Many sports require explosive traits to perform at a high level. Think Greg Inglis breaking the line for South Sydney in the NRL or Patrick Dangerfield bursting from a stoppage in the AFL. The ability to be an explosive athlete can give you a significant advantage in many sports.

Firstly, let’s look at what makes up an explosive athlete. Effectively explosiveness is a component of speed strength and refers to the acceleration or rate of force development. In layman’s terms, it’s the body’s ability to apply maximum force and extend through a range of motion to generate a high velocity action.high velocity action.

Obviously people are born with better explosive traits than others, however significantly developing explosive strength is possible through employing specific training techniques in a suitable environment.

How do we improve explosive traits in our athletes at ESS Performance?

Firstly we undertake a needs analysis for the sport in which you’re participating. It’s important to have a complete view of the athletic requirements of the sport so we can develop a training stimuli that will provide you the best outcomes on match day. For example, there would be little point on us focusing entirely on explosive traits in AFL if you have a low aerobic capacity and the ability to apply repeat efforts. So from a coaching perspective we want to ensure you a balanced program that guarantees you have the athletic profile to succeed in your chosen sport.a training stimuli that will provide you the best outcomes on match day. For example, there would be little point on us focusing entirely on explosive traits in AFL if you have a low aerobic capacity and the ability to apply repeat efforts. So from a coaching perspective we want to ensure you a balanced program that guarantees you have the athletic profile to succeed in your chosen sport.on us focusing entirely on explosive traits in AFL if you have a low aerobic capacity and the ability to apply repeat efforts. So from a coaching perspective we want to ensure you a balanced program that guarantees you have the athletic profile to succeed in your chosen sport.

If explosive strength is a component we want to develop during a phase of training, here at ESS Performance we do so by using the following methods.

1)     Strength Training – Strength training leads to increases in the top half of the force/velocity relationship. By increasing strength, we build our ability to generate force. Most athletic movements start from a stationary position, with the early phase of movement requiring the most effort, therefore the more force an athlete can apply, there more explosive they will become. A large amount of young athletes we see are fast, but quite often lack strength to be powerful. By increasing their force output we can then utilise their speed to increase their maximum power. To achieve this we look to the big lifts; squats, deadlifts, bench press and rows, and derivatives of these.

2)     Explosive Strength Training – Explosive Strength Training involves traditional weight lifting exercises executed as fast as possible with a relatively light load. Generally we would use a weight around 30% 1-RM to ensure the movement is as fast as possible. Although an issue with this method is that in the final phase of many movements, the athlete must decelerate the bar in order to maintain control of the lift, activating the antagonist muscles negatively affecting power output. Lifts to combat this we sometimes use are Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, and multiple derivatives from these two. These lifts are extremely powerful movements, proven as one of the most effective resistance training techniques to produce power (1). As these are technically difficult lifts, we always encourage performing these under supervision of our qualified coach’s.

3)     Ballistics – During a ballistic action, movement is of high velocity due to force outweighing resistance. The resistance (often a medicine ball, jump squat or smith machine bar) is accelerated and then at peak acceleration, projected far as possible. Weight is generally below 50% 1-rm, with each movement performed as fast as possible without losing quality of the movement.

4)     Plyometrics – Plyometrics are a popular form of power training, and involves a quick, powerful movement that involves the stretch-shortening cycle (2). That is, it involves producing maximal power with as minimal ground contact time as possibly. Plyometrics can usually be performed without any equipment, so is suitable to team sports.to team sports.

Working on explosiveness is a really exciting aspect of training for both coaches and athletes alike. The training is at high intensity and the results can normally be seen relatively quickly if good sport science principles are undertaken by expert staff as well as correct coaching of running technique. Improvements in our speed testing (5m, 10m, 20m) can occur quickly which in turn gives the athlete real confidence going into a match/training. However due to the excitement of training in this stimuli, some coaches overemphasise the importance of explosive strength training within a training system ahead of providing a more balanced program . It’s always our intention at ESS Performance to ensure our programs provide the correct training stimuli to match your current athletic profile against the demands of your sport.

Incorporating appropriate explosive strength training into your performance program will provide wonderful benefits on the sporting field. The ability to improve your explosive traits is possible with the help of great coaches , but as with all training stimuli, it’s very important to have a balanced and periodised program  that meets with the athletic requirement of your sport.

Good luck and as always, make sure you enjoy your training.

1.      J et al A Comparison of Strength and Power Characteristics Between Power Lifters, Olympic Lifters, and Sprinters Strength Cond Res 12: 58-66, 1999

2.      Baechle TR and Earle RW (2000) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: 2nd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Darren Rowland

Darren Rowland joined ESS in 2013 after being accepted as one of twelve interns in the ESS Coaching Mentorship Program. Darren showed great enthusiasm and promise as a coach and after successfully completing the twelve month internship, secured the role of Assistant Coach for the ESS Athlete Development Program.

In 2014, Darren was appointed a full time role as Strength and Conditioning Coach for ESS and was promoted in 2015 to a Senior Coaching Position working alongside the Head of High Performance for the Athlete Development Program. Currently Darren manages the AFL, cricket, fencing, and snow sports programs together with assisting high grade motorsport and athletics programs. Combining the knowledge gained through his education background, with his practical experience and expertise as a coach, Darren takes a strong approach to biomechanics, exercise physiology, motor control as well as exercise rehabilitation. Darren is committed to ensuring his knowledge and practices are cutting edge by regularly keeping up to date with the scientific literature and continuing education programs. His commitment to continued self-development as a coach ensures he is at the forefront of performance programming for athletes. This commitment has enabled Darren to work with an extensive list of athletes from grass roots level to national and international representatives.

Articles By This Author