Workouts For Explosive Speed & Power | Unleash Your Athletic Potential

Workouts For Explosive Speed & Power | Unleash Your Athletic Potential

Workouts For Explosive Speed & Power

Explosive speed and power are essential components of athletic performance across various sports. Being explosive can mean the difference between good and great athletes.

Whether you're looking to improve your sprinting performances, jump higher, or develop more power in your movements, incorporating explosive exercises into your training routine can lead to significant improvements.

me training for explosive speed

This comprehensive guide will introduce you to the best exercises and training methods for developing explosive strength, speed, and power, helping you become a more versatile and dynamic athlete.

What This Article Will Cover:

  • Top 10 Explosive Exercises for Speed and Power
  • 3 Workouts For Explosive Speed & Power
  • The Fundamentals of Explosive Training
  • The Science Behind Developing Explosiveness, Speed, and Power 

Top 10 Explosive Exercises for Speed and Power

The following exercises are excellent choices for developing speed and power in the gym. Make sure they are performed fast, so you can recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers and develop top-notch explosiveness.

Be sure to use proper form and progressively increase the intensity of your workouts to maximize your results.

Lower Body Exercises

box jumps for explosive speed

  1. Box Jump: The box jump is useful for developing explosive lower body strength and improving your ability to jump higher. Start in a half squat position, swing your arms, and explosively jump onto a box, landing softly in a squat position. Step down and repeat.
  2. Squat Jumps: Similar to box jumps, the squat jump focuses on generating maximum force from a squat. Begin in a half squat position, explode upwards, and land softly, immediately transitioning into the next jump. You can start with your body weight and then add load as the movement becomes easier.
  3. Kettlebell Swings: The kettlebell swing targets your posterior chain, hips, and glutes, increasing power output in your lower body. Start with a kettlebell between your legs, push your hips forward, and swing the kettlebell upwards using the momentum generated from your hips.
  4. Sled Sprints: Attach a sled to your waist and sprint for a certain distance. This exercise helps develop explosive speed and lower body strength, especially in the sprint start position.
  5. Olympic Lifts: Exercises such as power cleans, the hang clean, the snatch, or the jerk can be great exercises for developing power. These exercises require more technical prowess than others, so you should practice the proper technique before loading these. Once familiar with the technique, utilize moderate loads and fast movements to develop power with Olympic lifts.

Upper Body Exercises

plyometric push ups for upper body explosive strength

  1. Push Press: The push press is a powerful upper-body exercise that focuses on developing explosive strength in your shoulders and triceps. Start with a barbell at shoulder height, dip your knees slightly, and then use your legs and upper body to explosively push the barbell overhead. Lower the barbell back to shoulder height and repeat.
  2. Bench Press: This classic strength training exercise is excellent for building explosive power in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Start with a loaded barbell at chest level and, with straight arms, push the weight upwards with maximal effort. Lower the barbell back to your chest in a controlled manner and repeat.
  3. Plyometric Push-Ups: Plyometric push-ups are a great exercise to increase explosive strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Start in a pushup position, lower your body to the bottom of the pushup, and then explosively push yourself off the ground, allowing your hands to briefly leave the floor. Land softly and immediately lower yourself back into the next push-up.
  4. Medicine Ball Exercises: Various medicine ball exercises, such as chest passes and overhead throws, can help develop explosive upper body strength. These exercises involve throwing or passing a medicine ball with maximal effort, focusing on speed and power output.

Core Exercises

core training for explosive power

  1. Explosive Russian Twists: Start seated on the ground with your knees bent and feet off the floor, holding a medicine ball or weight. Twist your torso explosively from side to side, touching the weight to the ground next to each hip.
  2. Ballistic Leg Raises: Lie on your back with your legs straight and a medicine ball between your feet. Lift your legs explosively, transferring the ball to your hands at the top of the movement. Lower your legs and arms, then repeat the motion, transferring the ball back to your feet.

Combining Exercises for Maximum Results

For optimal explosive strength and power development, it's essential to incorporate a combination of lower-body, upper-body, and core exercises into your training program.

You can also perform two exercises in a super-set, such as box jumps and push presses, to target multiple muscle groups and movement patterns simultaneously.

The particular combo of exercises you choose depends on your goals, but pairing explosive movements together can help you achieve more remarkable adaptations as a result of your training sessions.

3 Workouts For Explosive Speed & Power

Here are three workouts you can include in your training regimen to help develop explosive speed and power. As a coach & competitive athlete, these workouts have helped me build speed, power, and explosiveness.

If you prefer to build your own workouts, consider following the "3-5 rule". Pick 3 to 5 exercises, and perform them for 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions. Make sure you use maximal effort and rest long enough between sets to recover.

You can stop the workout if you feel you are becoming fatigued, as we do now want to get too tired when training for explosiveness.

sprinting workouts for explosive speed

Sprinting Workout For Explosive Speed

  1. Warm-Up: Jog 400m, perform forward/backward/sideways skips, and do core and spinal activation drills as listed in my Track & Field Warm-Up.
  2. Sprint Drills: Perform 2x20m of A-Skips, A-Runs, Ankle Dribbles, and backward runs.
  3. Short Sprints: Perform between 4 and 8 sprints between 20 and 40 meters. Start with shorter sprints and fewer repetitions, increasing the number of repetitions and sprint distance over multiple workouts or weeks of training.
  4. Cool-Down: Following the workout, jog barefoot on turf or in running shoes for 3x50m, followed by light stretching of your hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, and core.

Resisted Sprint Sled Workout For Explosiveness

  1. Warm-Up: Jog 400m, perform forward/backward/sideways skips, and do core and spinal activation drills as listed in my Track & Field Warm-Up.
  2. Sprint Drills: Perform 2x20m of A-Skips, A-Runs, Ankle Dribbles, and backward runs.
  3. Sled Sprints: Using a sprint sled or a push sled, sprint for 10 to 20 meters at maximum effort, pushing aggressively and trying to push the sled as far as possible each stride. Start with a lighter load, building up to a heavier load as your technique allows.* Use a sled push to target the quads, and use a sled pull to target hamstrings and glutes.
  4. Cool-Down: Do some light jogging and stretching as needed to calm your body down and begin the recovery process.

*Heavier loads are more effective at enhancing early acceleration, while lighter loads are more useful for longer acceleration distances.

Gym Workout For Explosive Power

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: Jog on a treadmill for a few minutes, then perform bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, and lunges, and do some light stretching to warm up properly.
  2. Box Jumps: Jump to a box height you know you can achieve safely. Focus on jumping up as rapidly as you can, swinging your arms aggressively, and landing softly on the box. Perform 3 to 5 sets of 2-3 jumps per set.
  3. Power Cleans: Load a bar with 40-60% of your max clean, and perform 3 to 4 sets of 2 to 3 power cleans. Emphasize a rapid acceleration of the bar.
  4. Kettlebell Swing: Instead of the power clean, you can perform kettlebell swings with a moderate load. Focus on transitioning from the eccentric to the concentric fast, relaxing toward the top of the movement. Perform 2 to 4 sets of 4 to 6 swings.
  5. Medicine Ball Throws: To finish the workout, find a space to throw a medicine ball. This can be done against a cinderblock wall or on turf. Holding the ball in your hands, squat down and then explosively throw the ball forward or backward as far as you can. Perform between 8 and 12 throws total with 1 to 2 minutes of rest after every two throws.

The Fundamentals of Explosive Training

While knowing good exercises for both power and speed is helpful, it's essential to understand the critical principles of explosive training and how they contribute to developing explosive speed and power.

By incorporating a range of training methods and exercises, you'll optimize your performance gains and ensure well-rounded development.

Explosive Power and Strength Training

Explosive strength training focuses on developing an athlete's ability to generate maximum force in minimal time.

This can be achieved through various training methods, including plyometric, resistance, and sport-specific training.

strength training

Plyometric training, for example, uses rapid stretching and contracting of muscles to increase power output. In contrast, resistance training emphasizes the use of heavy weights and fast movements to maximize force development.

Strength training should be considered the foundation upon which all other force-related qualities are built, so your program must include both faster, explosive exercises and heavier, more force-driven activities that develop maximal strength.

Speed Training

Speed training targets an athlete's acceleration, deceleration, and sprinting mechanics to improve overall agility and quickness.

Vital elements of speed training include sprinting, plyometrics, and high-velocity strength training exercises.

When training for speed, you need to prioritize the quality of your movements rather than simply trying to make yourself tired. If you move poorly or rest inadequately, your movement velocity will slow down, and you will not get the speed improvements you seek.

You should leave speed training sessions feeling energized, not exhausted. In my experience as a sprinter and track coach, focusing on quality rather than the amount of work performed has led to the best results for myself and my athletes.

Sports Performance and Training Methods

To achieve the best results, it's essential to tailor your explosive workouts to the specific demands of your sport. The SAID principle dictates that training leads to Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID).

This means you need to incorporate sport-specific drills and exercises that target the movement patterns, muscle activation, and energy systems required of good athletes for optimal performance. If you train in ways relevant to your ultimate goals, your training will have a higher probability of success. If, instead, you trained in a way that was not specific to your sport, you would be unlikely to improve at your sport.

Additionally, incorporating exercises focusing on injury prevention, joint stability, and movement economy can further improve your athletic prowess. Avoid repeatedly performing the same movement patterns to avoid chronic overuse injuries, burnout, and overtraining. Be creative and find ways to train certain qualities while mixing things up and keeping your workouts fun.

Periodization and Progressive Overload

Your strength training program should incorporate periodization and progressive overload principles to ensure continuous progress and avoid plateaus.

This involves systematically adjusting the volume, intensity, and frequency of your workouts to challenge your body and promote adaptation.

I advise athletes to follow a 2+1 approach, where you train hard for two weeks and then spend one week with reduced training loads to ensure you can recover from your training.


During deload weeks, you can add more rest days, reduce the work performed per workout, and prioritize things like sleep and nutrition.

We only get better at what we train for if we allow ourselves to recover from our training.

Sport-Specific Training for Explosive Speed and Power

As mentioned earlier, training in a manner specific to your sport will improve the likelihood that your training transfers to enhanced sports performance.

Whether you're a track and field athlete, football player, basketball player, or soccer player, incorporating ballistic movements and exercises tailored to your sport's demands will help you develop the speed and power needed to excel.

sport specific training

Sport-Specific Training Guidelines

  1. Track and Field Training: Focus on explosive sprint starts, plyometric drills, and high-speed running to improve acceleration and power output. For longer sprint events, incorporate speed endurance training. For jumping events, add more plyometrics and jump drills. For throwing events, practice throws while emphasizing upper-body and full-body strength training routines.
  2. Football Training: Incorporate agility drills, explosive sprints, and resistance training to build power in sport-specific movements, such as tackling and jumping. Also include hypertrophy work to enhance muscle mass.
  3. Basketball Training: Use vertically oriented jumps and lifts to improve your vertical jump while incorporating acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction drills. Work both single-leg and double-leg jumps in your plyometric training.
  4. Soccer Training: Utilize small-sided games to develop ball-handling skills while also including sprints, deceleration training, and change of direction agility training to prepare your body for the varied demands of soccer.

Nutrition, Rest, and Recovery

To support your explosive training efforts, it's crucial to prioritize proper nutrition, rest, and recovery. Consuming a well-balanced diet rich in high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will provide the energy and nutrients needed for muscle repair and growth. Additionally, ensuring adequate sleep and rest days will allow your body to recover and adapt to the demands of your explosive workouts.

Additional Considerations for Explosive Training

As you continue to develop your explosive speed, maximum strength, and power, consider these additional factors to maximize your progress and maintain a well-rounded training program.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Incorporating HIIT into your routine can help improve your anaerobic conditioning and boost your overall power output while burning fat and improving body composition.

Perform short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief recovery periods to challenge your body's ability to produce and utilize energy efficiently. This will help you become more explosive while also toning your body.

Balance and Proprioception

Incorporating balance and proprioception exercises into your training program can help improve your body's ability to react and adapt to rapid changes in movement.

This can be done with hurdle mobility drills, sprint drills, and balance-specific exercises. One of my favorite balance exercises is to walk forward and backward on a long PVC pipe or foam roller.

Training for balance and coordination can be particularly beneficial in sports that require quick changes in direction or sudden shifts in force, such as basketball or soccer.

Injury Prevention

Explosive training places significant stress on your muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Also, the more often you do a particular exercise, the greater the possibility that you may end up with a chronic overuse injury.

Be sure to include exercises focusing on joint stability, flexibility, and injury prevention in power training to reduce the risk of injury and maintain long-term progress.

Also, incorporate variety into your training by moving in different directions, through different ranges of motion, and with different exercises. This will help build you into a well-rounded athlete who stays injury-free.

Rate of Force Development

In addition to focusing on maximum strength and power output, consider incorporating exercises that target your rate of force development.

To do this, pick an exercise, and emphasize accelerating the load as fast as you can as early in the movement as possible. For example, if you're doing a front squat, reverse upward as rapidly as possible after reaching the bottom position.

This will help you improve your ability to quickly generate force, which is a fundamental quality you need if you want to be more explosive.

The Science Behind Developing Explosiveness, Speed, and Power

Developing explosiveness, speed, and power is rooted in understanding the biomechanics and physiological processes that underlie athletic performance. This section will delve into the scientific aspects of explosive training, providing insights into how these concepts can be applied to optimize your workouts and progress.

Force, Velocity, and Acceleration

Explosiveness in athletic performance is primarily determined by an athlete's ability to generate force, velocity, and acceleration.

According to Newton's second law of motion, force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration (F = ma).

physics of explosive speed

Because our body mass can only be changed so much, the critical factor for athletes to produce force is their ability to accelerate. In the gym, they need to emphasize rapid acceleration of the bar early in a movement. Similarly, jumps should be performed with a maximal rate of force development.

These qualities can be measured with a bar velocity sensor, such as the Enode.

Muscle Fiber Types and Recruitment Patterns

Muscle fibers can be broadly classified into Type I (slow-twitch) and Type II (fast-twitch) fibers.

Type I fibers are more fatigue-resistant but generate less force, while Type II fibers produce greater strength but fatigue more quickly.

Explosive movements primarily engage Type II muscle fibers, which are responsible for generating high levels of force in a short period.

Because we want to develop fast twitch muscle fibers to become better athletes, we need to emphasize explosiveness rather than fatigue when training for power and speed. Avoid taking yourself to complete exhaustion with your workouts, as this can lead to shifts from fast twitch to slow twitch fibers.

Stretch-Shortening Cycle and Plyometrics

The stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) is a key component of plyometric training and plays a significant role in developing explosiveness.

The SSC involves a rapid transition from an eccentric (muscle lengthening) contraction to a concentric (muscle shortening) contraction. This transition allows for the storage and subsequent release of elastic energy within the muscle, leading to a more robust and efficient movement.

Plyometric exercises, which involve rapid stretching and contracting of muscles, capitalize on the SSC to improve power output and explosiveness. Ballistic exercises such as jump squats can also help develop stretch-shortening cycle abilities.

By incorporating plyometric training into your workouts, you can enhance your ability to use the SSC effectively and increase your overall power.

Power-to-Weight Ratio and Efficiency

In sports, an athlete's power-to-weight ratio is a crucial determinant of performance.

A higher power-to-weight ratio means that an athlete can generate more force relative to their body weight, leading to improved speed and explosiveness.

If two athletes have the same body mass, but one has a higher power-to-weight ratio, that athlete will be faster and more explosive than the other athlete.

Increasing your power output while maintaining or reducing body weight can improve your power-to-weight ratio and overall athletic performance.

Additionally, improving movement efficiency and economy can further enhance your explosiveness. Optimizing your technique and reducing energy waste can generate greater force and speed with less effort.

Resistance Training Biomechanics

Understanding the biomechanics of resistance training is essential for maximizing power development.

Proper joint angles, force vectors, and movement patterns can significantly impact the effectiveness of your training.

Ensure that your training is performed in line with the biomechanical requirements of your sport or event. This can include considerations such as the ranges of motion used, the amount of load used in an exercise, the movement vectors you target, and the duration of your efforts during training.

Tailoring Your Training to Your Level

Finally, it's essential to adjust your training program according to your current level of fitness and experience.

If you're new to explosive training, start with basic exercises and gradually progress in intensity and complexity.

For more advanced athletes, consider incorporating complex movements, heavier weights, and sport-specific drills to challenge your body and promote continuous progress.

By combining a well-rounded, sport-specific training program with proper nutrition, rest, and recovery, you'll be well-equipped to develop explosive speed and power that translates to improved athletic performance.

Stay committed to your training, and watch as your hard work pays off in increased speed, power, and agility on the field or court.

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