How to Increase Explosive Strength

Posted by Louie Simmons

Explosive strength is the ability to exert maximal force in minimal time.

To develop explosive strength and reactive ability you need to do two things. First, you must build your speed strength and second, in the same time frame, you must raise your absolute strength. A shot putter must become stronger and at the same time, faster. The majority of this training is combining max effort exercises to increase the strength potential of the muscles, while training with light weights will lead to improving speed.

To improve explosive strength, the movement must change from eccentric to a concentric action. One popular method is the Plyometrics method. For this, depth jumps are in order. This calls for the athlete to fall from a distance and upon landing, immediately jump upward in under 0.2 seconds. This is reversible muscular action or the stretch-shortening cycle. It is used in most sports skills due to muscle and tendon elasticity. The athlete must use the correct movement velocities.

Maximum force (Fmm) is developed in slow velocity while building maximum velocity the resistance must be small. Now how do you build explosive strength in your training in a weekly, monthly, yearly, and multi-year training? By two proven methods: One is the max effort method and the other is the contrast method. 

If your task is to jump onto a 60-inch box, you must be strong to overcome your bodyweight to achieve the effort needed to jump that height. The formula is known as moment impulse. The max effort men such as Yuri Verkhoshansky and A. Bondarchuk would employ a heavy-light system. This system calls for a 90 percent plus weight to be lifted, pulled, or pushed isometrically, then immediately you lift a load of 30 to 40 percent. The heavyweights are for maximum strength before lifting a light load. This is the contrast method.

But how does Westside train?

 One workout for the lower body is performed Monday for max effort. Each week the barbell exercise is rotated from a pull or a squat and also a Goodmorning. Keep records on each max effort lift and try to exceed the old records. This is max effort. There is no two to three or five rep max effort. The low reps are submaximal effort according to Naglak (1979).

 Maximal effort method is superior to all strength methods for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination.

This method makes it possible to bring forth the largest strength gains. The body adapts to the specific demands placed upon it. This causes the most muscle units (MU) to be activated, according to V. M. Zatsiorsky.

Pick seven special large barbell exercises to rotate each week. Here are some examples:

Low box squat

High box squat

Front squat—use wide or close stance

Rack pull

Box pull

Power clean

Power snatch

Arched-back Goodmorning

Bent-back Goodmorning

Also, have records with at least three different band tensions.

The barbell volume is low on max effort day, but as you will learn, the small special exercises make up 80 percent of the training load on both days, working on a single muscle group at one time. The athlete who is strongest at the same body weight will jump higher or longer if both have the same athleticism.

Now that we are improving your maximal strength, your speed strength must be improved. There will be an interaction between all special strengths: maximum, speed-strength, and explosive strength. All three have their specific roles in sports movements.

 Speed strength is trained at intermediate velocities, 0.8 m/s.

 This strength must be trained to ensure the development of producing speed against resistance. Like Olympic weightlifting, Westside trains at 75 to 85 percent for speed strength, while max-effort training for a new all-time record calls for three lifts per workout.

 Example: 500-pound max deadlift would look like this: 450 or 90 percent, 485 or 97 percent, then 505 or 510 for a new record. That is three lifts per week or 12 per month while speed strength training calls for 25 squats and 20 pulls a week or 100 squats and 80 pulls a month for the development of speed strength.

 Two special strengths cannot be trained with only one amount of resistance, due to each having its own force-velocity curve. Let’s remember motion velocity decreases as external resistance increases and maximum velocity (Vmm) is attained when external resistance is close to zero.

 Westside uses a three-week pendulum wave at 50, 55, and 60 percent, plus 25 percent band tension at lockout.

 Example: 400-pound max lift

Week 1: 200 lb, 100 lb band tension, 5 sets of 5 reps

Week 2: 220 lb, 100 lb band tension, 5 sets of 5 reps

Week 3: 240 lb, 100 lb band tension, 5 sets of 5 reps

Week 4: 200 lb, 100 lb band tension, 5 sets of 5 reps

 This wave system is continuous throughout the yearly plan.

 The percentage as best used for speed strength. The speed strength training is lighter than max effort weights, causing the bar speed to be a greater velocity. As one throws a heavier object, the velocity and the distance will decrease.

Now explosive strength is trained at the fastest velocity of all or high velocity due to less total resistance.

 The use of rubber bands for accommodating resistance is a must for compensatory acceleration training, known as CAT training. This means you must accelerate through the entire range of motion, which is impossible without attaching rubber bands to the barbell due to your posture strength curves. Look for yourself on page 40 in The Science and Practice of Strength Training (ZatsiorskyKraemer, 2006). Remember there are two methods to break a sticking point. One is to train at or near your sticking point; the other is to develop more speed to go through it.

 For training explosive strength, interchange speed strength training three-week cycles, for a three-week explosive strength cycle, using a combined 30 to 40 percent. The bar speed must be above 1 m/s. You must know that bands have two advantages. One is a faster overspeed eccentric phase that produces greater kinetic energy, producing a stronger rate of reversible muscular action. This is due to muscle and tendon elasticity causing a greater strength-shortening cycle.

The weight or resistance must be less than speed strength training due to higher bar velocity. 

The combinations of resistance methods is used for explosive strength training. A combination of barbell weight and band tension produces the greatest results. Roughly a 50 percent bar weight and 50 percent band weight works very well.

 For training a fast rate of force development, the experts suggest not to exceed 60 to 70 percent.

 As you can see, as the percent of a 1RM is lowered, the training velocity increases. 

Westside alternates a three-week speed strength cycle with an explosive strength cycle. 

Example: 300-pound max squat

Week 1: 60 lb bar weight, 70 lb band tension, 6x6, total = 130

Week 2: 70 lb bar weight, 70 lb band tension, 6x6, total = 140

Week 3: 80 lb bar weight, 70 lb band tension, 6x6, total = 150 

The bar speed must exceed 1.2 m/s. Yuri Verkhoshansky used 40 percent for most of his explosive strength training, but on occasions, up to 60 percent was used.

 The goal with this cycle is to raise maximal power development. Thirty-six lifts are optimal for power development. Do no less than 24 and no more than 48 lifts per workout.

When using the complex method—meaning lifting a heavyweight then immediately going to a 30 to 60 percent weight—a much greater method is to use a large amount of band tension. Because of bands losing some tension at the bottom, it makes it possible to move a near maximal weight at lockout, but also makes one capable of starting the weight from the bottom position. This is not possible with just barbell weight, as it would be much heavier in the bottom position. A combination of weight and bands can make it possible to have the perfect weight on the top and bottom position. The athlete will learn to outrun the band tension, contributing to acceleration and power development.

We have covered weight training by not only 1RM but also by velocity. But is there something faster? Yes. Jumping and bounding and depth jumps. 

For performing depth jumps, the drop height for most should be 12 to18 or 24 inches. For the very strong and highly advanced, use a 36-inch box. Upon landing, jump as high as possible. Note: please learn how to perform depth jumps correctly by reading Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Natalia Verkhoshansky (2011). 

Jumping causes the fastest velocity of all. Explosive strength is the ability to rapidly increase force (Tidow, 1990). The steeper the increase of strength in time, the greater the explosive strength. 

To excel at jumping, you must possess strength-speed elasticity, the correct body type and weight. Always measure your jumps for length or height and number.  

Westside performs 40 jumps twice a week with resistance. Jumping from the kneeling position builds a strong foundation for all jumping or bounding exercises. Ankle weights, weight vest, Kettlebells and barbell jumps must be rotated continuously for best results to prevent accommodation. Keep records for all jumps with a standing, running, or seated approach.

Westside’s guidelines for jumping come from 35 years of experiments with the strongest men and women in the sport of powerlifting, along with top track athletes including two gold medal sprinters.

You must train at the correct velocity to build a special strength. One can become stronger and jump higher in the beginning of training, but progress will stop if the rate of force development does not improve. There are many things to consider for improving sports performance.




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