T Nation

A Wannabe Athlete's Explosive Training Log


Hey, first post here - been lurking for a few months absorbing a ton of information on diet/training and the like. This first post may drag on a bit so bear with me

Heres a little background/motivation for this log:

First off, stats: Age: 24
Height: 5 10
Weight: 172
Body Fat: ~10%

Currently a full-time PhD candidate whos been training (lifting and such) on and off for several years now, but really didnt know what I was doing, especially with regards to proper nutrition and supplementation until recently thanks to this site.

Basically I love watching and playing dynamic sports like basketball and volleyball, and have always been decent at running and jumping, but Ive recently been inspired by guys like Alan Barch, Frank Yang and Kelly Baggett to see if I can take my own performance to the next level through focused training centered around heavy and explosive lifting.

As you can tell by the names Ive listed, Im especially fascinated by huge vertical jumps, and aspire to have a freakish one some day, haha.

A couple years a go I was around 38 in. with an approach (could hit my wrist/lower forearm on the rim), but have since suffered several frustrating injuries including a severe ankle sprain that has significantly curtailed any jumping and free squatting over the past year.

However, I have started following some Westside style training principles trying to build a huge base of explosive strength using various posterior chain focused exercises that dont require a ton of ankle mobility. Essentially, the purpose of this log is to keep me motivated reach my goals and to hopefully inspire some of you to achieve your own.

Current performances: Deadlift: 435
Bench Press: 265
SVJ: 27
1-Step VJ: 31

**Edited my starting jump stats after my first jump session which revealed that my jumping ability had lapsed more than I thought...


Ill go ahead and include the last couple weeks so you can see what Im currently doing:

Basic schedule:

Mon: Off
Tue: Upper Body
Wed: Dynamic Lower Body
Thur: Off
Fri: Off/Accessory
Sat: Upper Body
Fri: Max Effort Lower Body

(sets x reps)
5-5-09 (Upper Body)
Bench: 5x5 215-220lb
Bent over Row: 4x6 165 (new to these)
Military: 4x8 95-105
EZ Curl: 5x7 70-80
Dips: 2x10 with 25
Pullup (pronated): 10,10,8

5-6-09 (Dynamic Lower Body)
Box Squat: 8x2 215
High Pull: 5x3 225
Leg Curl: 4x6 110
Weighted Abs: 3x45sec 22.5

5-9-09 (Upper Body)
Incline: 5x4 185-195
Pullup (wide, neutral): 4x10
Dips: 4x10 with 27.5
Curls: 5x7 65-80
Fly: 3x10 100 (machine)
Hammer Curls: 3x8 40-42.5

5-10-09 (Max Effort Lower Body)
Deadlift: 1x5 375
Step-up (14 in): 10,10,8 115-135 (felt really winded - out of shape!)
Leg Curl: 4x6 115
Abs: 3x45sec 22.5

5-12-09 (Upper Body)
Bench: 5x4 230-235 (felt great)
Seated Row: 4x7 210-215
Military: 4x7 100-115
Pullup (wide, neutral): 2x10 2x8

5-13-09 (Dynamic Lower Body)
Box Squat: 10x2 205 (practically leaving the ground on these)
Hang Snatch: 6x1 140
RDL: 4x7 265

5-16-09 (Upper Body)
Incline: 8x3 195-205
Pullup (wide, neutral): 4x10
Close Grip Bench: 2x6 155 (new to these)
Curl: 5x6 75-85
Lateral Raise: 2x10 22.5
Hammer Curl: 3x6 42.5

5-17-09 (ME Lower)
Deadlift: 1x3 405 (estimate a 435 max of this)
Good Morning: 4x8 135-155
Abs: 4x45sec 10-22.5

5-19-09 (Upper - time for a deload)
Bench: 3x2 235-245 (felt like absolute crap)
Seated Row: 3x7 210 (still crap)
Military: 3x8 105 (ugh…)
Pullup (pronated): 3x10

5-20-09 (Dynamic Lower)
Box Squat: 10x2 215
High Pull: 8x1 255
Abs: 3x45sec 10-22.5 (gonna stop recording these)

5-22-09 (Upper - easier)
Incline: 3x6 165-175
Pullup (wide, neutral): 3x10
Close Grip Bench: 3x8 155
Curl: 2x8 80


OK and we’re off and running…

No lifting today, but played in a small 6-man sand volleyball tournament (got a major sunburn). Not much competition, but had some good hits and more importantly, the ankle felt pretty good - only a couple of minor twinges. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some real jump training in a couple of weeks. Until then Ill just keep working on restoring range of motion and focus on getting strong.


5-24-09: Max Effort Lower Body

No apparent soreness from yesterday’s volleyball other than my burnt upper back. Right adductor is still bothering me though (strained it doing split squats several weeks ago).

Deadlift: 1x3 415!, 2x5 335 (10# PR for the triple)
Good Morning: 3x8 135-145 (Lower back felt pretty tired)
Leg Curl: 3x6 120

Dropping back on the volume these past few weeks has really let me step up the weight on the DL. Today is my last ME day before next week’s vacation so I really wanted to hit that 415 3RM which should put me around 445 for 1 rep (2.58xBW - nice round number, I know).

I guess I should outline my goals more explicitly for the next several months:

  1. 100% recovery of ankle range of motion so I can squat and jump pain free.
  2. Keep pushing up the weight on Squat and Deadlift toward into the 2.25xBW and 2.75xBW area (about 395 and 480 if I keep my weight around 175 - definitely more attainable for the DL this year).
  3. Hang Snatch 1xBW (Haven’t been able to do this much because of the ankle)
  4. SVJ ~35 and RVJ ~40 - I think this is definitely within reach if I don’t run into any significant setbacks, especially regarding the ankle.


5-26-09: Upper Body

Bench Press:
210x5 - Dead.

Bent over Rows:

Standing Military:

EZ Curls:


5-27-09: Dynamic Effort Lower Body

Box Squat: (~1" below parallel)
10x2 220

Hang Snatch: (high catch, ring fingers on the rings)
4x2 135


Abs: Medball Rollouts

Grip: Plate Pinch (35lb)

My grip is obnoxiously weak. I could barely hold on at the end of the RDL sets… using a mixed grip! On an unrelated note, the ankle did not bother me at all today. Adductor is still pretty painful when squatting, but it’s getting the next 9 days off (vacation).


6-7-09: Easy Day - first workout after 10 days off

The ankle feels much better so I’m going to start including some movement efficiency/plyometric work (light drills before lower body workouts (Sun/Wed) plus a more intense plyometric workout on Fridays. My right adductor still feels really tight so no squatting for another week or two at least.

High skips: 4x5 /leg
Lateral speed hops: 3x15

3x5 325 (75%)

2x5 185

Good Morning:
2x8 115

Abs: Medball Rollouts, Weighted crunches

Grip: Plate pinch (3 10’s)


6-10-09: Lower Body - still taking it somewhat easy

Bilateral speed hops: 4x15 (2 x side-side, 2 x front-back)
Tuck Jumps: 3x10

3x5 345 (~80%) - felt tougher than expected, and the adductor feels tight again

Leg Curl:
3x6 115

Abs: Weighted crunches
Grip: Plate pinch (2 25’s, 3 10’s)

Overall I didn’t feel so hot today. Since squatting is still a problem I’m moving to a hybrid 5x5/Westside setup focusing on the deadlift (5x5 on “ME” instead of a RM, speed deadlifts on DE instead of Box Squats), although once I’m able to squat I’ll shift the focus to that. I might try using Jump Squats on the DE day if the adductor and ankle can handle them.


6-12-09: Jumping and Movement Efficiency

Bilateral speed hops: 3x15
Reactive stair hops: 3x10

1-step jumps for height: 20-25 @ ~31"

Adductor felt fine while jumping and the ankle felt OK (not great) so I guess that’s a plus. I was a bit disappointed with the height since I used to jump several inches higher, but then I haven’t done a max effort jump in about a month (literally). Generally the idea with these max jumps for height is to keep going until performance begins to decrease, so the total number of jumps isn’t too critical. I actually had to stop today due to time constraints rather than fatigue.


6-14-09: Dynamic Lower Body

Bilateral speed hops (front-back): 4x15
Reactive stair hops: 3x15

Speed Deadlift:
6x3 285 (~65%)

Hang Power Clean:

Front Squat: (just trying some light sets)

Abs: Weighted crunches
Grip: Plate pinch (2 25’s, 3 10’s)


6-17-09: Max Effort Lower Body

Bilateral speed hops (side-side): 3x15
Stair hops: 3x12

Hang Clean:
3x185 PR

4x5 355

Reverse Lunge (from 4" platform):
3x5 BW only - adductor rehab

Abs: Weighted crunches
Grip: Plate pinch (45#)

Well I feel like both my ankle and adductor are getting better to the point where I can start incorporating front squats on the DE day and some single leg work on ME (although I’m using the terms ME and DE a bit loosely at the moment). I think back squats and box squats are still a little ways off though. I ordered two CoC’s (Trainer and #1) to get some more serious grip training in since I really feel like my grip is holding me back on the olympic lifts.


6-19-09: Jumping/Movement Efficiency

Unilateral speed hops (side-side): 2x15 per leg
Tuck jumps: 3x8

1-step jumps for height: ~31"

Sand vball…

Same height as last week although that’s probably to be expected since I’ve been ramping up the workload this week. I’ve been doing ankle mobility exercises (extension and flexion) on my bad one pretty much every day and it’s ROM seems to be improving steadily. It’s still not pain free when jumping for max height though.


6-21-09: Dynamic Effort Lower Body

Stair hops: 3x12
Tuck jumps: 3x10

Hang Snatch:
3x125 - 3RM
1x130 (miss)

Front Squat:
3x5 165

Speed Deadlift:
5x3 295

Abs: Weighted crunches
Grip: Plate pinch (45#)

Moved to a clean grip (index fingers at shoulder width) for the hang snatch which knocked off a few lbs, but that’s the grip I want to use going forward. I’ll be aiming for PR’s every week in the 1-3 rep range with the oly lifts (Clean on ME, Snatch on DE) to try and inch closer to that bodyweight hang power snatch. Today was also my first real front squat workout, and I had no problems with the ankle or adductor even though I was going rock bottom on them. I’ll be doing 4x5 or 5x5 with these every DE day (I’m doing 4-5x5 deadlift on ME) for the next several weeks to try and pack on some more lower body meat.


6-24-09: ME Lower Body

Unilateral speed hops: 2x15 per leg
Tuck jumps: 2x10

Hang Clean:
2x200 2RM PR

4x5 360

DB Reverse Lunges (4" platform):
3x6 20’s

Abs: Medball throws
Grip: CoC - 4x10 Trainer

The clean PR was very nice - hopefully I’ll keep making good progress on these since I haven’t done them for any length of time during the past two years. Got my CoC grippers and was pleasantly suprised that I was able to close the #1 right off the bat. I guess my grip is at least better than infantile (but not by much).


6-26-09: Jumping etc…

Bilateral speed hops: 2x15
Stair hops: 2x12

1-step vertical jumps for height: ~32"

Grip: CoC #1 3x3-6

Definitely an inch higher than the last two jump sessions. Both injuries have gotten noticeably better as well.


In order to create an improvement in explosive strength, you need to improve your central nervous system’s ability to recruit your fast-twitch fibers for a powerful movement as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, you should lift 4-6 days in a row. On day 1, perform a pull movement, a push movement and a leg-only movement (some sort of squat). Day 2, perform a leg/upper body movement (cleans, deadlifts, etc.) and a press. Day 3, go back to pull/press/leg. Day 4 will be same as Day 2, but do an upper/lower move and a pull and keep rotating this way for 4-6 days straight, then take a couple days off. Perform slight variations on the pulls, presses and leg-only moves so that you end up with several different but similar moves for each movement. All the moves should be compound movements which force you to recruit a larger amount of muscles and therefore more motor units.

Perform each movement either explosively with 40-60% of your 1rm or maximally with 85-90% of your 1rm. Perform 6-8 sets with short rests between each one. Do not stretch between sets as this downregulates your central nervous system and compromises your ability to effectively exert maximum force. When doing explosive movements, do 3-5 reps (never more than 25 total reps per exercise) and do 1-2 reps when lifting maximally. At the end of the week, you should be doing about 2/3 of your movements for each body part maximally and 1/3 of your movements explosively.

What this accomplishes is it forces you to become better at exerting maximum force output for a wide variety of complex, athletic movements with heavy resistance. This will naturally improve your ability to move quickly AND powerfully during sports-related actions. Since the overall volume of reps and sets will not be high enough to create a hypertrophy effect, you will be gaining strength through improving your muscles’ efficiency rather than by increasing its size, the epitome of functional strength gains. It is important to follow this routine by lifting either 4 days straight or 6 days straight (if going 6 days straight, two exercises per day is enough.) It’s like practicing a golf swing. You don’t hit 500 balls once a week, you hit 100 balls 5 days a week.

You can also mix in some ballistic movements (either projecting a weight or medicine ball out of your hands or jumping or pushing yourself off the ground, i.e. jumping squats or ballistic pushups). This is best done with 10-30% of your 1rm. To make the proper adjustments for sports keep this in mind: ballistic movements increase your speed primarily and your explosive strength secondarily, whereas the oppposite holds for explosive movements. Maximal lifts are best for increasing overall strength, but not great for increasing speed very much. But since power is defined by how much weight you can move at a high speed, you need to build up your maximal strength in order to be able to move a significant weight quickly. This is especially relevant in sports that involve contact with other athletes such as football, rugby, or MMA.

Here’s another analogy: a factory can get a lot done if it has a lot of workers, but a factory with less workers can get the same amount of stuff done if the workers are more efficient. Hypertrophy-targeted lifting will increase explosiveness and overall strength through an increase in size, whereas the above methods will increase explosiveness and strength by making you more efficient at recruiting motor units. It is also important to remember that when lifting explosively or ballistically, you should never be lifting to the point where the weight isn’t actually moving quickly. If you lift explosively to fatigue, once the weight begins to move slowly, even if you have several more reps left in you, the fast-twitch fibers are done and the slower ones are taking over. It’s okay to lift explosively IN a fatigued state, but not to lift explosively TO a fatigued state.

When doing maximal lifts, just make sure you can use the same weight for all sets with proper form. The speed the weight moves isn’t important here as long as your form doesn’t break down. For athletes, keep the rest short between sets (less than 2 minutes). If you aren’t worried about maintaining a high heart rate and improving upon endurance, a rest of 3-4 minutes between sets (especially maximal sets) is fine.


Here’s a sample workout. M means maximal and E means explosive. I usually alternate deadlifts on Day 2 with either hanging power cleans or Romanian deadlifts because I don’t like doing a lot of heavy deadlifts. Day 1 I only do 6 sets for each exercise rather than eight and seven on the last day to avoid any overfatiguing. Your central nervous system will need a rest every now and then so I typically do days 1 and 3 with a three day rest between each one and do 4x10 on each movement about every 6 weeks. I’ve begun doing a ballistic movement that hits similar muscles after the moves on Days 2 and 4. For example, after each deadlift set, I go straight into 4 broad jumps and after each set of chinups, I do 8 medicine ball slams. After power cleans, I hurl a medicine ball as high as I can over my head into a wall a few feet behind me ( I use a 20lb. ball) for 4 reps and then follow close grip press sets with 5 ballistic pushups.

Squats 6x2 M
Incline press 6x4 E
Weighted pullups 6x2 M

Deadlifts 8x2 M
Chinups 8x4 E

Front squats 8x4 E
Bench press 8x2 M
Barbell rows 8x2 M

Power cleans 7x2 M
Close grip press 7x2 M


Alrighty then, thanks for your thoughts.

6-28-09: DE Lower Body

Bilateral speed hops: 2x15
Tuck jumps: 4x8

Hang Snatch:
2x135 2RM

Front Squat:
4x5 185

Reverse Lunges (4"):
3x10 BW only

Abs: Iso holds with 25-30#
Grip: Plate pinch (2 25’s)

Got one of those Stingray front squat stabilizers - definitely makes things a bit more comfortable.


7-3-09: ME Lower Body

Unilateral speed hops: 2x15
Stair hops: 2x12

Hang Clean:
1x210 1RM PR

4x5 365
1x5 370

Reverse Lunge (4"):
3x8 20’s

Abs: Weighted Iso holds
Grip: CoC T and #1 (3 sets)

Missed my first clean attempt at 210, but nearly hit myself on the chin with my second try so I probably should’ve been able to get 215, but oh well…


7-5-09: Jumps etc.

Bilateral speed hops: 4x15
Stair hops: 2x12

1-step vertical jumps for height: 32"