Being a more powerful athlete means you’ll be able to hit harder, run faster, jump higher, and have an advantage over your opponents. To get there, you’ll need to train specifically for power by using lighter loads and explosive movements. Implement some of the ideas in this article and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better athlete.
In This Article We Will Discuss:
- The Difference Between Strength and Power
- How to Train for Power and Explosiveness to get faster and jump higher.
- Exercises you can use to improve your explosiveness and power.
- How to implement and use Velocity/Power training
- How to measure power output and progress
Becoming a more powerful athlete requires careful attention to the types of training methods you're using. Lifting heavy weights all the time does NOT necessarily lead to improved explosiveness. The boxer who doesn't even bench press might hit a lot harder than the guy who bench presses 500lbs.
Note: I am not a doctor, so you should consult yours before undertaking or performing any exercises or workout programs. Sorry, had to get that out of the way.
What is Power?
If you want to be more explosive and powerful, jump higher and/or get faster.. You have to understand the difference between Strength and Power
Strength = The maximal force you can apply against a load...i.e., how much weight you can move/lift.
Power = The ability to exert maximal force in the shortest time possible. Power is determined by how fast you can exert maximum force. Power = Work/Time
So, If me and you can both bench press 250lbs, you could say we're equally strong. But, If I can lift it in 2 seconds and it takes you 4 seconds, that would make me the more powerful athlete (on the bench press, anyways).
Tip: Check out my Instagram. I'm currently training my nephew, who is looking to play D1 college football. A lot of his training gets posted on there and can give you some new ideas to play around with.
Training Methods to Improve Explosive Strength
There are specific training methods you can use to improve your speed and jumping ability. You can accomplish this by using exercises that force the body to generate force rapidly, improving what is known as rate of force production.
The single best training method to improve jumping ability, speed and overall explosiveness is plyometrics. Studies show that 6 weeks of plyometric training can improve agility and jumping ability in athletes.
Plyometric exercises take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. This involves exercises in which a muscle is rapidly stretched and shortened.
Exercises like the depth jump (below), in which you jump from one platform, rapidly absorb the energy of the landing and then exert force by jumping back up, train the body to absorb and generate force rapidly.
Plyometric exercises work by increasing the speed and force of muscle contractions.
These agility hurdles are excellent tools for plyometric training. Check 'em out for under $50:
Speed Strength Training
Lifting with lighter loads and faster reps is another way to train for power and explosiveness. Powerlifters, and training methods such as Westside Barbell understand and utilize this form of training to great effect.
Whether you're lifting a heavy load slowly, or a lighter load with speed, you're still generating force. Speed strength training specifically trains the body to improve rate of force production, the ability to generate high power outputs faster.
Maximal Strength Training
There is always a place for strength training when it comes to getting faster, jumping higher and becoming more explosive.
At the end of the day, you may be limited by the amount of force you can generate. In order to jump, sprint or perform any explosive movement, you must generate maximal force.
Improving your max squat or bench press will likely lead to your plyometric training being more fruitful. The ability to generate more absolute force by getting stronger is an essential component to becoming more explosive. It lays the foundation for increased explosive abilities.
Can Squats Make You Jump Higher?
This is a common question that gets asked when people are looking to improve their jumping abilities.
The answer is that yes, getting stronger on the squat can improve your jumping ability. Increasing the amount of force you can generate can certainly make you a more powerful athlete.
However, using squats alone is not a good strategy. You should use heavy lifting along with other forms of training like plyometrics and speed-strength movements to get the biggest improvements.
The olympic lifts (Power clean, snatch) train the body to generate maximal force in a very short time. Specifically, you're training the legs and hips to be as explosive as possible to move heavy loads with speed.
Jumping in particular is very reliant on explosive hips. If you observe the movement of the body during a power clean or snatch vs. jumping, you'll see it's actually very similar.
How to Jump Higher and Be More Explosive.
To put it all together, you should use a variety of different training methods to become a more explosive athlete. Here's a quick list of how you can get there, with some advanced tips:
1. Use Creatine
A 2016 Study showed that supplementing with Creatine resulted in greater improvements in both jumping and sprinting. This makes logical sense, since Creatine is well known to improve power output and explosive performance.
My suggestion is to get your Creatine from Bulk Supplements. It's cheaper, you get more, and it's pure creatine monohydrate, with no filler ingredients.
2. Get Stronger
Don't ignore strength training. If your goal is to be more explosive, jump higher or be a faster and more dynamic athlete, you don't need to be lifting like a bodybuilder. You should be focusing on lower rep ranges (3-5) and keeping the volume relatively low.
Try 3 sets of 3-5 on the squat 1 - 2 times per week, and try to add weight each week.
3. Use Plyometrics (Carefully)
Plyometric exercises are great for improving explosive abilities. They can also be hard on the body. Start out by aiming on the lower end for volume and build up to doing more sets and reps over time.
Here are a few that you can try:
- Box Jumps
- Depth Jumps
- Shin Hops
- Later Skater Jumps
4. Don't Over-do It
You never want to train more than what you can recover from. Plyometrics and other dynamic forms of training put a lot of stress on tissues like tendons and ligaments.
Allow your body to recover between sessions. 2 plyometric workouts per week is enough to get some good results, along with 2 strength training days for the lower body.
5. Use Speed Strength Movements.
Focus some of your lifting on speed strength movements. For these workouts, you should focus on using less weight and lifting with speed. Here are a few exercises you can use to good effect.
- Box Squats
- Pause squats (pause at the bottom, then explode up)
- Jump Squats (with light weight)
- Jumping Lunges
- Power shrugs, speed deadlifts
- Olympic lifts
6. Focus on Each Rep. Emphasize Quality
When performing power/explosive movements in your training, you really need to focus on each rep, making sure every repetition is performed as explosively as possible while maintaining good form.
You want to train the body to recruit maximum force from as many muscle fibers as possible, as fast as possible. It is for this reason that lighter loads are optimal, allowing you to really explode through the resistance.
Make each rep it's own, and focus on technique and generating as much force as you can.
7. Don't Chase Fatigue. Chase Performance
Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to be wiped out from every training session. Keep in mind that you're trying to become more explosive. Training until you're completely fatigued will result in performing slower, ineffective repetitions. That is NOT what you want to do.
Focus on performing quality, powerful reps, and build up volume over time. This way, you can actually recover and adapt to the training, instead of driving yourself into the ground.
How To Measure Improved Power
As with any type of training, you always want to have some measure of progress. You want to know that your efforts are resulting in adaptations that benefit you as an athlete. Here are some specific ways you can measure for improved power and explosiveness.
- Broad Jump. Measure how far you can jump, then retest every 4 weeks or so.
- Vertical Jump: Same idea... measure your vertical jump, or max box jump height and measure for improvement.
- Med ball throws: From a seated position, hold a medicine ball (10-20lbs) to your chest, then using only the upper body, explosively throw the ball as far as possible. Measure the distance.
- Use Olymic lifts: Snatch/Clean. Measure by how much weight you can successfully move.
A lot of people want to be more explosive athletes. What athlete wouldn't? Armed with the right training techniques, a strong desire and a willingness to always be learning, you can get there a lot faster than you think.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this helpful.
Check out some of my other articles on strength and conditioning: