etc. arise.
Today we are going to focus on explosive strength, which is the one in which the greatest possible force is applied in a noticeably short period of time. And there are many questions regarding this manifestation of strength. How do we train it? Do I use high or low loads? Do I perform the entire sporting gesture, or do I focus on the different ranges of travel? Do I do many repetitions or few? In today’s post you will find out what to do.
What’s Explosive Strength?
As we have already mentioned, explosive strength is based on moving a load as fast as possible. However, depending on the magnitude of that load the training is one or the other. Let’s put it in context; let’s imagine you are a shot putter, and you want to increase your explosive strength to throw farther. We know that the ball used weighs 7.26 kg for men and 4 kg for women. In this case, it would not make any sense to work with weights far away from 7 kg or 4 kg. We can train with a little more or a little less weight, but we will never start the specific movement with 50 kg, for example. On the other hand, if we now imagine that you are a weightlifting athlete, we will have to work with loads remarkably similar to those that you will lift on the day of the competition.
Explosive strength is manifested in both situations, but training is different for each. However, starting to train this physical capacity requires low intensity exercises to gradually increase the intensity (1). In addition, it is important to focus first on exercise technique and gradually increase the load.
How to Train Explosive Strength?
Explosive Strength Exercises
The fundamental exercises to increase explosive strength are the same as those used, for example, to increase muscle mass, the so-called “basics”. A good way to start with explosive strength training is to gain strength in all these exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges or lunges. Once we have increased explosive strength (also called “power”) in all these exercises we can move on to more specific exercises of the sporting gesture. With this training we prepare our body for the specific stimulus and create a series of connections and coordination between muscle chains to increase performance. We must be clear that without an increase in general strength it is impossible to increase our explosive strength or our speed of execution. The expression of strength is pure physics. Strength is equal to mass times acceleration and if I want to increase strength I either increase mass or I increase acceleration.
We can’t forget that you can also increase explosiveness by doing more analytical exercises like biceps curls or triceps extensions. However, it is not going to have much transfer to the specific gesture of competition and does not favor the coordination of muscle chains that we have mentioned previously.
To begin with, it is best to perform exercises with your own body weight. In this way, we do not add any external load and we can focus on performing the movement well. The number of repetitions should not be extremely high because neural and muscular fatigue will come very soon. That is, if for example we want to improve our explosive strength in a vertical jump it would be logical to perform vertical jumps with our own body weight as high as possible. When we have performed 5-8 jumps the organism will have fatigued enough so that the next jump will not be at the maximum possible power so we must take a rest (2).
Next, we are going to name a series of exercises that can be particularly useful to improve explosive strength (1):
- Agility exercises
Once you have improved in these movements it is time to focus on the specific sport gesture. As a recommendation it is important to establish a good base of coordination and motor skills before starting to train the specific gesture. We recommend working for at least 1-2 months to improve explosiveness in all movements and then move on to more sport specific work. One of the ways to measure progress is to use a linear encoder that measures the speed of execution. You can use the Vitruve encoder to measure your stride speed on the first step, the height of your vertical jump, your execution speed on a squat or deadlift, and to find out how much leg power you have on a bench press.
Explosive Lower Body Exercises
We recommend starting with explosive strength and power training 1-2 days per week (3). This type of training creates a lot of fatigue not only at a muscular level but also at a neural level, so it is not advisable to abuse it (4). You can start by performing the following exercises:
Start with boxes that are not exceedingly high. It is important that you focus on making the flight phase as long as possible. A good explosive jump allows you to spend several seconds “flying”. Remember that the take-off is just as important as the fall. Bend your legs to gain momentum and jump as high as possible. Don’t make the mistake of setting the boxes too high at the beginning.
This exercise is very demanding on a neural level so you should not do too many repetitions. Remember that the important thing in explosive strength is to perform the technical or sporting gesture in the shortest possible time. Jump as fast as you can and with as much strength as possible, rest a few seconds between repetitions and jump again as efficiently as possible.
This time you should focus on being as short as possible in contact with the ground. From the box and with a height not too high jump to the ground and as soon as you touch the ground return to the top of the box. This time you can do 10-15 repetitions and rest.
Explosive Upper Body Exercises
Just as we have a large repertoire for explosive lower body exercises because we can do any type of jump, in the case of the upper body and trunk musculature, it is a little more complex. In recent months we have been able to see examples of these exercises in certain training boxes.
This exercise is based on a quite important coordination of our arms and our trunk. We must keep in mind that much of the work in this exercise is carried by both our shoulders and our Core. Like the jumps from the box can perform up to 10-15 repetitions and then stop.
Air Ball Throw
This is a great exercise not only for the upper body but also for coordination with the lower body. It is an exercise that can be especially useful for basketball or volleyball players where vertical jumping and arm strength is important.
In case you can’t clap your hands, focus on going up as fast as possible while maintaining good spinal alignment. Do not arch your back and push hard into the floor. If you are able to do a clap, do as many claps as you can and rest.
Explosive Strength Exercises – Why?
Explosive exercises are a very efficient tool to optimize power in any type of athlete. As we have mentioned, being “explosive” or having an amazingly fast application of force generates a lot of advantage over the opponent. Power is the relationship between the application of force and the time in which we apply it, if I am able to have a more powerful start in soccer, if I can move laterally faster in basketball or if I can print much more force in a shot put, I get a huge advantage over the opponent.
Explosive strength training is recommended not only for people who require high power in their sporting gesture but also for people who perform longer exercises. For example, for a marathon runner it may not be essential to work on power, but if we manage to improve just a little bit that muscle power, it may have an influence in the last one hundred meters of the race. As we have mentioned before, the benefits of explosive strength training are the following:
- Muscle power increase
- Muscle strength increase
- Improvement in the tissues surrounding the muscle.
- connective tissues improvement
- Reduces the Risk of injury.
Back exercises could be especially useful for rowers, climbers or judo athletes, for example. The aim is to improve both vertical and horizontal traction.
Measure and Improve Your Performance with Vitruve
We already know the exercises that can help you increase power, but keep in mind that these should be organized and programmed with a sense. Do not train them every day. Do not put too many power exercises in a row in your routine because you will end up very fatigued. To have a control over intra-workout fatigue you can use a device that measures the speed of execution. For example, the Vitruve encoder will give you the speed, power and range of travel for each repetition.
In addition, the Vitruve encoder allows you to move through the range of speeds you want. For example, let’s say I’m doing a squat and I want to move the load amazingly fast. I can set the device so that when I go out of the speed range I have planned (say from 1.00 to 1.20) it will warn me. This way, I start with my exercise series until my performance drops and when it drops, I stop.
Also, the Vitruve app allows me to save each workout so I can very easily monitor my progression throughout the month of training.
Finally, here are some examples of different exercises to improve general explosive strength. It should be noted that if you are a javelin thrower you should focus later on a specific phase where you train the most important phases of your throw and the muscle chains involved in it. Likewise, if your goal is to compete in powerlifting, focus on the competition movements.
On the other hand, remember that the Vitruve device has been created with the objective of training based on speed but also measuring power. If your goal is to improve it, do not hesitate to quantify your workouts and to make an evaluation at the beginning of your programming and an evaluation at the end of it.
Unai Adrián Pérez de Arrilucea Le Floc’h
What is explosive force?
It’s the strength to which in a truly short period of time the greatest possible force is applied. Its training is related to the improvement of muscular power.
How to improve explosive strength?
To begin with, the best thing to do is to perform exercises with your own body weight. In this way, we do not add any external load and we can focus on performing the movement well. So you can perform plyometrics, squats, lunges, sprinting, agility drills or kettlebell work.
Reason to train power?
Having a fast application of force generates a lot of advantage over the opponent. If I am able to have a more powerful start in soccer, if I can move laterally faster in basketball, or if I can apply much more force in the shot put, I have a huge advantage over my opponent.
How can I train power?
Using a device that measures the power of your exercises objectively is key in the process. Thanks to the Vitruve system you can achieve this.
- Schiltz M, Lehance C, Maquet D, Bury T, Crielaard J-M, Croisier J-L. Explosive strength imbalances in professional basketball players. Journal of athletic training. 2009;44(1):39-47.
- Arriscado D, Martínez J. ENTRENAMIENTO DE LA FUERZA EXPLOSIVA EN JUGADORES DE FÚTBOL JUVENIL. Journal of Sport & Health Research. 2017;9(3).
- Ramírez-Campillo R, Andrade DC, Izquierdo M. Effects of plyometric training volume and training surface on explosive strength. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2013;27(10):2714-22.
- Linnamo V, Häkkinen K, Komi P. Neuromuscular fatigue and recovery in maximal compared to explosive strength loading. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology. 1997;77(1):176-81.