T Nation

Explosive Training for Sports

The NSCA advocates the philosophy of training explosively to develop explosive power. This means, after a strength base is developed, plenty of Olympic lifting and plyometrics. They also are fond of sport-specific movements with weighted implements and medicine balls. As a personal trainer who works with high school and college athletes, I was convinced, and when done with proper instruction and supervision, this type of training seemed to show good results and zero injuries.
However after reading some articles by the Princeton strength coach,
I am wondering if I am putting my athletes at unnecessary risk of injury for the sake of miniscule gains in power. Matt Brzycki is a HIT advocate. He claims that plyometrics and power cleans are dangerous, and that there is no such thing as sport-specific training, except for playing that sport.


Note that I am not talking about “altitude jumps” from 5-9 feet, or spending every single second in the weight room doing the Olympic lifts instead of basic strength developers like squats, incline pressing, chinups etc. etc., or sending some high school freshman to do barbell snatches on his own, so please don’t go there in your response.
I know that this is not a bodybuilding question, but there seem to be quite a few knowledgeable people on this forum who could help me out.
Most of what I have read suggests that explosive training is great, but most of what I read on the subject, appears in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, so I may be looking from a narrow viewpoint. When I read what Matt Brzycki had to say, I guess it shook me up a little. On that site they give a list of teams that use HIT and not explosive lifts, but I could give one just as long of teams that train based on the NSCA platform. How does Charles Poliquin train his Olympic athletes? What about Ian King? I don’t think they read the forum, but if any of the Testosterone staff knows their basic philosophy, I would like to hear it. Thank you.

Poliquin and King both use explosive movements to train their athletes. Both advocate the power clean, snatch and other explosive movements. In fact, if you look at some of King’s workouts, you’ll see that he gives the option to train for explosive strength or maximal strength depending on the reader’s interest.

I saw an article by Poliquin where he said that the incline press, front squat and power snatch were the best means to measure maximal strength. And he gave reasons for each one. He also uses hundreds of variations of the Olympic lifts when he trains his athletes.

I have used the Olympic movements as I once did a little competing in Olympic weightlifting. Along with the basic exercises (back and front squats, benches, push presses, dips, rows, deadlifts, etc), I made great gains in strength and explosiveness.

So don’t let the HIT advocates sway you from what you already know. I’m sure HIT has it’s uses during a program, but I wouldn’t rely on it for too long to build the explosive power you are looking for. And yes, these exercises are sport specific!

Nate is right… my vote is squarely with the NSCA. However, I think a big driving force in the debate by the HIT guys is the overtraining of most collegiate athletes. The NSCA methods simply do work better, but also often lead to overtraining if they’re not applied by an expert coach. The harsh truth is that most coaches still operate under the rule of “the hardest working team wins.” And this usually translates into tremendous volumes of sprint work on the field, coupled with their regular 3 hour practices and four, one hour long weight sessions a week, which focus on the big power movements. If you take a team that does all that and put them on a HIT program, they’ll do much better, simply because they can recover from the volume of HIT training.


But that doesn’t mean that power movements aren’t better, just that you need to carefully monitor the volume of work. If you’ve got a team that’s spending a lot of time practicing and running sprints, their optimal volume for weight training is going to be pretty low.

I’ve found HIT to be fairly useless. except if used as a means of just changing the pace of a BB’s wkout schedule. and why does everyone seem to be under the impression that olympic lifts are the only/best way to train for explosive strength? if you’re an olympic lifter then yes, but if not then there is limited transferability. i would greatly appreciate more discussion on this.

Jason, limited transferability to what? Other lifts? Sports? What are you referring to? In truth, Olympic lifting has great caryover to almost every sport I can think of. But noone ever suggested that without using them you couldn’t develop additional power.


Olympic lifts are very time efficient exercises that can certainly help with developing explosive power… They’re not the end-all, be-all of lifting, just exercises like everything else. If used properly, they are a useful “tool.”


I just reread my last message and I think I made a mistake in referring to power movements as “better.” My bad… I meant to refer to the NSCA system of training using speed and plyometric work, along with greater volume in the weight room as being a superior approach than HIT training if used properly. I wasn’t refering specifically to “power” movements.

Jason, the Olympic lifts are not the only lifts that are good for explosive power. But they are the main lifts! Yes, plyometrics work well too. But overall, most sports use the Olympic lifts because they do transfer over to their sport!

These are just a few of the sports that use the Olympic lifts to increase explosiveness: football, track & field, rugby, baseball, skiers, bobsleigh, luge, short track speed skating, hockey, and many, many more!

Why do they use the Olympic movements? Because they transfer to sport!!!

Poliquin said this about the power snatch: “The power snatch will measure the force velocity production capabilities of the posterior chain of your athletes. This includes the muscles of the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. This is very important since it is the hamstring muscles which are so important during activities such as sprinting and jumping. Since the power snatch is a high velocity lift, it provides the most information with regards to the velocity an athlete is able to produce along the force-velocity curve.”

That's just one example. And if you take a look at many of Poliquin and King's recommendations, you'll see that they advocate the Olympic lifts and their variations in many programs!

Doug, I agree about keeping the weightroom volume low when a lot of other sprinting type work is done, particularly inseason.

Jason, you don't think the Olympic lifts develop transferable power. What would you recommend in their place?

You are not putting your athletes at unnecessary risk by doing plyometrics and power movements such as the clean, snatch and squat. provided that you teach them proper form and supervise them.


HIT advocates tend to be zealots, meaning they will lie, mislead and do anything they can to get you to beleive their position. plyometrics and power movements can be dangerous IF YOU DO THEM WRONG. HIT is dangerous if you do the movement wrong too ! regarding there is no such thing as sport specific training, bullshit. all you have to do is: examine the sport, determine what muscle groups are primarily used for power output. then use maximal weight training parameters to train those muscle groups in excersizes that can carry over to the sport ! (by this i mean, if you determine the quads are responsible for power output, don’t do leg presses, do squats). the reason the college teams that use HIT are sucessful is most likely because they overtrain on the field during their sport so much that the tiny amount of volume that they are exposed to through HIT works better than further overtraining them with plyometrics and power movements.

charles poliquin uses all sorts of olympic lifts and plyometric movements with his atheletes, as well as ian king does. just look at some of their articles. charles often brags about how much his bobsledders can power snatch (about 85 % of the current world record in their weight class) or front squat. ian king talks less about his olympic athletes but from what i've read of his material, i guarentee he uses plyometrics and power movements. charles basic philosophy when it comes to training olympic athletes is take the muscle groups responsible for power output and make them big and strong using maximal strength loading parameters, which are: sets: 5 - 12, reps: 1 - 5, weight: 85 - 100 % of 1 rep max, rest interval: 4 - 5 minutes, concentric tempo: 1 - 4 seconds, eccentric temp : 3 - 5 seconds.

i’ve also read works by charlie francis (ben johnsons coach), who is considered the premire sprinting coach during the 80’s and he advocates plyometric and power movements, after all ben half squatted over 600 pounds.

in addition if you look through some current magazines that outline maurice greens sprint program and michael johnsons, both include squats and either cleans or snatches.

basically, most sports are about maximum power output, who ever has the most tends to win. maximum power output can be greatly increased through olympic lifting and plyometrics. HIT won't give you the same results.

You will have to make your own mind up, there are 2 oposing groups on Olympic lifts.

As an Olympic lifter I can give you the following examples:

OL are fastest athletes over 30m,
OL have some of the highest vertical jumps,
Ol can apply force quicker than power lifters based on a study done on a force plate.

What evidence does he use to back up the statement that OL are dangerous? Can he site any reasearch?

How can you not have sports specfic training? Should all athletes train extactly the same. Again how does he back this statement up?

Have a nice day

Phillip