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Four Exercises To Make You Explosively Fast & Strong

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 09 January 2017
Hits: 6486

I don't know anyone who wants to be slow and weak, but I know many people who want to be fast and strong. Especially athletes or anyone who plays ball sports like football, basketball & tennis. Why then do so many people adopt slow training principles, exercises and methods in their training? The old saying, "train slow, become slow" is so true. This doesn't mean you cannot use slow exercises, they are essential at times for stability and strength components of an exercise program, but to develop power and fast explosive skills, you have to train with exercises that move fast and explosive. It is really as simple as that. The big problem with these particular exercises is that they are very difficult to learn, and also teach, and they also are quite risky with a chance of injury if you get them wrong. Technique is everything with these exercises. There are many great exercises you can use, and to help you we have provided with our Top 5 that are relatively easy to learn.

What Is Power?

Power is often seen in sports like Golf during the swing of a drive, sprinting when they explode out of the blocks. It is one of the 8 important abilities for all athletes.

Muscle, or mechanical, power is defined as the product of force and velocity (force multiplied by velocity. In simple terms it is the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements.

In order to produce power, the athlete must be able to efficiently stabilize the body, handle fast deceleration forces, and explosively coordinate and activate the appropriate muscles to produce the desired explosive movement. Often this skill is what makes an average sports person great! Whether it is needed to move explosively to hit a golf ball, jump, sprint, tackle an opponent, react to an unpredictable tactic, the need to produce power is as important to the athlete as learning the ball skills. But what if you don't play sports do you still need this skill?

Absolutely!!

From simple activities as sweeping leaves in the driveway, doing the gardening to walking up stairs, all these activities require power. They require a fast explosive contraction in order to produce the most efficient movement. Try walking up stairs very slowly and see how much more strength you need and how tiring that is versus walking up at a normal speed. Research has shown muscle power decreases even more rapidly than muscle strength with advancing age, indicating that movement speed also decreases with advancing age. It has been suggested that this may be due to the preferential the weakening of fast-twitch (Type II) muscle fibres. Many studies indicate that power training may be more advantageous in improving function than traditional strength training methods. High-velocity (power-specific) training also increases muscle power to a greater degree than traditional low-velocity strength training.

Read our article Can You Slow The Ageing Process With Exercise for examples of how we use this with people in the 70's!

Does this mean we need to start teaching Olympic Weightlifting exercises like Power Cleans and Snatches to everyone? No. If you can do them with good technique already and enjoy them that is great. But I find these exercises are so difficult to teach, come with a very high risk of injury and are a sport in it's own right. Trying to teach this to athletes is like trying to train a soccer player to learn tennis. Sure it has some great benefits from a power perspective but the actual movement skills most sports require are from single leg and lunge positions and not parallel stance. Watch the video below as I explain this in great detail and give examples of more effective exercises that provide the same benefit, if not better, but without the risk.

Make Sure You Have Great Stability & Strength Before Trying Power Exercises

Now before I give you our top four power exercises make sure you get a copy of our Free Report on Functional Training below as this has everything you need to know about the methods and techniques we discuss here.

Before using power exercises you need to ensure you have already developed key movement skills, stability and a basic degree of strength. For all clients we always follow what is known as the Success Formula for progressing their skills and development. You must understand that you cannot create power without first having STRENGTH. And you cannot develop strength without first having STABILITY. And you cannot achieve true stability without first having optimal range of motion with joints and FLEXIBILITY! Each step prepares your body for the next. You cannot break this rule or skip steps, for not only do you risk injury but you also prevent reaching your potential for the weakness has not been addressed.

Read our full article on the Success Formula to see how we do this.

Movement skills fall in the category of Stability training but they so important for teaching TIMING and coordination which is often the biggest weakness with the power exercises we are about to show you. Often people have great strength but cannot perform these exercises as their timing is out. They move too slow and try to "muscle" the movements instead of using momentum, speed and precise timing. This is the same reason injuries like Golfers elbow, Tennis elbow and most back problems are created. The athlete is trying to generate force or power from muscles instead of an integrated full body movement that utilizes efficient timing. If you have ever watched a young teenage professional tennis player play against a strong amateur adult male player and absolutely destroy them you will know what I mean. The harder the guy hits the ball the harder it comes back until he eventually makes a mistake. The girl uses incredible timing to become powerful and little energy, (the male player by the way was me).

You cannot underestimate the value of learning how to move. We break this up into 7 key patterns of movement that you can see in the video below where I also give you examples of how this relates to sports and everyday movement.

Okay we are now ready to see what our four exercises you can use to help you move explosively fast! These are very fun too!

Power Exercise #1: Sledgehammer Slams

Who doesn't love to smash things? This exercise is such great fun, although again the technique is often hard to master for many people. It has nothing to do with strength and everything to do with coordination and timing. Most females struggle with this the most which you also see with throwing a ball or trying to use an axe to cut wood in the backyard. Again it is not strength that is the problem but a lack of coordination and timing. I found this hard to teach at first, but I found a way to do this by breaking it up into different phases using a very light sledgehammer. When you get this exercise right you feel very puffed out and exhausted. If you feel muscle tension you are not doing it right.

Instructions:

  1. Standing with feet a comfortable distance apart holding a sledgehammer to one side of your body and 70% of your weight shifted onto the foot on the same side as you are holding the handle.
  2. Make sure your hands are together and to-wards the bottom of the handle.
  3. Draw your belly button inwards rotating with the torso with the handle pushed up directly over your head.
  4. Explosively swing the hammer down directly over your head as you step in towards the target.
  5. Pull the hammer back towards you and re-peat. Complete all the repetitions on one side then change to the other side

Watch the video below of how to do it.

Power Exercise #2: Box Jumps

There are many types of Box Jumps you can use but I always like to start with the easiest ones first and then work my way up to the harder more difficult versions. You want to eventually progress to several single leg landing versions as these are the exercises that will prepare you to build immense stability & strength in the ankle, hip and knee! If you injured your knee playing sports it is absolutely essential you reach this stage before commencing sport again. If you cannot complete these exercises with complete confidence you are not ready to play. You will not only play below your ability but you risk injuring your knee again and going back to the beginning. We use this exercise extensively with our ACL rehabilitation program and with all types of lower limb injuries.

Below I have listed in order of easiest to hardest a series of box jumps.

Box Jump To Soft Landing
1. Standing on a box with good posture.
2. Drawing your belly button in towards your spine drop from the box landing in bent knees and hold still.

Box Jump To Single Leg Soft Landing
1. Standing on box with good posture.
2. Drawing your belly button in towards your spine drop from box landing on one leg with bent knee and hold still.

Box Jump To Vertical Tuck
1. Standing on a box with good posture.
2. Drawing your belly button in towards your spine drop from the box landing on the balls of your feet and immediately jump high drawing your knees up.

Box Jump To Single Leg Land & Vertical Tuck
1. Standing on a box with good posture.
2. Drawing your belly button in towards your spine drop from the box landing on the balls of one foot and immediate jump high drawing your knee up.

Power Exercise #3: Tornado Ball

To be honest I could have included many medicine ball exercises here but I chose the Tornado Ball as it has an added complexity to it that ensures you keep the rope tight. As with the sledgehammer if you feel muscle tension from this you are either doing it for too long or not doing it right at all. You should just feel out of breath and exhausted. The set should last no longer than 15 seconds. Any longer and you lose the speed of the movement and ultimately the timing. It is all about the timing. Any golfers or tennis players out there this is an absolute must have in your training program as this exercise mimics the movements of those sports very closely.

Instructions:

  1. Standing with your back to a wall feet a comfortable distance apart knees bent.
  2. Holding the rope with both hands.
  3. Draw your belly button inwards rotating from the trunk chop the ball horizontal against the wall on either side of your body.
  4. For variation chop the ball from low to high.

Watch the video below for examples of how to do this.

Power Exercise #4: Kettlebell Swing

This exercise can easily be used as strength endurance as much as power. I have included this as an easier way to learn the explosive hip action used in Olympic Lifting. To make it relevant to Power you need to make sure the load is pretty heavy and use reps of 1-5. Resting between reps is useful here for remember it is all about the explosive take off and braking more so than just swinging in the air. You must make sure you are competent with Deadlift technique before attempting this as you can seriously injure your back from a movement like this. I have seen many herniated disc injuries from Crossfit style training occur exactly like this! A great exercise for developing great glute strength if you get it right.

Instructions:

  1. Standing with knees slightly bent holding a kettlebell with two hands between your legs.
  2. Drawing your belly button in towards your spine bend forward at your hips beginning the kettlebell swinging just below knee height.
  3. Explosively drive your hips forward extending your legs whilst swinging the kettlebell outward.
  4. Control the kettlebell as it reverses direction at the top of the arc and swings downward.
  5. Repeat the action to continue a fluid swinging motion.

Watch the video below of the technique tips.

Summary

Learning power exercises is very challenging but also extremely important in developing efficient ways to move. Coordination and timing often are the weakness that prevent people from executing these perfectly. Devoting time to improving this skill improves your overall ability to play sports and do everyday activities with ease. Plus they are also great fun and can improve fitness levels dramatically.

If you would like more ideas on how to use these exercises and many others make sure you get a copy of our Little Black Book Of Training Secrets by clicking here or on the image below.

And if you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our programs you can schedule a Free Health & Fitness consultation by filling the form below.