PJ Neslter is the Sports Performance Director and Center Director for STACK Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine, California. He has been training NFL, NHL and UFC athletes for over a decade now. Today, he’s on the DAILY to share some awesome training strategies that will make you more powerful.
Looking for a HUGE advantage in the gym? Start by getting faster!
The translation of strength into explosive power in the weight room is what separates the elite athletes from the good athletes. It’s also your highest priority if you love competing and winning in the gym.
But speed and power are very specific adaptations. If you’re looking to build power that will translate directly to your WOD or upcoming competition, then it’s essential that you use a specific and targeted approach.
Below I outline some of the most simple and effective strategies that I’ve used with my athletes, ranging from young athletes to NFL combine prospects and UFC contenders. Give it a try.
When used properly, these strategies will take your speed and power to levels you never thought possible.
Playing around with some single leg plyos and body weight movements today. Never tried that 36″ single leg box jump before yesterday. Still can’t stick that handstand for long but getting smoother with the transitions #MOVEbetter #FEELbetter #movement #calisthenics #yoga #handstands #planche #plyos #power #hops #jumptraining #BeAnAthlete #GSAForGTFO #CoachPJ #Gopro #Goprohere #BeAHero #fitspo #fitness #STACK #Velocity #Velocitysportsperformance #hylete
1. Deceleration Training
This is one of the most commonly overlooked types of training, and has a ton of carryover to sport performance AND injury prevention.
Deceleration or force-reduction training involves teaching the body how to control and dampen forces, such as momentum or gravity. It doesn’t matter how explosive you get, how high you can jump, or how fast you can run. If you lack the ability to decelerate that force, you will never be able to fully utilize your full power potential.
“Uncontrolled power is unusable power”
It is important to focus on proper body alignment, landing, and stopping mechanics during deceleration training. This will save the connective tissue of the joints from impact and teach the body to recruit the proper muscles to stop the movement.
Deceleration work should be done in a wide variety of movements, from different stances, and through all planes of motion. Exercises should progress from simple, bi-lateral, low amplitude to more advanced uni-lateral, rotational, or higher amplitude positions. This will also build the foundation for more advanced plyometric work in later phases.
Here are a few of my favorite beginner and advanced deceleration drills to get you started. You could easily add these to your workout today.
Simple and incredibly effective drills.
2. Non-Counter Movement Jumps/Lifts
You need to perform lots of counter movement jumps and traditional barbell lifts to build explosive strength. However, to maximize power output, you should also consider performing jumps, squats and some Olympic lift variations from static holds, or wooden blocks and seated positions. Just think of any exercise where there is a temporary pause, followed by a maximum explosive effort.
Trains your ability to overcome inertia and create force rapidly. You can use any type of jumping or sprinting, even medicine ball drills from various static positions. Just make sure you don’t use a backward counter-movement before exploding. That’s basically cheating, and it will negate a chunk of the training effect.
You can also use variations of the Olympic lifts, like pulls from blocks or the dead hang. Both variations will reduce the stretch-shortening cycle, or the elasticity of the movement, which is just what we’re after.
3. Bar Speed
This seems so simple, but it’s still lost on many athletes because they simply don’t focus on it during training.
Using bar speed as a training toll and indicator of power can be very effective. Focusing on maximizing bar speed during the concentric (upward) phase of your lifts will recruit more muscle fibers, even if the speed of the bar does not actually increase. I regularly cue my athletes to accelerate the bar out of the bottom position, making sure they never settle for simply getting the weight up. The speed of the movement is as important, if not more, than the reps and weight used.
Try accelerating as fast as possible out of the bottom position during all your training reps. That alone will make a huge impact on your performance.
4. Reactive Plyometrics
Plyometrics are a great way to work on the elastic component of muscles and their ability to utilize the stretch shortening cycle efficiently. The term reactive refers to the body responding to outside forces and redirecting that force, not to the athlete reacting to an external stimulus.
The focus of this type of training is always speed. Minimizing ground contact time, or the time it takes to express force, is key. We typically use very light implements, like medicine balls or just bodyweight, and are looking for rapid deceleration of force and fast re-acceleration of that force in a different direction.
The reps are typically very low (3-5), since high-quality movement and speed are what’s most critical here, and NOT the total work you can achieve. It is also important to note that you should also get used to the deceleration training first, to learn how to safely and effectively transfer these higher forces.
Some of my favorite reactive plyometric drills are rapid response hurdle hops, depth drops into vertical or horizontal jumps, and a wide variety of jumping and medicine ball drills.
Rapid hurdle hops.
5. Overspeed Training
Overspeed, or assisted training, is an advanced training principle typically used with higher level athletes (in terms of training age, not performance ability). This type of training involves unloading or assisting with the movement to increase the speed of movement.
Overspeed training should only be done with a certified professional because the line between boosting performance and also injury risk can be very thin. However, when used properly it can be very beneficial for peaking power and rate of force development.
A few examples are band-assisted lifts like bench press, squat, deadlift, or accelerated band jumps. You can also perform overspeed sprints with a band, downhill runs, or on a high speed treadmill.
Check out this classic video. Get your perm and tight shorts on, it’s time to train!
6. Contrast Training
This advanced training strategy utilizes the idea of post-activation potentiation (PAP).
The theory of PAP states that when performing a maximum intensity lift, the body will recruit large amounts of muscle fibers and motor units, while also stimulating high levels of central nervous system activity. Immediately following the heavy lift, those same motor units are still available for maximum effort explosive movements.
In layman’s terms, this means that if you perform a really heavy lift followed by a light explosive movement, your body will be stimulated to be more explosive through that second exercise.
Contrast sets are typically done with very similar movement patterns, using one heavy loaded exercise immediately followed by a very light loaded or even overspeed movement. The more similar the movement patterns are the more crossover the potentiation will have.
Focus one moving extremely fast during the second explosive exercise, and keep your reps on both exercises low. Again, 3-5 per set is plenty.
Here are a few commonly paired exercises and explosive movements:
- Back Squat – to – Squat Jump/hurdle Hop/Box Jump
- Deadlift – to – Broad Jump
- Bench Press – to – Medicine Ball Chest Pass/Clapping Pushup
- Pull-ups – to – Medicine Ball Slams
My favorite contrast sets involve heavy resisted hip hinges (Cable Hip Pull Thru) coupled with explosive hip extension (Continuous Broad Jumps).
Give this a try.
Keep this in mind.
These exercises are designed to build explosive power and should be programmed accordingly.
The biggest mistake I see people make is either programming too many reps, or not enough rest. The movement quality and velocity MUST remain extremely high to achieve the desired adaptation. If you are doing 10-20 reps, or performing these exercises for long durations of time in circuit fashion, then you are only training endurance and not power.
I keep my speed and power work within the 3-6 rep range, and typically allow 45 seconds to 3 minutes rest between sets (1:5 work/rest ratio) depending on the demand of the activity. Try to work each of these into different phases of your program and watch your speed and power go through the roof!
For more training info visit my site HERE, or you can follow me on Instagram. Also, if you have any questions about developing your speed and power, just leave them in the comments below.
I’ve done just about all of these and they’re great for getting faster. I also played competitive paintball and you basically would have to Sprint and change direction very quickly, while wearing and holding a few pounds of gear. Maybe I’ll start doing some of this stuff again and see if it transfers into weightlifting.
It will, for sure.
PJ, love this stuff. In line with what we preach and Power Athlete. We’ve noticed almost ALL of the “self taught” athletes we have and athletes who get hypnotized by the grind of work capacity training scene (aka repeatedly performing cyclic compound movements with prolonged and submaximal power output) adapt to be EXTREMELY quad dominant in all squatting, stepping, and lunging drills. Naturally, they rely on that anterior to decelerate.
We find that the biggest challenge these athletes have in the deceleration training is recruiting the musculature that is best suited to decelerate quickly, safely and effectively; the posterior. We have a couple drills (deadbugs, seesaw walks) we typically pair with deceleration drills to help the athlete start feel the sensation of decelerating with the hams/glutes.
I’m always looking to add tools to the toolbox, do you have any other tips or tricks for this issue? Do you notice it as well?
What’s your reponse to Rippetoe’s claim that power is nearly completely controlled by genetics and can’t be trained more than “15-20%” from 0:15 to 1:16?
If I could get 20% more explosive, I certainly would. Not everyone can be a power athlete, but everyone can get better and work on it. Most aren’t really doing anything about it. So, that’s what I would say.
This is absolutly something I need to work on. Speed is one of my biggest limiting factors right now. If I were to integrate it into my current workouts is it something I can tac on the end daily, or should I set aside a whole workout for?
I would recommend setting a whole day dedicated to speed training, or at least train it first thing in your workout. Speed and power are qualities that must be trained at maximum effort in order to be improved, therefore, training them in a fatigued state will not lead to performance enhancement.
Try incorporating some of the speed and plyo drills at the beginning of your workouts (after a full warm-up), or for best results, dedicate 1-2 days per week fully to developing speed & power qualities.
Let me know how it goes!
All of the videos are the same (“Overspeed Training Step 7”), and they don’t seem relevant… is that right?
Sorry, it was a weird loading problem. All fixed!