Explosive strength is a very
commonly used term. As a result, it has taken on many different definitions which
in turn, has led to many different training programs – all aimed to produce
explosive strength or as it is also sometimes known, explosive power. To avoid
confusion the definition of explosive strength used in this article is an
action that is accomplished in a minimum amount of time -- approximately 0.1-
0.2 seconds. Thus the exercises used in explosive strength training are those
that involve minimum time of execution. This includes exercises utilizing the
shock method and forced stretch reflex actions. For examples of these exercises
see Explosive Plyometrics.
The basis for explosive strength
is in speed-strength, a physical quality displayed in sports skills such as
jumping for maximum height, hitting for maximum power or distance, running at
top speed, throwing for maximum distance or power and kicking for distance or
power. Explosive strength is highly specialized; it is displayed with maximum
effort, (the production of great power -- force) produced in a minimum amount
of time. It occurs when the means of training (the exercises) are executed at
The training of athletes who must
display explosive strength is characterized by power type exercises. In barbell
exercises with a specific amount of weight, the exercise should correspond to
the athlete’s level of preparation so that the athlete can have technically
correct execution with the necessary speed and with a high tempo of repetitions
in each set. Understand that a change in intensity of the strength exercise can
be brought about with a change in the amount of resistance, movement tempo or
Explosive strength training takes
precedence over other aspects of the athlete’s preparation. It is primary because
the body should be fresh and the nerve processes should be mobile in order to
develop explosive strength. Because of this, it is necessary to pay close
attention to the number of repetitions when using resistance exercises. A change in training emphasis to the
side of strength endurance rather than explosive strength, can easily occur if
too many repetitions are done. This is often seen in various “plyometric”
exercises that are really jump exercises.
Strength endurance is also developed when the rest periods between
repetitions or sets become significantly shorter.
When training for explosive
strength it is always necessary to consider the volume of work and theintensity of the work. How much work
you should do and with what intensity you should do the work, are always key
questions to be answered. There is a big difference between knowing how to do
more and how to do less and still get the same or even better results.
When you increase the intensity
there is an increase in nervous system energy expenditure. This means that you
need more time (longer periods) for restoration. In explosive strength training you need stress loads in the
training as they are the key to producing results. However, with an unwarranted
increase in training loads, or number of training sessions (the volume of work)
the development of explosive strength deteriorates and can cease.
In addition, you need mastery of the skill by the athlete for
improvement not only in game play but for doing specialized (dynamic
correspondence)exercises in preparation for the competition. This is of utmost
importance especially when doing explosive training.
The number of explosive exercises
used should be carefully thought out since extra exercises after base training appear
as negatives in relation to further improvement in the athlete’s preparation.
It is necessary to stay away from training that suppresses the athlete’s need
to train sharply and clearly. For this it is necessary to maintain many
different kinds of strength so that the training remains short, sharp and
The use of maximal loads, until
”refusal”, should be used only when the athlete is in great condition and well
prepared. More importantly, this method should not be used very often. The
exercises should bring about activation in the body which increases total
activity (preparedness for training) and does not lead to exhaustion of the
body’s ability to activate itself.
Transitioning onto the following higher
load level, in both volume and intensity, should take place only after the
previous level is executed with confidence and understandable ease. The
training program should never become set in stone. It is necessary to listen to
the state of the body on a specific day at a specific moment and then determine
the specific amount of load volume and intensity. At this time it is also necessary to make corrections in the
proposed plan for the day when necessary.
The coach should not plan explosive
training loads for one year. These are always determined by each individual
athlete and his state at a specific time. General physical preparation (GPP) is
needed as a base and it is possible to get excellent and high results in this
phase of preparation. At this time the athlete should not lose the feeling of the
The athlete should always achieve
mastery of the exercises and improvement in them should be wavelike and have
variability. The contrast method should be used to exploit the training means
but the level of intensity should not get into the injury zone.
In explosive training it is
necessary to break the habit of using exercises with near maximum weights. This
is done by using exercises with the fastest speed of execution possible.
Together with this, the intensity of execution of the exercise should be
increased only when the athlete feels himself ready for this. It is especially
at these moments that the quality of the maximum explosive effort training work
is increased. For the explosive athlete it is always more important to have
quality rather than quantity.
The coach should always be able
to adjust the explosive training exercises that the athlete has become
accustomed to by changing their speed, amplitude and resistance. The athlete
should always be able to get the maximum effectiveness out of each exercise so
that it maintains a precise place in the training process. There should always
be something more to be gained from the exercise in order for it to remain in
the program. Thus it is necessary to have short and sharp changes in the
training means so that the exercise still has something more to offer. Keep in
mind that it is always possible to develop the muscles in one or another
direction with other means (exercises).
When the athlete works on
explosive strength it must be done with inspiration. To help do this, the coach
should eliminate all unneeded ballistic exercises. Most important is to strive
for technical improvement and achievement of high results. This can only be
done with athletes who are not beat up from the work or in spirit. Quality is
always more important and a more direct means to success than quantity.
One of the most important
recommendations that can be given to a coach is that he should always be very
precise when giving the athletes temporary tasks with time controls over
exercise execution. Keep in mind that even an insignificant decrease in the
speed of execution is always accompanied with lower loads and work intensity of
the more important body systems that are involved. This is always reflected in
the effectiveness of the training process.
One of the biggest problems facing
the athlete and coach is how to deal with monotony. Because of this, varying
the use of the training means and construction of the training program must be
very precise. There must be short periods of rest or lowered loads that allow
the body to recover, that is, to restore adaptation of the athlete’s abilities
and to prepare for the next training cycle that is executed with more intense
loads. Keeping the athlete in a fatigue state makes restoration of the body
even more difficult. The principles of variety and alternating intensity should
also be taken into consideration, even if it is only for one training session.
Training should be checked using
indicators of the athlete’s self-feeling. This shows up by observing his movement
technique and quality of exercise execution. It includes his posture, facial color, eyes (glazed etc.)
breathing, recovery etc. Any
deviations from normal should be checked out and corrected immediately. If not,
it will definitely affect the quality of his skill execution.
The thread that runs through all
training for explosive strength lies in the athlete’s striving to increase his
motor potential and perfecting his technical mastery. This this means improving
execution of his sport skills by improving skill technique and the physical
qualities that relate specifically to the technique. This can only take place when
there is harmony between technique and strength as determined by the athlete’s
mastery and the qualifications of his mentor. In this regard it is important to
always keep in mind that a large volume of speed-strength exercises executed at
full strength interferes with technique.
In high-level athletes there is
no clear or simple transition from quantity to quality. There is no linear
relationship between the sports results and the training loads. Because of this
increasing the sports results arithmetically (through an increase in the
training load) will rarely bring success.
By perfecting technical mastery
of the sports skill, the transition to the next or following intensity zone, is
possible only when the skill is executed a sufficient number of times over a
sufficiently long period of time.
The skill should be executed with full confidence and without a decrease
in the athlete's enthusiasm for training.
By observing these conditions it
is possible to avoid injury and to gradually improve the sports result. Only in this way is it possible to
achieve high results in the main or most important competitions. Most important
here and not to be overlooked, is fatigue and to make sure that the athlete
continues participation in his main sport.
Coaches and athletes sometimes
feel that there is an explosive barrier. It is common to read of a speed
barrier but there may also be an explosive barrier that occurs when the transition
to a new level of speed-strength becomes a problem. To resolve this problem it
is necessary to bring in more contrast and variation type methods of training.
This is especially important when the athlete's body does not succeed in
switching off its “safety locks” against excessive intense work. The role of
restoration is especially important here.
In the process of developing
explosive strength you cannot get away from maximum effort from which the
muscle fibers change in relation to the training work. With an increase in
sports mastery the number of means decreases since you should then be using
sharper and more impact type exercises. This includes maximum jumps, throws,
swings etc. Nonetheless, sharp impact training means such as depth jumps should
only be used up to the stage of competition. By doing this it is possible to
make progress for a long period of time without injury. As a result, the
athlete will be able to achieve great results without damaged joints, muscles,
ligaments, or deadening of the nervous system.
On the stage of sports perfection
(peaking) development of explosive strength takes place when the athlete is
able to concentrate his attention on technique and training, while at the same
time, releasing his reserves of power. In this training there is formation not
only of the motor potential but also the athlete’s technique. Testing can be
used at this time as a highly effective training means on all stages of the
yearly cycle. It should stop 10 to 12 days before important competitions, as
for example, carrying out micro competitions in which the athlete strives to
set a new PR.
Doing this establishes the habit
for mobilizing physical and technical readiness. It helps to overcome the speed
and explosive barriers and raises the psychological state of the athlete. It
allows him to realize his motor potential and get away from monotony. Because
of this it is an outstanding means of developing explosive strength.
To achieve the greatest results
the athlete must have high motivation to help overcome heavy loads. Understand
that big goals create big energy. The fight to greatness begins with the aims
of preparation. The objectives should be very clear, all-encompassing and tell
of untold aspirations. As Einstein
is reported to have taught us, if you learn to think then you will get to the
final result. Although this saying does not lead to action, it does lead to
greater thinking for better resolution of the tasks.
All plans to become better should
be done in accordance with the athlete’s state and individual characteristics.
It is mainly because of this that even the most outstanding plan should not
become dogma and limit the search in the athlete-coach relationship.
Achievement of high sports results is possible only in those cases when the
search reflects the coach’s work with daily analysis of the athlete’s technique
and changes in the physical state of the athlete. High level mastery is achieved
by those who listen to their intuition, believe in it and draw valid conclusions
from the many myths and successes that exist.
- Dr. Michael Yessis
DC Sports Training - Sports Performance Training in Pittsburgh, PA