Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top 3 Tips to Improve Explosive Athletic Power

Its easy to notice how explosive athletes are in sports like football, basketball and baseball. You have to train explosively to improve your explosive power. Genetics plays a part but hard work also figures in the equation.

One of the best physical predictors of success in sports is your "rate-of-force production" or how fast your muscles can produce force (power).

Here are my Top 3 Tips to Improve Your Explosive Power:

1. The number one reason that you don't reach your explosive power potential is a weak core area. The saying "you are only as strong as your weakest link" is true in the case of the human body.

The majority of powerful athletic movements are either initiated or transfer through your body's core area. Many sports injuries can also be linked to a weak core area.

Most athletic core exercises should be performed in a standing position since most athletic movements are on your feet. These exercises will also involve the important hip stabilizer muscles and not just the abdominals. A great full-body core exercise is the medicine ball rotational throw (pictured below).

The core exercises should be multi-planar, multi-dimensional and progressive. Many athletic movements involve twisting, rotating, turning, etc.

2. Functional training should be a huge part of an athlete's strength and conditioning program. Or, stated another way, you should train for the sport(s) you will play (train movements, not just muscles). Some traditional training techniques have not focused on functional training.

Your body needs to be stabilized and strengthened before progressing to high-speed power exercise programs. If this is not done, you are headed for certain injury when more intense exercises are introduced.

Improve your total body strength, especially leg strength. Overall strength training (including core training) is needed to stabilize joints, build muscle, correct postural problems and improve flexibility.

A male should be able to squat his body weight 8-10 times and a female should be able to squat about 75% of her body weight 8-10 times. If you are not able to squat, then you should be able to leg press about 1.5 times your body weight 8-10 times.

Many young athletes are progressed too fast by coaches/trainers to "more glamourous" plyometric exercises! Along the same lines, athletes should perform an exercise correctly before progressing to power exercises.

The exercises should also constantly challenge and improve (progressive) your athletic ability.

3. Improve your explosive power. Often overlooked are team practices. It is important that you practice fast and explosively preparing for games.

Explosive weight lifting will improve your power and set you apart from your athletic competitors. Make your total body more explosive.

Just as you can do medicine ball exercises, plyometric exercises and light dumbbell exercises explosively, you can also lift heavier weights explosively.

Lifting weights explosively is an advanced form of exercise and shouldn't be done by beginners or youngsters. Your body should have the needed stabilization and strength before beginning explosive lifts.

It doesn't help you improve as an athlete to continually get stronger if power development is not there also.

Research has proven that only lifting heavy weights at a moderate or slow pace will not improve your explosive power.

Plyometrics, upper and lower body, help you to increase leg power and arm power.

Improving your quickness and agility will also enhance your explosive power.

In many instances, quickness is more important than straight ahead speed. In many sports, maximum speed is rarely reached or needed, but explosive reaction is often necessary. You can improve reaction times by training to make the right choices (choice reaction).

Reaction time is the ability to respond quickly with proper posture and control to a stimulus such as sound or sight.

How many times have you seen a player with "not great speed" repeatedly make plays to help the team win. This is not an accident. You can improve your change-of-direction speed with proper training. Read my post that discusses change-of-direction speed in detail.

Improve your quickness and agility in these ways:

a) As with any athletic move, core strength is critical. Overall body strength is also important.

Before you begin to train for speed and power, the foundation should be laid with sufficient core and body strength.

b) Body positioning is critical if you want to improve your change-of-direction speed. You will need dynamic balance. In many sports, it is not that easy to change direction and accelerate because the athlete is often off balance.

Some sports, such as football and basketball require running with or bouncing a ball. And, other sports, such as soccer require moving a ball with the feet. The best running backs, tennis players, basketball players, shortstops, etc. all have great dynamic balance.

Having great dynamic balance means that you are able to maintain your center of gravity over a constantly changing base of support. Thus, quickness and agility drills help you to improve dynamic balance and change-of-direction acceleration while not wasting motion.

c) To improve change-of-direction acceleration, you should have a shin angle of approximately 45 degrees for the first few steps. Your shoulders should also be slightly leaned forward.

The body lean should be at the ankles and not the hips. Having the feet just wider than shoulder-width apart will give you the most stable base of support. This is not always possible during athletic competition.

Therefore, stability needs to be added by lowering the center of gravity. Change-of-direction acceleration could be laterally, at an angle or forward (when back pedaling) and will catapult you to near maximal speed quickly.

The first step in the change-of-direction is important. If this step is too long, you will over-stride and bring the shin to a vertical angle instead of 45 degrees. This will slow you down. So, the first step should be under your hips. Again, the body lean should be at ankles and not the hips.

Improving your coordination will help improve your multi-directional speed and linear speed (straight-ahead speed). A player rarely reaches maximum speed during game competition.

Having great change-of-direction speed (agility with quickness) allows you to beat your opponent "to the spot" or recover from mistakes in positioning.

Improve your quickness and agility with these drills and then apply them during your movements in team practices:

---jump rope (one foot, two feet, slalom, Ali shuffle, backpedal)

---speed ladder drills

---cariocas, tapiocas, back pedals, shuffles, toe taps

---hip turn and hip flexibility drills (like leg swings)

Work hard to improve your explosive power! It will make you more successful!

Download your FREE 10-Minute Strength and Power Workouts now!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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  1. I'm a tennis player and a big man with a big arm. I'm trying to add power to my forehand but no matter how I tried there is only very small improvement. Glad I find this site. I believe that this is the solution.

    J. Harp writer @ Dental Bleaching

  2. J. Harp...thanks for reading this post. These techniques will work. Just stay with it...Let me know how your power tennis game is improving.


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