One of the best ways to get bigger, stronger, and faster is with weights.
But since you read this blog, you already know that.
Lifting weights has numerous advantages, regardless of what you use. Dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, dragging sleds, and of course bodyweight exercises are all useful when trying to get stronger.
But training explosive strength is completely different. It’s one thing to be strong. It’s a completely different story to be able to rapidly recruit that strength.
So, what’s the best way to build that explosive strength and power? The #1 way to build explosive strength is through plyometric exercises. The second best way is to lift your weights quickly, with explosive intent.
This article discusses the benefits of plyometric training, as well as some great bodyweight plyometric exercises you can use today to build explosive strength
Benefits of plyometric training
Plyometric training is one of the best ways to build explosive strength. Below are some reasons to do plyometrics.
Strengthens fast-twitch muscle fibers
The goal of plyometrics is to maximize how fast your muscles contract. Since power is the amount of force exerted in a given amount of time, the quicker your muscles contract, the more powerful you are. This is really helpful in athletics where you have to be able to run, jump, hit, kick, and change directions very quickly. Developing power requires you to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Plyometric training works your fast-twitch muscle fibers and teaches your body to “recruit” them faster, resulting in more power.
Increases tendon strength, which means fewer injuries
Strong tendons helps your muscle fibers produce more power. Stronger tendons also means fewer injuries. You make them stronger by placing a controlled stress on them, and providing adequate nutrition and allowing enough time for recovery. When done correctly, plyometrics can help build stronger tendons. But I can’t overstate how important it is to warm up thoroughly and rest for a full 2-3 days after each plyometric session.
Otherwise you’re doing more harm than good.
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Makes your neuromuscular system more efficient
As I mentioned, the stretch-shortening cycle is called into action every time there is a rapid stretching of the muscle spindles. When this happens, a signal is sent from your brain to your muscles via your neuromuscular system. The more efficiently your neuromuscular system can transmit this signal, the faster you can contract and relax your muscles, which in turn increases your speed and power. Plyometric training improves the efficiency of this system.
Improves sports performance
Like I said earlier, plyometric exercises lead to better sports performance. By training your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you can jump higher, punch harder, kick farther, run faster, and decrease the time it takes to exert maximal strength. On top of that, a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that combining squats with plyometric exercises increased hip and thigh power production. That’s perfect for sports that require running, jumping, kicking, or twisting.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of doing plyometric exercises and how they build strength, I want to share the 13 best plyometric exercises that you can do. Again, please be sure to warm up thoroughly before doing any of these.
1) Plyometric Pushups
Plyometric pushups, or “clap pushups” are great at building explosive upper body strength. You simply do a pushup and try to push your self off of the ground.
2) Medicine Ball Throws
Another great upper body plyometric exercise is medicine ball throws. Essentially, you hold a heavy medicine ball and throw it up as fast as you can. It helps to be outdoor when doing this.
A depth jump is when you drop off of a box or bench and then jump straight up as soon as you hit the ground. It should take less than a fraction of a second. It’s a “shock” method that’s been proven by Russian researchers to increase vertical jumping ability. It’s literally your “secret” weapon if you want to be able to jump higher.
With a lunge jump, you start in the lunge position and then explode up into the air. While you’re in the air, you switch legs so that you land in the opposite position. For example if you start your lunge with your right foot in front and left one in back, you should land on the ground with your left foot in front and you right foot in back.
A rim jump is when you stand with both feet flat on the floor and jump straight up, as high as you can. You want to have a target to reach for, like a basketball rim for example, hence the name “rim jumps”. To perform this exercise correctly, you need to jump up again as soon as you hit the ground. In that sense, it’s similar to depth jumps.
6) Zig Zags
I remember doing zig zags in high school gym class. It’s a classic plyometric exercise designed to build speed, quickness, and agility. You simply jump left and right over an imaginary line on the floor.
Sprinting is amazing for your health. It helps promote fat loss, builds muscle, and trains your fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire quickly. They’re a staple for strength and performance athletes.
8) Single-Leg Deadlifts
The first time I saw these I didn’t know what they were. It’s when you stand on one leg, hold a dumbbell in your hand, and bend over at the hip. It’s a weird looking movement, but good at generating hip power.
9) Pistol Squats
Pistol squats are a classic lower body bodyweight exercise, but we’re going to do them with a twist (I know, I know, as if they aren’t hard enough on their own). If you can muster up the strength, try to do a jump at the end. It’s tough, but will really help increase your lower body explosiveness.
To do a single-leg calf raise, you simply stand on a ledge, or low box on the balls of your feet. Then you simply raise up. You can add some weights to your hands if you want, but otherwise you can just hold that position for a few seconds. It obviously works your calf muscles really well.
This is a funny looking exercise, but it really works your hamstrings very well. You may have seen a glute ham raise machine at the gym. If you don’t have access to a gym, you simply get on your knees and have someone hold your feet in place. With your torso completely straight, you lower your upper body to the ground until your face is just a few inches from the ground. Feel free to use your arms to keep you from hitting the ground if you aren’t strong enough yet.
“Chair rockets” are a great exercise. You put one foot on a chair or bench with the other one on the ground. Then you explode up, pushing up as if you were climbing a stair. While in the air you want to land on the opposite foot on the chair. As soon as you hit the ground you want to explode back up and do it again. It’s almost like a lunge jump, except that it’s on a bench or box.
13) Bulgarian Split Squats
Lastly, Bulgarian split squats are another exercise that you can do to build hamstring strength. You stand facing away from a bench and put one foot on the bench (the top of your foot will be on the bench). Then you simply want to squat down, ensuring that all of your weight is on the foot that is on the ground (not the bench). Be sure to keep your back straight the entire time. After that, you repeat the process for your other leg.
Plyometrics can help build explosive power, often without weights. You can mimic this effect with weights by lifting explosively during the concentric part of the movement (the “lifting” part of the lift).
About the Author:
Raza blogs at https://www.TheScienceofGettingRipped.com and shares workout tricks and nutrition hacks for busy guys to build muscle and burn fat. Download his guide “The Ultimate Muscle-Building Dessert” to learn how to build muscle while crushing junk food cravings.