How To Become More Explosive

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Today’s athlete wants to run fast, jump high, and push heavier loads.  Your explosive power output determines your performance in activities that require jumping, speeding up, changing direction, and striking. Even if you are not training for a specific sport, you will greatly benefit from becoming more explosive.

How to train explosively
When performing explosive training movements, you move eccentrically, or in a lowering movement, at a normal rate, while concentrically, or a lifting movement, at an accelerated speed that is forceful in nature. This training has been designed to increase muscle power as well as your rate of force and velocity.

Many neural adaptations occur during explosive training, which result in the effectiveness of training. Below are examples of adaptations:

  • Recruitment of Type II muscle fibers, or fast twitch, stimulate muscles with higher neural thresholds under a greater training intensity
  • Allows athletes to recruit large motor units, or Type II muscle fibers, at a faster rate and more efficiently
  • Allows athletes to exert more force without recruiting more larger motor units
  • Results in higher power outputs, especially in athletes who perform Olympic lifts

What your training program needs
Remember when training for any reason, whether an athletic sport or just to get in shape, you should focus on a periodization program.  Explosive training is not an entire program, but one that fits in with your regular athletic training. Movements including high intensity plyometrics and Olympic pull lifts should be utilized depending upon the training season, and need to be sport-specific.

Below are explosive exercises to build speed and agility:

Frog squat jumps
A good explosive exercise should switch from a slow eccentric movement to a fast concentric one. This requires the body to create a large amount of force in a very short period of time.

Execution: stand up right holding a dumbbell one end of the dumbbell with both hands, or holding no weight. Descend, squatting back slowly. When the dumbbell touches the ground, explode up, allowing your feet to leave the ground. Land on the heels of both feet.

Hang clean
Execution: hold a barbell in your hands at your waistline. Descend, keeping your knees in the same place, and moving the bar straight down to knee level. Forcefully extend your hips, knees, and ankles, and throw your elbows forward and up, catching the bar at your shoulders.

Dumbbell jerk
Execution: Stand shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell at the top of each shoulder. Drop down quickly, and forcefully shoot straight up, landing in a lunge position with your arms straight up above your shoulders.

Note: any exercise that requires you to “jerk” means you need to drop down quickly. The motion of the jump will push the weight up. The jerk motion should focus on getting under the weight.

Other explosive movements:

  • Box squat jumps
  • Dumbbell/kettle bell swings
  • Concentric box jump
  • Long box jump


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