Tip: 3 Reasons to Train Explosively

It's not just for athletes. Here's why and how to do it.

Explosive training consists of exercises done with maximum explosive intent. Examples include sprints, jumps, and throws, as well as Olympic lifting movements and their variations.

Explosive training even helps with fat loss and body composition. Here's how:

Explosive training plays a nifty role in fat loss. The holy grail of physique transformation is to build muscle and burn fat. Insulin sensitivity is often the crucial component that'll help with both.

A study published in Diabetes and Metabolism Journal found that explosive forms of training expand the storage capacity for blood sugar in your muscles and improve insulin sensitivity (1). This happens because your muscles post-training are depleted of glycogen (the primary fuel used for high-velocity muscular contractions) and are ready to eat up some more.

Think of it this way: every muscle in your body is made up of bundles of muscle fibers with motor neurons attached to them. Motor neurons are like an electrode hooked up to each muscle, and when they receive a signal from the brain for your muscle to contract, they do.

In many cases, the more muscle fibers you stimulate, the greater the potential training effect of an exercise. This can help you maintain or even build strength despite getting leaner.

During fat loss phases, the greater the training response may help you counteract the catabolism of muscle tissue. In layman's terms, lifting heavy and explosively can prevent you from losing muscle.

During fat loss phases, the goal – especially with heavy and explosive training – is to preserve as much lean muscle as you can for both metabolic function and aesthetics.

Explosive forms of training may also initiate natural growth hormone release. A study published in Mechanisms of Aging and Development found that this kind of training can increase growth hormone release by almost 45% (2), though the duration in which GH remains elevated is not known.

Higher levels of growth hormone increase lean body mass and reduce fat mass. If training explosively can significantly increase GH levels, it may play an important role in long-term improvements in body composition.

Although there are a bunch of ways to get explosive, jumps are pretty darn convenient. They maximize muscle fiber recruitment and prime your body for maximum workout performance.

Box jumps, squat jumps, broad jumps, etc., recruit a large of amount of muscle fibers. One study, published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, found that 8-weeks of jump squat training improves max-strength output, vertical jump, and sprint performance (3).

These jump movements bring dormant muscle fibers to life, improve your explosive power, and improve the efficiency of your motor system so that you can both activate and train more muscle – every time you train. This translates to more productive workouts.

Practice jump movements at the beginning of your workout on a lower-body training day. They'll act as an extended warm-up and prepare your central nervous system for better muscle fiber recruitment, strength, fat-burning, and power during your workout.

If you haven't jumped in a while, start with static box jumps. Quality trumps quantity every time, so it's best to reinforce optimal takeoff and landing. Do each jump variation for two weeks during your lower-body training day to build explosive power.

  • Weeks 1-2: Box jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds between each set.

  • Weeks 3-4: Static single-response squat jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds.

  • Weeks 5-6: Static multi-response squat jump, 3x3, rest 60 seconds.

  • Weeks 7-8: Broad jump, 3x5, rest 45 seconds.

When you do these jumps, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Feet should be flat when you land. Keep your weight distribution even instead of going mostly to your toes causing you to tilt forward.
  • Knees should be neutral. Avoid landing in valgus (collapsing inward) or varus (diving in or diving out, respectively) positions. This prevents shredding your knees.
  • Brace your abs. Don't allow your back to round. Any weakness in trunk position shows a power leak that reduces explosive power and opens the door for greater stress on the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • Keep your head up and chest up. If your head and neck drop when landing you'll lose trunk position and fold over. This leads to a breakdown in form from head to toe, decreasing performance and opening the door for injury.

Pause and hold position at the top of the jump to reinforce optimal landing position.

  1. Way KL et al. The Effect of Regular Exercise on Insulin Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Diabetes Metab J. 2016 Aug;40(4):253-71.
  2. Craig BW et al. Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Growth Hormone and Testosterone Levels in Young and Elderly Subjects. Mech Ageing Dev. 1989 Aug;49(2):159-69.
  3. Weeks C et al. Effect of Squat Depth Training on Vertical Jump Performance. J Sports Sci. 2007 Jan 15;25(2):193-200.
Eric Bach is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach, located in Colorado. Eric specializes in helping athletes and online clients achieve optimal performance in the gym and on the playing field. Follow Eric Bach on Facebook