T Nation

Explosive Strength



I'm thinking about ways to build explosive strenght and am a bit confused.
I know speed in the concentric phase of the lift is very important, but what kind of volume, rep and set numbers should I be looking at?

Would working with partial reps in the weak range of the full range of motion help?
For example if you're slower at moving the weight at the bottom position of benchpress, you do partial reps from the bottom and only move the bar to a quarter or so of the full rep. It would make sense to me that you'd become more explosive at the bottom range working on the weak part of the rep like that.

I hope I'm making sense here. Every advice is welcome.


Volume, set and rep numbers vary with the individual and preferences, however, the key thing is BAR SPEED. It seems strange, but many people forget this and get preoccupied with working in certain % ranges of their 1RM. These % ranges are simply guidelines. Some people work better in the high end (or even above accepted limits), and some in the low end (or below).

As far as partial reps go, I generally wouldn't bother. I've used partial reps with the low end of my deadlift before, but only as accessory movements, not the explosive lift. If anything, ROM should be the same to slightly larger than normal. Remember that you want to get and maintain a high rate of force development, especially at your weak point. Working from a dead stop is helpful, as is working from a relative mechanical disadvantage. If you're weak at the bottom of the DL, start from the floor and work technique, then at some other cycle/week, work from a slight deficit.

A similar approach would apply for the squat and bench.

As soon as your bar speed drops off, you need to stop the lift and move on, or lighten the weight. Strip sets are to be avoided, though, as fatigue is not the goal.

Typical values are 8-12 sets x 2-3 reps
Deads are often pulled for singles. Volume for the olympic lifts will usually be lower, in the range 3-6 x 1-5. Intensity is guided by %1RM. Usually this is between 45%-65%, although as stated before it can vary by lifter and bar speed is the defining attribute to look for. Olympic lifts are by their nature explosive, so generally intensities of up to 90+% 1RM are acceptable. However, the bulk of the training should mostly take place below the 90% mark until technique and conditioning are flawless.

Hope this helps.


Thank you for your reply. Much appreciated.



One thing that you should remember is that the most important part of producing power is absorbing it! The more I read and the more I "experiment" on myself, the more I become convinced that the only reason as an athlete to lift heavy weight is to learn how to absorb power (obviously this is different for athletes such as football lineman who have a lot of "strain time" in their game, not just explosive movements, although they need that too) During a full sprint, the best sprinters in the world absorb impact forces over 4 times their own body weight. If you can't stabilize that force, you won't be able to produce it. However, in regards to the concentric portion of the lift, I believe that ballisitic exercises must be incoporated to make full gains in explosive power. After all, when you bench or squat, a significant amount of time is spent decelerating the bar, otherwise it would fly out of your hands. However, this is exaclty the opposite of what happens in a real "explosive power" situation! A pitcher accelerates all the way through his pitch and a basketball player's legs are moving their fastest just as his feet leave the floor. Therefore, ballistic movements must be incorporated in order for this to happen. Jump Squats, Ballistic Bench Press, Plyo Pushups, Medicine Ball throws and Depth Jumps should be incorporated for at least part of an athletes training macro-cycle in order to develop that portion of power production.


jtrinsey: Thank you for sharing your views on this. Very interesting.


Bar speed. Totally. If you want to become explosive, then you have to explode!

I dunno how well partial reps will work for this. Obviously you'll have to do this work first in your session when your CNS is fresh. I personally think a lighter load for a full ROM will be better than a partial movement. Leave the heavy partials for the finisher sets. When you have to kill every musclefibre in the room, accept no substitutes.

But yah, light load, explode for full ROM I reckon.


Your performance (quality) should dictate the volume (quantity) in all cases. Here's an example:

Clapping pushups (upper body excplosive strength). Now the idea isn't to clap actually, it's just to be able to leave the ground. You'll need a way to meaure how high you go (I'll leave that to you).

Further assume that you decide to do sets of 3 with 90 second rests. The goal (for example) is to clear the ground with your hands by 6 inches.

In the above scenario, keep doing sets of 3 until you 1) you can no longer clear the ground by 6 inches, 2) you experience pain, and/or 3) you've done a silly number of sets witoutout any noticeable performance decrease.

In the first case, stop, and try to improve upon this performance next time. In the 2nd instance, stop and see a medical professional. In the final example, add load next time and start again

Hope that helps.


After reading the info Charles Staley just gave, i went and tried some clapping pushups, before when i tried i couldnt even get one, so i tried it and did 5 in a row and 10 to 12 inches height, i was very surprised but my wrists hurt now lol,

im not into any sports at the moment i just lift weights at my home gym, i have started doing cleans from the floor recently could that have made me quicker?.


Charles Staley: Thank you for your advice. I'll look into clapping pushups, jumping squats etc.