Most athletes looking for an explosive athlete workout program want to be faster, more explosive, and more dominant in sport. After all, what athlete wouldn’t benefit from being more explosive?
Unfortunately, most athlete don’t use an explosive athlete workout program. Instead, they train like bodybuilders or powerlifters. Being big and jacked is great, but the goal of training is to make you a better athlete. Looking huge in the mirror is fun, but it probably won’t make you better at your sport.
If you want to be an explosive athlete, you have to train like one. Do you want to know how make sure you’re training for explosiveness, and ensure your program will translate into better gameplay (not just better numbers in the gym or more muscle under your shirt)?
Whether you’re entering personal training with a strength coach, or writing your own program, here are five key steps for building an explosive athlete workout program.
1. Determine Athlete Needs
Explosive athlete training should be individualized for best results. Athletes definitely can have good results from a generic explosive athlete workout program. But athletes get the best results when they assessed as an individual. Great coaches assess athletes and build their program based on what they need as an individual.
So how can you determine athlete needs?
There are four main categories I assess when building an explosive athlete workout program.
Assessments for Building an Explosive Athlete Workout Program
The four main qualities I assess are strength, speed, endurance (aerobic capacity), and range of motion. These are really the four main physical attributes that athletes use in sport. Let’s briefly walk through each category.
Everyone is on board with the idea that athletes need to be strong. Strength training enhances speed, power (explosiveness), and protects athletes against injury. Strength training is super important for athletes. It’s great that most athletes already engage in some form of strength training.
But how do we know how strong is strong enough?
I’ll be honest: this is hotly debated in the strength and conditioning community. There are some standards that are fairly agreed upon, however. I tend to follow these standards as well.
Strength Standards for Explosive Athletes
Deadlift: double body weight is great, 1.5x body weight is good.
Squat: 1.75x body weight is great, 1.25x body weight is good.
Bench Press: 1.5x body weight is great, body weight is good.
Those three big lifts tell us a lot about how strong an athlete is. We don’t need to assess every single lift. These three generally encompass lower body and upper body strength, and give a pretty solid picture of athlete strength.
I push athletes to reach those “great” landmarks. I want my athletes to squat 1.75x their body weight, deadlift double their body weight, and bench press 1.5x their bodyweight.
There is a little bit of wiggle room here, as well. Specifically with the bench press. Does a soccer player really need a huge bench press? No. But the leg strength…most definitely.
If athletes don’t have these prerequisite strength numbers, their explosive athlete workout program includes strength training to make them stronger. Once they have reached these numbers, training transitions into a power and explosiveness focus (detailed later in this article).
Assessing speed is quite easy. We take sprint splits. The major speed numbers I look for are 0-10m, 0-30m, and maximum velocity. Between these three speed numbers, we get a pretty thorough picture of how fast the athlete is.
But what do we do from there?
We may notice that an athlete is very explosive in the beginning of a sprint (0-10m), but has a slow top speed. What do you think our training will focus on? You guessed it. Top speed.
On the other hand, the athlete may have a great top speed but a poor start. Now what do you think we’ll focus on?
Assessing 0-10m and top speed are super important and tell the story of the complete sprint 0-30. Say two athletes both sprint 30m in 3.95s. What if Athlete A ran the first 10m in 1.65s, and Athlete B ran the first 10 in 1.85s Because they both ran the 30 in the same time, it’s clear that Athlete B has a slower start but a faster top speed than Athlete A. A simply 30m sprint time won’t tell that story.
All explosive athlete workout programs should include sprints. Assessing speed helps determine what speed qualities need to be improved.
If you’re a parent, you may be wondering what endurance has to do with being explosive.
If you’re an athlete, you already know.
It’s impossible to be explosive when you’re gassed. If you’re tired, your explosiveness is turned way down.
Endurance training is important for any athlete who wants to be explosive late in the game. If your opponent is in better shape than you, who is more explosive in the fourth quarter?
This is why every explosive athlete workout program needs to include an endurance assessment and endurance training.
Endurance Testing: The 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test
My favorite assessment is the 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test (30-15 IFT). I love that it gives you a score. It’s not like those made up fitness tests that coaches come up with that you either pass or you fail.
Those are worthless because they don’t tell you how good of shape you’re in. It just tells you if you passed the arbitrary test.
The 30-15 IFT gives a score that can be used to individualize endurance training. Think of it like strength. No good strength coach would say “OK, everybody is squatting 150lbs today.” That might be a warmup up for some athletes, but absolutely crush others.
So why is conditioning usually that way? “OK, everybody has to run 110 yards in under 18s.” What? Why? That will be a warmup for some, and make others puke. It makes no sense.
With the 30-15, I can customize conditioning. I can tell athletes “OK, you’re all running for 15s. You have to cover 64 yards, you have to cover 70, and you have to cover 76 yards.” And it would be a fair workout for each of them, because it would be based on their current fitness level.
Any explosive athlete workout program should assess and include endurance training.
Range of Motion
Range of motion is a fancy term for flexibility. Athletes need a certain amount of flexibility to get into ideal sports positions. If athletes don’t have the flexibility needed, they either get hurt or don’t play as well.
For example, volleyball and baseball players need a lot of shoulder and neck flexibility. Without that flexibility, health and performance declines.
One of my favorite flexibility tests is called the Jurdan test. It is a sprint-specific test.
Notice that the position looks a lot like a sprint. This test quickly and easily shows if an athlete has enough flexibility to sprint well.
If they fail the test, we know they need more flexibility. So we build it into their program. If they pass the test, we don’t need to program extra flexibility work.
Strength, speed, endurance and range of motion must be assessed if you want to get the most out of your explosive athlete workout program. Otherwise, you’re taking a guess at what you think you need to work on.
2. Schedule your Explosive Athlete Workout Program Intelligently
Scheduling hard work, easy work, and rest days is where many athletes really mess their training up. Here’s the truth. If you train super hard every day, you aren’t going to get the best result.
When you exercise, it beats your body up a little bit. Then your body says “I’m going to get a little better, so next time that exercise is a little easier.” The time your body spends rebuilding and getting better is called “recovery.”
If you exercise again during the recovery process, you interfere with recovery. If you interfere with recovery, you don’t get better. At least, you don’t get as much better as you should.
Think of it like baking a cake. You do all the work to mix the ingredients, then you just put it in the over and let it sit. If you pull it out of the oven early, it’s still kind of a cake, but it’s not finished. It will be better if you just give it the time it needs to finish baking.
Your body needs time to recover. Training hard every day makes you worse but not giving your body the time it needs to fully rebuild and get better after a tough workout.
Scheduling Training in an Explosive Athlete Workout Program
So how do we put it all together? The first question to ask is “how many days per week am I willing to train?” Then you need to know which days those are.
For example, a Monday / Wednesday / Friday training program will look different than a Monday / Wednesday / Thursday program.
Once you have the schedule down, you need to pick your intense and your less intense days. This can get tricky. An intense upper body lift doesn’t affect your legs. A heavy sprint session will leave your legs gassed, though. So you need to know what types of exercise cause the most fatigue, and how to program so that you aren’t working the muscles super hard after a fatiguing workout.
Fatigue is the enemy of athleticism in training
Here are two sample schedules. One is a three day per week schedule, and one is a four day per week schedule.
3-day per week training:
Upper body: Power
Lower body: Strength
|Sprint: Max velocity|
Upper body: Strength
Lower body: Power and Pyos
|Sprint: Tempo runs|
Upper body: Strength / Power
Lower Body: Strength / Power
4-day per week training:
Strength or Power
Strength or Hypertrophy
Strength or Hypertrophy
The bottom line is there are many qualities that athletes need to be their best. We want to hit each quality at least once throughout the week. But how much time and reps you devote to each quality can change depending on what the athlete needs.
3. Include Sprinting and Explosive Lifting in your Explosive Athlete Workout Program
Body builders are jacked. But they generally aren’t great athletes. They’re slow and out of shape.
Powerlifters are super strong. But they aren’t always great athletes. They aren’t usually explosive and they usually need a water break after a flight of stairs.
Can we learn from bodybuilders and powerlifters, though? Yes, of course. Bodybuilders are jacked, and great athletes usually have a certain amount of muscle. So if we think an athlete needs to add muscle, we can look to bodybuilder workouts for inspiration.
Same with powerlifters. They are super strong. If an athlete needs to get stronger, we can borrow powerlifting methods.
But never forget that, unless your athlete is a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, they are NOT a bodybuilder or a powerlifter.
The goal isn’t to get them as jacked and muscular as possible. It’s not to get them as strong as possible. The goal is to make them as good at their sport as possible.
Why Every Athlete Should Sprint
We know athletes need to be explosive. That’s why you’re looking for an explosive athlete workout program. So while we can borrow from bodybuilding and powerlifting, we have to make sure we’re always making athletes more explosive.
Sprinting is probably the #1 way to do this.
If you want to be more explosive, sprint.
I don’t care if you’re a volleyball player or a golfer.
If you want to be more explosive, sprint.
What about wrestlers and pitchers? If they want to be more explosive, they should sprint.
Swimmers? If they want more explosive legs…they should sprint.
Ok, but what about gymnasts? I’m pretty sure gymnasts need to be super explosive. So…they should sprint.
Do you get the picture?
It’s obvious that athletes who need to be fast should sprint. Football players, soccer athletes, basketball players. They all need to be fast.
Sprinting isn’t just about getting faster. Sprinting is one of the best exercises for building total body explosiveness.
Mostly in the legs, for sure. But I meant what I said. Total body explosiveness. Yes, that means your arms and core, too.
I love programming 10×10 turnaround sprints in my explosive athlete workout programs. I learned this method from Derek Hansen. 10×10 turn around sprints are fast (the whole set takes about 90s) and super effective for developing explosiveness.
To do it, just sprint 10m as fast as possible. Take 10m to slow down. Turn around, and repeat. All you need is 20 meters or yards of space, and willingness to sprint fast.
Hit a few sets of these twice per week, and within weeks you’ll see noticeable improvements in your explosiveness (and endurance!).
A Word on Sprint Mechanics
Sprint mechanics means sprint technique. If you are a track sprinter wanting to maximize your 100m or 200m dash, then having perfect mechanics is a worthwhile pursuit.
For team sport athletes, though, having “good enough” mechanics is the goal. The reason is because it doesn’t take long to get to “good enough.” But it takes a LONG time move from “good enough” to “near perfect,” but the actual difference in speed isn’t all that much.
Again, shaving 0.2s off of a 100m sprint is totally worth it.
For a wide receiver though? I’d rather spend the 20-40 hours of time (or more!) it takes get to perfect technique on other things. Practicing sports skills, or even lifting probably has a better return on investment there.
With that said, there are a couple big rocks of sprint technique I’ve written about elsewhere. Click that link to look into those.
We definitely want to maximize things like shin angle, stride length, stride frequency, torso position, and foot strike, for instance.
Good sprint technique makes you faster, safer from injury, and increases your speed potential. If you want to maximize your explosive athlete workout program, you have to have “good enough” sprint technique.
Explosive Lifting for Explosive Athletes
Explosive lifting is a great way to supplement sprinting in your explosive athlete workout program. Exercises like power cleans, hang cleans, jumps, and weighted jumps are great for enhancing powerful legs.
With these exercises, less is more. 3 sets of 2-5 reps is all you need. If you do more, you get tired. When you’re tired, you’re less explosive. If you want to get more explosive, you need to train at most explosiveness.
It’s better to get 9 super explosive reps (3 sets of 3) than it is to do 5 explosive reps and 15 semi-explosive ones (two sets of ten, for instance).
Take full rest between sets to maximize recovery. That way all your sets are high quality and not garbage reps.
Final tip: do your explosive work first, before the strength work. Lifting causes fatigue that makes you less explosive during a single training session. But doing explosive work first doesn’t interfere with your strength work.
4. Monitor Your Progress
Your explosive athlete workout program MUST include constant monitoring. What does that mean?
Monitoring in the training sense means tracking your workouts to make sure you’re getting better. Speed is an easy one to track.
Let’s say your 0-10m sprint was 1.85s when we started training. I know this because I tested it. While you’re doing your sprints in your training session, I will time them. What would it mean if 5 of your 10 sprints were faster than 1.85s? Well, that’s a surefire sign that you’re getting faster, right?
That’s what we expect to see in training.
Improvement! Results! Athletes becoming more explosive!
On the other hand, what if we noticed one day that all of your sprints were 2.0s or slower.
Maybe you’re just having an off day. Totally possible.
Now what if we notice that in your last four sprint sessions, all of your sprints were 2.0s or slower. That’s a huge red flag. That means either something is up with your body, like you aren’t recovering well enough, or the training program is bad and not working.
If we have a talk and it seems like your recovery habits are great, then we might know the training program needs to be adjusted.
But if we never timed sprints, then we’d be completely guessing about how you are progressing. We’d be crossing our fingers and hoping good things happen.
Instead of hoping and guessing, I’d rather measure and know!
Because guess what. Here’s some bad news.
If your explosive athlete workout program isn’t making you faster, then your explosive athlete workout program isn’t making you more explosive…it’s making you slower and worse!
That’s that for sprints. What about in the weight room, though?
The best way to measure in the weight room is with velocity-based training, or VBT.
VBT measures how fast the bar is moving. It’s pretty cool technology.
Imagine yourself deadlifting a 100lb bar as fast as possible. 100lbs isn’t that much, so the bar will probably move pretty fast.
Now imagine if you could move a 400lb bar with that same speed. You’d be a monster!
That’s what VBT measures. We use it the same we monitor sprint speeds. If the bar speed on your lifts is getting faster over time, you’re getting more explosive. If they’re getting slower, you’re getting worse.
Plain and simple. Easy peasy.
If you want to ensure your explosive athlete workout program is making you better, you have to monitor your performance.
5. Adjust the Program or Stay the Course on Your Explosive Athlete Workout Program
Based on how you feel, and on the data you gather while monitoring, you either adjust your program or stay the course.
If your sprint speed and bar speeds are getting worse, then we know we need to adjust your explosive athlete workout program. I’d start by pulling back on the volume (total reps). If that doesn’t work, I’d dial back the intensity and go into a deload.
A deload means an easy week. It gives your body time to recover. After the easy week, your body should be well recovered, so we should see immediate improvements.
If we don’t, then the problem may have been the opposite. Maybe you weren’t doing enough work to force your body to adapt. So we’d increase volume!
What if you’re seeing a steady progression, and all your monitoring data looks good? Then stay the course. Keep on keepin’ on. Don’t fix what ain’t broken.
In this case, just continue the program as planned.
Now What? An Explosive Athlete Workout Program for You
If you’ve read this whole article, you’re now more informed than 99% of athletes out there. Congratulations.
But you may be thinking, “now what?”
Here’s what I suggest.
Hire a strength coach.
I do know a guy. If you aren’t in the Salem / Portland area, find a qualified coach. I’m even willing to help you with that if you reach out to me.
2. Purchase my Explosive Athlete Workout Program.
It’s true that an individual assessment and customized plan is best. But you know what, not everybody can do that. Maybe you’re far away from a good coach, or maybe you have to prioritize your finances elsewhere. The program I’ve put together is a great, general speed and explosiveness program.
If you don’t like it for any reason, I’ll happily refund your money.
Otherwise, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit me up and I’ll be happy to help.
Whatever you decide to do—good luck with your explosive athlete workout program!