How To Improve Power & Explosiveness for Athletic Performance

During numerous sporting events, many athletes have to exert as much force as possible within a very short window of time.

Think Tyson Gays’s 0.07 second ground contact time whilst sprinting.

The following information could benefit you if you are an athlete that requires short bursts of power and the quick, explosive generation of force; such as athletes that compete in sprint running, high jump, long jump, basketball, javelin, shot-put and gymnastics. (1) (2)

Within these sports, it is not the strongest of athletes, but those that can produce the greatest force in the shortest time frame that have the advantage.

To reach higher forces during fast movement, training should focus on improving rate of force development.

Rate of force development, or power, is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible force in the shortest possible time.

Which exercises will improve an athletes power/rate of force development?

Think Olympic lifts and ballistic exercises such as the clean and jerk and snatch; movements that require an athlete to accelerate throughout the entire range of an action.

Can strength training improve an athletes power and explosiveness?

Strength and power are intrinsically linked. Therefore, an improvement in one will directly transfer into an improvement of the other.

Research into rate of force development suggests:

Heavy weighted loads of 90% 1RM and below are better suited to enhance the rate of force development, 1-3 repetitions, rest period 3-5 minutes.  (2)

The body’s adaptations from training within this rep range are mostly neural; this is the rep range where you’ll find Usain Bolt and McKayla Maroney.

Training here will make you stronger, faster and more powerful without adding bulk.

One particular benefit to training within the 1-3 rep range, is that it allows the body to improve the synchronisation and recruitment of all three types of muscle fibres for maximum power.

Think of the body as having three strings of power, or scientifically three types of muscle fibres (type 1, type 2a, and type 2b).

One simultaneous neural request must recruit all three types of fibres for maximum power.

Unfortunately, the body does not do this.

When lifting the body will call upon the first string (type 1 muscle fibres) to lift. If the weight is too much, it will call upon type 2a. If type 1 and type 2a fibres cannot fulfil the request, the body will call upon type 2b.

Olympic lifts, or any compound movement, at 90% 1 RM, will increase the synchronisation of all three muscle fibres (tetanus); which will, consequently, increase an athletes power and rate of force development.

It is tetanus that determines success in sports in which action time is limited, and should therefore, be a significant focus of your athletic training.

How can an athlete enhance their power and explosiveness without weights?

Plyometric training can also enhance an athletes power. (3)

Plyometric training features explosive bodyweight exercises that involve a rapid stretching of the muscle immediately prior to a forceful muscle contraction.

Movements that have minimal contact time with the ground such as jumped lunges and squat jumps are plyometric movements.

Plyometric training can improve an athletes power because of its ability to increase the muscles storage of ATP/CP.

ATP & CP are the bodies muscular energy stores designed for fast, explosive energy.

Increasing the ATP/CP storage of a muscle increases its anaerobic capacity which will allow an athletes muscles to work for longer when under stress, and without the use of oxygen.

For a FREE workout that combines strength training with plyometrics check out the Advanced PAP Workout for Athletes

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