"Nice body, but what can you do with it?" was the name of the Youtube video I watched a few years ago that really got me thinking. What good is an aesthetic body that could not perform? Countless men and women today are so deeply interested in their external appearance, that they forget that the body was designed to perform. What happens when an aesthetic-only body meets a physical demanding task? Disappointment....that's what! Don't be that guy that meets his crush in the gym, only to get pinned down by 135 pounds, leaving you discouraged and her entertained.
Alright, not all of us are strictly about appearance. Some of us take lifting heavy seriously and some of us enjoy perfecting skill related exercises. Whatever your endeavor is, whether it be building muscle for aesthetic reasons, building strength for power for athletic purposes, or building strength for athletic/personal reasons, power training can benefit anyone. Let's take a look into why power training can benefit any endeavor.
Why Explosive Training?
Explosive training has many benefits such as increased volume/frequency without draining the cns (central nervous system) much, taxing the muscles differently, and improving muscle recruitment (being able to recruit more muscle fibers quicker). The whole goal of explosive exercises is to perfect the skill of muscle recruitment, for which the training in itself is muscle recruitment training. Last I remembered, recruiting more muscle in bodybuilding training, powerlifting, or any sport deemed beneficial. So, why hold back and not improve your ability to do so? Ready to take your physique, strength, and power to the next level? Give these explosive leg exercises a try to increase your raw power!
Go figure! The first exercise on the list is probably the most basic, yet most underrated explosive exercise out there. The amount of fibers recruited from the glutes, calves, hamstrings, and abdominals are by far one of the highest I have ever experienced in less than 5 seconds! Sprints are something you hate during, but are happy about doing when you are done. Regardless of how "in-shape" you are, sprints somehow find a way to beat you into better shape. Adding a few rounds of sprints at the end of your lower body day will improve your aerobic, anaerobic, and power capacity.
Somehow powerlifters got the importance of this exercise pretty early, but I am seeing a rather gradual comprehension of this exercise from recreational lifters. I do not know if it is a goal oriented reason (aesthetics goal, not strength goal), or if no one knows who Louie Simmons is. I have noticed a few recreational lifters every now and then utilizing this exercise as it gains popularity amongst all types of lifters. I guess everyone is realizing the importance of strength gains as natural lifters. Regardless of the reason for it's rise in popularity, the box squat is an amazing tool for improving squat technique, improving squat depth (adjusting box height based on mobility), and for improving lower body power due to the break in the eccentric and concentric phases. Performing a couple sets of heavy sets of 3 to 5 repetitions in the beginning of your lower body work out can prime up your nervous system for the rest of the work out, build more lower body strength and size, and improve lower body power with two legs (bilateral).
If sprinting was not hard enough, these too tools allow you to make them even harder! Good news for those wanting to take their lower body power to A WHOLE NEW LEVEL, but a nightmare for those with sneaky coaches who will throw in some "extra cardo" because they know you are cheating on your diet. By using the prowler and/or sled, you are able to progressively overload your sprints, drags, and active recovery. What does that mean? That means even stronger and more explosive legs! Think about it... If you wanted to get stronger and be able to throw farther with the same weight, when you went to go inclined bench press you wouldn't just lift the bar (yeah, just the bar) each time for more repetitions. No, you would load more weight and perform repetitions just as explosive. Why? Because you have to progressively overload the body in order for it to adapt and leg power is no exception.
Hex-Bar (dead-squat bar) Loaded Vertical Jumps
Much like the idea of sleds and prowlers, the hex-bar loaded vertical jump allow the capacity for a progressively greater stimulus, which results in better progress. I would recommend using these on a lighter lower body session in replace of your main exercise. Think power, so lower repetitions and heavier weights. This movement allows you to go heavy, but due to the jumping portion of the movement (leaving the ground) you are limited by the amount you are actually able to leave the ground with (please use common sense and don't be a "one-rep-max hero" with an exercise used for power, not strength). A common repetition/set scheme I use is 10 sets of 3 repetitions with moderate weight and low rest times (15-60 seconds). As the load increases so does the rest time.
If you want faster and more explosive legs you need to still add some weight to the bar. Sprints and vertical jumps will only take you so far. By adding more stimulus to your lower body, you will allow it to adapt into a ticking time bomb of explosive power! Give your body the reason to become bigger, faster, and stronger....and it will do so.