On my Facebook page earlier I attempted to briefly explain the difference between being strong and being athletic. Being strong is of critical importance, especially when training athletes, but you need to have a mix of speed, strength and power to be athletic. This mixed in with endurance and mobility is what makes an ATHLETE!
That’s all well and good saying these things but how exactly do you set out to do that? This in fact was what 2 people emailed me asking within an hour of me posting today! So hopefully, here is your answer…
Any good strength coach will tell you that power is the product of strength and speed combined, so in order to become more powerful than ever you need to incorporate both of these elements into your training programme. If you want to develop power then basically you want to be able to lift a heavy assed weight quickly!
So who needs to develop power? Nearly every athlete would do well to have this explosive skill in their locker. From a hockey player sprinting to turn defence into attack, or a footballer out jumping the goalkeeper to head in a corner, a rugby player rushing up out of the defensive line smashing their opponent into next week. It is also a critical component of combat sports such as MMA, wrestling, boxing and judo. In fact you’ll struggle to think of a proper sport where having power is not a utility you need.
Before I show you a few ways to start developing this power we need to lay a solid foundation to build from. These are of critical importance:
- Placed on this in top spot because it is by far the most important thing to take into account. You need to be strong as hell BEFORE starting to develop power. It is widely suggested by many expert strength coaches out there you should be able to comfortably squat 1.5 times your bodyweight in a full range of motion (ROM) in order for power to be built. If you are unable to do this then focus most of your time in the weight room building strength!
- Strip fat and stop carrying excess weight, and this all starts with diet. You know the difference between what’s good for you and what isn’t! Some simple ways of doing this is to try and drink nothing but water, or switch as many drinks as you can to just water. Drink plain Green Tea which is not only packed with anti oxidants it will also help you strip fat, if you’re going to train mean then you need to eat clean to get lean. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll be able to notice the difference in the mirror even after just a couple of days.
- If you want to be an athlete then you need to train like an athlete, just think of the old saying “Athlete’s don’t work out, they TRAIN.” Do you think Usain Bolt updates his Facebook halfway through 3 sets of 10 on bicep curls, or needs to hit bench press, flat DB bench press, flys and pull overs after the weekend because it’s “Chest Monday”? I highly doubt that he does! Instead he’ll train like an athlete programming ATHLETIC MOVEMENTS such as jumping, balance work, skipping, hopping, running and sprinting as well as plenty of bodyweight work.
So now that we have covered the “who needs it” and “how to lay our foundation” we can now tackle the “how” of developing explosive power. If you want to become more explosive then the best place to focus your attention is your hips. Listed below are a few key elements that I would use when programming to ensure the hips are both strong and powerful. Use a combination of the below to develop both your upper and lower body:
HEAVY Squats: Full range of motion, ass to grass or hips below the knees. Use different variations such as back, front, box and single leg variations. Lift as heavy as you can manage and work between 1-5 reps for 3-5 sets depending on your rep range.
Jumping: Low body plyometrics normally work very well when done straight after a heavy squat set (see example below). This is called Contrast Training and is where a heavy strength move is combined with an explosive movement done at speed and as we know by now that combination of strength and speed will result in power. This can also be utilised in the upper body with a bench press and explosive speed press ups.
Heavy Explosive Pushing: One of my favourite ways of training explosive power is using Olympic Lifting and variations of the Olympic Lifts. Some of my favourites to use are Power Cleans, Snatches and hang variations of both movements as well as High Pulls when looking for a bit more weight. 1-3 reps per set is normally what you’ll need but you can go up to 5 if you want. Speed is the key component on these lifts, 3-5 sets with a nice long recovery in between. Technique here is more critical than ever.
Heavy Explosive Pushing: Utilise explosive moves overhead such as Push Press and Push Jerk, both the barbell and dumbbell variations. Do 1-5 reps depending on the weight you have on the bar and again 3-5 sets. I’m not as keen on heavy pushing exercises overhead as it’s sets the shoulder in an awkward position, driving the bone in your upper arm straight into the shoulder joint. This increases your risk of injury so you need to decide if being able to press a really heavy weight from shoulder to overhead is of critical importance to your performance.
Deadlift HEAVY: The deadlift and it’s variations are sensational for developing strength and power all over your body. The best piece of advice with them I can give you is to go heavy on them every 10-14 days. This will give your body and especially your Central Nervous System (CNS) a chance to recover then attack this movement again to shock it back into action. As with squatting use different variations like regular, sumo, stiff leg or Trap Bat if your gym has one. Work between 1-5 reps for 3-5 sets with a good rest in between, mix your grips up as well and work between snatch grip, clean hook grip and under/over.
Sprinting: Short bursts (30 seconds on a treadmill, step off for 30 seconds and repeat), resistance using a sled or a car tyre, or your mate holding on to you, explosive starts (off knees or laying down) and longer sprints to develop your body’s resilience to the build up of lactic acid.
Use a mixture of the above to gain success in training for your sport. Below is a strength and power workout that focuses on hip explosion that was requested to me by a good friend of mine that’s a wrestler. I am also going to use this exact workout with an MMA fighter that I work with but it will work well for anybody looking to become more quick and explosive in the lower body during the season (E.g. Footballers, Hockey players, Rugby players etc. once we get pre season strength and muscle building out of the way.)
1A) Box Squat – 5×5 (last 3 as heavy as possible)
1B) Box Jumps – 5×3
2) Barbell Power Clean – 5×3
3A) Barbell Hang High Pull – 3×5
3B) Barbell Push Press – 3×5
4) Deadlift – Work up to a heavy set of 3. (Start with a weight you can comfortably lift for 3 reps and add weigh every set until you start losing form.)
5) 10M sprints starting on knees x 5. Walk back recovery.
***Stretch off big time after these workouts or you might not be able to walk for a couple of days afterwards***