Defined, explosive strength is the ability to exert maximal force in minimal time.
In order to get explosive an athlete needs to improve two training factors – strength and rate of force development.
I often get asked, “What exercises do I need to become more explosive?”
Honestly, it really depends on where your weakness is: overall strength or how fast you can develop force with your strength.
Let me tell you a story to make it clearer:
Roger comes to the gym and starts squatting. When he can squat his body weight, his standing vertical jump is 20 inches. After seeing those results, Roger continues squatting until he can squat 2 times his body weight. He goes back and tests his vertical and achieves a jump of 30 inches.
Encouraged by these results, Roger squats until he can drive up a huge amount, 3 times his body weight. He goes back to test his vertical and it is still 30 inches.
What went wrong? Roger definitively became stronger, but his vertical jump went stagnant. Roger’s problem is his rate of force development.
The Johnson family found a fancy “Sport Specific Training Facility” in town that was a turf field with agility ladders, plyo boxes, bungees, and parachutes. They fell in love with it and sent their son Tim to improve his vertical jump.
Tim performed box jumps each workout, and after the first month his vertical increases from 20 inches to 25 inches. Encouraged by these results, Tim kept up his box jumping for another month and his vertical increased again to 30 inches.
It worked twice, it must work again Tim reasoned. After one more month his vertical remained at 30…and again for each month after. Tim’s problem was lack of strength development in his program.
So how do you increase your explosive strength?
Train both explosive strength and your rate of force development. Here are some example exercises:
Lower Body Strength Exercises:
Lunges (or variations in this lunge video)
Exercises that train Rate of Force Development:
Single Leg Box Jumps
Summary: When you are training athletes or just training to gain real world strength, multiple facets of strength need to be developed. Traditional strength exercises will increase the vertical jump in someone that is weak. Explosive exercise will increase vertical jump to a point that the movement is limited by the lack of strength.
I’ll add that there are secondary factors that will apply, such as coordination and neural adaptation to the movement, but let’s get strong and explosive!
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