Nobody likes to lose.
Some of us may be more graceful losers than others but inside we’re totally seething, beating ourselves up. Usually ‘cause we know we could have played better. And for the big games, when it really counts, is when it hurts the most.
But enough about losing, this article is about winning. Or more importantly, how you can get the competitive edge to crush your opposition – in a very sporting way of course. The key...
[WANT TO SEE SOME EXPLOSIVE ACTION RIGHT NOW? SKIP DOWN TO THE VIDEO]
Now you may be thinking that power has nothing to do with your sport: “I’m a squash/tennis/hockey player, I need speed!” Well the two go hand in hand. And pretty much every sport you can think of needs speed.
So whether you’re a pro athlete or you simply want to perform better on the field, court or track, explosive power is what separates the winners from the losers. Every competitive player can benefit from being more explosive…
What is explosive power?
In basic terms, explosive power means being able to use all your strength at lightning speed.
There are two main factors in gaining explosive power:
Power (P) = Force (F) x Velocity (V)
That’s essentially, get stronger (F) and get faster (V).
Firstly, you need to work on building your muscle strength. The stronger you are, the more punch you can pack – so to speak.
Then it’s a matter of how to utilise your strength faster by boosting your rate of force development (RFD). RFD is how quickly you can apply your max strength, which relies on firing up your muscle fibres in the shortest time possible.
Why do I need explosive power?
If you want to win, you NEED explosive power.
If you want to move like a cheetah and smash like a rhino, then you NEED explosive power.
You may be thinking I’m just talking about contact sports but that’s not the case (though yes, being able to exert a large amount of force in an extremely short amount of time makes for an awesome boxer, sprinter, rugby player or sumo wrestler).
If your sport requires speed, agility, acceleration and strength, or even if you just want to make your standard strength workouts more hardcore, you’ll 100% benefit from explosive power training.
Think about the force you use to kick the ball in soccer, to smash an ace in tennis or the force in jumping to defend in netball. All quick, explosive movement requires strength and speed, or more importantly, a super-high RFD. And the greater your RFD, the more power you’ll have.
Remember, the speed of a cheetah and the strength of a rhino is a pretty deadly combo. One that will undoubtedly make you a winner.
How to train explosively
Explosive power exercises (like the ones in the video) are pretty intense.
To ensure you’re getting the most out of your training, it’s best to do such exercises at the beginning of your workout when you’re fresh and can focus on keeping good form.
For best results, research suggests that:
“MST [maximal strength training] is more effective than CON [conventional strength training] for untrained and moderately trained men in improving work economy, maximal strength and RFD.”
In other words, you’re looking to go heavy (or go home). Sticking to ‘CON’ will have very little effect if you’re looking to increase both your strength and RFD.
To back this up, another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology also found that you get RFD gains from a heavy training program:
“[I]ncreases in explosive muscle strength (contractile RFD and impulse) were observed after heavy-resistance strength training.”
However, if you’re doing max strength training, fewer reps are advised. Even a one rep max is OK for more challenging exercises. Just don’t push yourself too hard, too soon.
But it’s not just a matter of getting stronger. Explosive power comes from training in an explosive way. Alongside some heavy lifting, you’ll also benefit from ballistic or plyometric training (both more dynamic forms of training that are demonstrated in the video) to develop your explosiveness.
So to sum up, explosive training at (or near to) your max strength will improve your RFD (your speed of strength) to make you a more powerful player or athlete.
Here’s four (impressive) explosive power exercises
Over to the guys at the UQ Sport Academy to show us what a set of upper and lower body explosive power exercises looks like:
Elliot and Mitch’s recommended reps
Drop-to-clap push ups:
- Max 6 reps, 1-2 times a week
- Superset with a bench press at your usual chest weight (alternating one push up with one press x6)
- Make the exercise harder with a weighted vest
Partner med ball throws:
- Max 4 reps, 1-2 times a week
- Start with a 3kg (for girls) or 5kg (for guys) med ball and work up from there
- Level up by your partner standing on a bench and dropping the ball
- Max 4-6 reps, once a week
- Start with 5-10kg (for girls) or 10-15kg (for guys) on the barbell and up the weight when you’re ready
Bulgarian split squat jump:
- Max 4-6 reps (per leg), once a week
- Make the exercise harder by holding weights
As always, train safe and train smart. Injury sucks, whatever sport you play. If you need some extra advice or would like to learn more about explosive power exercises, get in touch with the UQ Sport Academy.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via davidgsteadman.