The Development Of Explosive Strength – Ashley Jones

Author  Ashley Jones 

This is an article I wrote back in approximately 2001, still relevant today

Olympic style weightlifting and it’s variations have been used for many years as the foundational basis of many strength training programs for improved sporting performance. The rationale behind this lies in an understanding of the effects this style of training has on the force-velocity curve.

Most general strength training focuses on the development of force without the application of velocity. Since the generation of maximum force is usually represented via an isometric contraction, this would appear to be disadvantageous to the expression of force in respect to time. Also popular in general training is tempo training which emphasises slow speeds of contraction during both eccentric and concentric phases. Although this may be an excellent mode of training for hypertrophy, it still relates force to force development rather than the rate at which that force is developed or expressed.

The misnamed sport of power lifting is another training method that emphasises the force aspect irrespective of time. I say misnamed since power is derived from the equation of force divided by time. The longer the time period the lower the power output. Compare the differences noted in the deadlift and the clean exercises from the research of O’Shea (NSCAJ Vol 21, No.5, 34-35).

Coaches should be aware of the momentum equation as well when designing programs that emphasize hypertrophy. Since both mass and velocity impact on momentum, it is important that an increase in mass does not have a disproportional negative effect on velocity. If a coach suggests that a player needs to gain mass in order to be more productive, analyse the effect of mass gain on momentum.

For example: Player before hypertrophy program has a mass of 94kg and a maximum velocity of 8.7 m/sec. After undergoing an off-season resistance program to increase his mass, he now records a mass of 98kg and a velocity of 7.9 m/sec. Has this successfully improved his position?

Momentum 1 = 94 x 8.7 = 817.8 Newton’s
Momentum 2 = 98 x 7.9 = 774.2 Newton’s

A decrease of 73.6 Newton’s, which amounts to almost 9% decrement in momentum.

The player has to be assessed on many more criteria than this mathematical calculation, but it is a good starting point from which to debate the emphasis in many programs on increasing mass.

I am an advocate of Olympic weightlifting and its derivatives. There is a philosophical opposite to this style of training that contends that this training is dangerous. I have included a summary of the two sides for you to analyse the rationale for each side. The caveat I place on the Olympic style of training is that it must be taught and continually coached. There is potential for injury in all types of physical training, but I believe if the exercise is coached and the athlete has been screened for potential musculoskeletal problems, then injuries can be avoided. The point/counter point is taken from the NSCAJ Vol 21, No.1, p45.

According to O’Shea (2000), Olympic lifting and it’s derivatives require the following, which he attests are the reasons that this style of training transfers to optimal athletic performance:

1. Use of all major muscle groups.
2. Full range multiple joint movement in multiple directions.
3. A strong ballistic impulse (maximum recruitment of Fast Twitch fibres).
4. Acceleration and speed.
5. Technique – balance – timing.
6. Maximum neuromuscular conditioning.
7. The athlete thinks in terms of:
Strength, speed, technique and high velocity power.

This rationale is supported by the work of Dreschler (1998) in his reasoning of the unique value of Olympic lifting to athletes:

1. Maximum activation of a number of motor units rapidly and simultaneously.
2. Athlete learns to apply force with their muscle groups in a proper sequence (summation of forces).
3. Learn how to accelerate objects.
4. Application of plyometric concepts under loading.
5. Train the muscles most used in sports.
6. Train qualities of explosiveness.
7. Fun and challenging to perform.

Preliminary Movements – Preparing the Body

Jump with bar at mid thigh, chin tuck and shrug, keep arms straight, clean and snatch grip.

Overhead Squat: Snatch grip on bar, keep elbows down with biceps and palm up, good external rotation at the shoulder.

Pressing Balance: Bar held at shoulders in clean grip or behind neck in snatch grip, press bar as you squat down, push yourself under the bar.

Squat Press: As per previous example grip positions, sit into squat and then perform the press either clean in front or snatch behind. Be comfortable and balanced in the deep squat position.

Front Squat: Bar held at shoulders, with clean grip, raise the elbows, bar resting on shoulders not held in hands, keep chest up as you lower into the squat.

Frog Balance: Hands palm down on ground, elbows flared out, place knees above the elbows and move slowly into balancing on hands. Very good for improving wrist flexibility.

Heaving Snatch Balance: Feet in squat position, bar in snatch grip, either dip at knees, drive the bar up and squat into receiving position or drop into the squat position as you drive the arms into the snatch position.

Snatch Balance: Feet start in pull position, remainder is as above but as you dip and drive you move your feet out to the squat position to receive the bar in the squat snatch receiving position. Speed with control, dip-drive-drop-sit.

Push Press: Behind neck in snatch grip or in clean grip in front, bar held at shoulder level, lift chest by inhaling, hold breath, dip down (flat feet), then drive up receiving the bar at arms length on straight legs.

Power/Push Jerk: As per above except more weight can be used and you receive the bar at arms length with a second dip, the knees are bent in the receiving position.

Split Jerk: Bar positioned at shoulder level in clean grip, dip down, drive up split feet forward and back, receiving bar at arms length, front foot flat on ground, back leg on ball of foot. Off two feet, land two feet, feet and arms together.

Snatch Technique – Learning Progressions
Vertical jump + shrug in snatch grip with the bar below the knees
Pressing snatch balance
Overhead squat
Heaving snatch balance
Power snatch, above the knees
Power snatch, below the knees
Snatch pull to knee level
Snatch pull complete
Power snatch from the floor
Power snatch + overhead squat
Class snatch

Clean Technique – Learning Progressions
Vertical jump + shrug in clean grip with bar starting below knees
Front squat
Power clean, above the knees
Power clean, below the knees
Clean pull to knee level
Clean pull complete
Power clean from the floor
Power clean + front squat
Classic clean

Compound Movements/Variations

Miyake Pulls – 1 set – 3 reps
Platform to mid thigh – to below knees – to mid thigh – back to below knee, then complete high pull.

Schake Pulls – 3 x 2
Snatch or clean followed by snatch pull or clean pull.

Rakmanov Good Mornings
Good morning – squat – raise hips – concentric good mornings.

Simmons Good Mornings
Good morning – squat – stand up from squat.

Sots Press
Power clean – front squat – press for 3 reps – stand up.

Miyake push-ups
Handstand push-ups.

Starr Drill
Power rep and squat rep, clean or snatch, sets of 3.
Power from floor – squat from hang – squat from floor – 3 x 3 @ 70%.

Push Jerk and Split Jerk – 3 x 2 @ 80%
Military + Push Press + Push Jerk
Push Press + Push Jerk + Split Jerk

Barski Cleans – 3 squat cleans from hang.

Three position clean or snatch, power or squat.
Floor – hang above knee – top of thighs.

Split snatch balance + squat snatch balance.

Good morning + squat + push press behind neck.

Good morning + squat + lunge into push press.

National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal
Vol 21, No.5, p45

O’Shea P
Towards an Understanding of Power
National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal
Vol 21, No.5, pp34-35

O’Shea P
Quantum Strength Fitness II
Gaining the Winning Edge
Patricks Books, Corvalis, Or, 2000

Dreschler A J
The Weightlifting Encyclopedia
A Guide to World Class Performance
A is A Communications, Flushing, NY 1998

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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