The Plan for Developing an Explosive Athlete

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One observation I can make with athletes is which ones are more explosive than the other.

This is usually pretty easy to figure out because without any type of formal training, some kids can jump really far or high.

Then you can get athletes in a group with their teammates and some just seem to be spending a lot of time in the air. These are your explosive athletes.

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Why are some more explosive than others?

Every athlete is different.

Some are constructed in ways that make them more towards the strength end of things and some are more towards the power end. This means one athlete may be able to squat a house while another can jump through the roof.

Ideally you would have someone who could probably do both.

Eric Cressey presented a good test in one of his books (probably the Off Season Training Manual). You would test the vertical jump of an athlete like normal. Then you would do a vertical jump test by first starting on a box, landing on the ground, and then jumping up.

This test gives you a pretty good idea if an athlete is more “springy” (does well on the second test) or more on the strength end of things.

Building true explosiveness is not easy, though. It actually takes a while and there are aspects that must be hit.

  1. Good technique and movement

When it comes to lower body training, jumping is usually a great way to develop power. When jumping an athlete must be able to hinge their hips, extend their legs, use their arms, and land soft in the same position they started in.

If an athlete is missing any of those characteristics then the jump will not be as good and they are leaving some potential on the table. They have to be able to move well and efficiently to get really explosive.

Teaching this at a young age works wonders for athletes. It may be difficult to get through to kids before they are teenagers but when they are older it becomes easy.

  1. Explosive athletes are strong

Athletes that jump really high or run really fast also happen to be strong. They might not be breaking world powerlifting records but they are definitely stronger than average.

Power is work divided by time which practically means that it is strength developed quickly. More strength, more potential for power development.

Here is an example. 2 similar athletes that both weigh 175 are running. If Athlete A can deadlift 400 pounds and Athlete B can only get 250, which is more likely to be able to move their 175 bodyweight better? Athlete A, in most cases.

Just the other day we wrapped up testing with the Stonehill Hockey team. The athletes with the best vertical jump numbers also happened to be near the top in the front squat test.

Being able to squat/deadlift a ton of weight does not automatically mean an athlete is going to powerful but it at least gives them the foundation they need.

  1. Training for Explosiveness

When we are training for power we have some rules:

  • The weight should be lighter
  • The athlete should think about moving quickly
  • Short work bouts
  • Long rest periods

When doing squats for power development most people go too heavy because they are used to training at the strength end of the spectrum. After doing speed squats most people will think that they didn’t do anything. It couldn’t be further from the truth, it just doesn’t burn like a heavy set of 5.

Jump training also needs to be tweaked. Athletes usually do not get enough rest when they are doing jumps. If it takes them 5 seconds to complete their jumps they should be resting for almost a minute. This can seem boring but the body needs it to recover. Adding in some mobility work or something easy can help ease the wait time.

Let’s assume the athlete knows how to jump and has plenty of strength, this kid will be primed to be very explosive. It is now on them to use it during their sport. An athlete can have all the answers to the test but still fail if they do not use the tools given to them.

Athletes must try to be explosive in practices and skill sessions in order to use that in a game. Power is not an easy thing to develop. Taking the right path to develop it is important. Using it in gameplay is even more important.