Training for explosiveness is not as simple as doing a movement “faster”. While that can certainly change the dynamic of a movement, there are some movements that are better suited for max power than others.
When looking to increase explosiveness, you want to choose movements that allow you to move moderate loads quickly (50-70% of your 1 rep max). Exercises like plyometrics, medicine ball throw variations, and Olympic weightlifting variations are all great places to start.
Below we will briefly discuss the difference between training for power vs strength, why it’s important to train power, and cover 16 of the best power exercises.
Most of the explosive exercises below are found in the Fitbod app, offering you a direct way to integrate these into your workouts and start building some explosiveness. Try 3 free workouts.
How is Training for Power Different Than Training for Strength?
When you train for strength, you are simply trying to exert as much force as you can over a certain distance, regardless of the time or speed the movement.
A good example is a heavy squat, in which you are lifting as much as you can, grinding through the rep at what seems to be a snail’s pace. In this example you are expressing high amounts of force output, however you may be accelerating at very slow speeds (velocity).
If you want to train for strength, you want to train in the 70-95% range of your 1RM, focusing on moving the weight at whatever speed you are able to.
Power training, on the other hand, takes into consideration the speed (velocity) at which you move the load.
A good example of this would be someone doing a jump squat, where they are trying to move as fast as possible to create as much velocity as they can with the leg muscles.
When you train for peak power specifically, you need to train with loads in the 50-70% of your 1RM, and move as fast as you possibly can.
It is also important to note that loads under 50%, even when performed “fast”, have been shown to produce lower peak and mean power outputs than if 50-70% loads were used. This means that you can also lift too light, even if you are moving fast, and not be training power efficiently.
- Learn more in our other article Strength vs Power Training.
Can You Build Muscle By Training for Power?
Yes you can build muscle by training for power, however you still need to train at slower speeds as well if you are looking to optimize muscle growth.
This is because training fast has limits on the overall stress and time under tension on a muscle, which has been shown to be one of the most critical aspects of muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth).
16 Best Exercises For Increasing Power
The 16 best exercises for power are:
- Muscle Snatch
- Power Snatch
- Power Clean
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Box Jump
- Jump Squat
- Kettlebell Swing
- Broad Jump
- Tuck Jump
- Prowler / Sled Sprint
- Plyometric Push Up
- Speed Bench Press
- Medicine Ball Chest Pass
- Medicine Ball Slams
- Landmine Core Rotation
I’m going to discuss each of these exercises below. I’ve broken down these exercises into four main categories: (1) total body, (2) lower body, (3) upper body, and (4) core explosive exercises.
Total Body Power Exercises
It is important to note that weightlifting movements, as well as plyometrics are two of the most widely used movements in this category to increase explosiveness.
1. Muscle Snatch
Unlike the snatch, the muscle snatch is a less complex movement that has the lifter pull the load from the floor to the overhead position in one swift movement, ending in the standing position.
Research found that the muscle snatch was a great predictor of readiness (a term used to describe the likelihood that an athlete will be in the best form to meet the demands of a specific task, in this case explosiveness).
This makes the muscle snatch a great power exercises for lifters who don’t want to spend a ton of time learning technique or who are beginners.
- Start with a barbell on the ground, and take a wide grip on the barbell. When standing and holding the barbell, it should be resting at the crease in the hip, so adjust your hands accordingly.
- With the hips down, and shoulders on top of the bar, push through the floor with the feet and stand up aggressively.
- As the bar approaches the hip, pull upwards on the bar and pull it over your head, ending with it above your head with your wide grip.
Pro Tip: Focus on building speed as you lift the bar, and accelerate it aggressively once you pass the knee.
2. Power Snatch
The power snatch is a progressed version of the muscle snatch, and has the lifter quickly sit into a half squat at to receive the barbell overhead (a half squat is when the thighs don’t break parallel).
The power snatch differs from the muscle snatch in that the lifter ends in a half squatted position rather than standing upright.
- Grab the bar as you would a muscle snatch, and set yourself up in the same manner.
- As you lift off the ground, push through the legs and make sure your chest and hips rise together.
- As the bar gets to the hip, extend your knees and hips to get as tall as you can, and pull the bar upwards
- As the bar moves upwards, and the elbows have been lifted to the chest level, move your feet and sit into a squat position to receive the bar overhead.
Pro Tip: Make sure you still are focusing on pulling the bar high.
3. Power Clean
The power clean is a similar movement to the power snatch, however you take a narrow grip and the end position has the barbell on the front of the shoulders with the elbows push upwards in front.
The power clean an exercise that allow you to lift substantially heavier loads compared with the snatch.
- Stand in front of a barbell and take a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width.
- With your hips down and chest up, make sure your elbows are in line with your knees (from the lateral view).
- Stand up by pushing through the floor, and make sure your hips and chest rise together.
- As the bar gets the high thigh or hip crease, forcefully straighten your knees, hips, and ankles to get as tall as you can, and pull the bar to your sternum level, while simultaneously moving your feet outward and sitting into a squat.
- As you are moving your feet outward, your elbows should rotate under the bar so that the barbell ends on the front of your shoulders (not on your chest).
Pro Tip: Keep a full grip on the barbell at all times. This requires some flexibility and will be uncomfortable at first, but that is normal and will improve with practice.
4. Push Press
The push press is a total body explosive movement that has you use your legs and upper body to push a load overhead.
While this may look like an upper body shoulder press movement, it also is highly correlated with vertical jump height performance as the legs are used to aid in the movement.
In fact, the push press has higher power outputs in the lower body than the jump squat, reiterating the importance of the legs in this movement.
- With the barbell resting on the front of the shoulders (front rack position), stand up tall with your feet hip width apart.
- Slowly dip down by bending your knees and hips, lowering yourself down 4-6 inches.
- At the bottom, aggressively push through the ground and extend the knees and hips, making sure to keep your elbows up until you feel the barbell being jumped off your shoulders.
- As the barbell lifts off the shoulders, go directly into shoulder press, using the momentum from the lower body to continue to press the weight overhead.
- You should end with the barbell overhead, and the arms and legs fully extended.
Pro Tip: As you dip down, make sure your elbow does not lower from their initial start position.
5. Push Jerk
The push jerk is just like the push press, with the exception that the lifter allows their knees and hips to bend at the very top to move into a half squat position as they receive the bar overhead.
- Perform the push jerk just like the push press, up until the part where you feel the barbell being jumped off your body.
- At that point, you want to push through the upper body to try to lift the bar a few more inches, and then move your feet outwards some to then sit into a half squat position.
- Still try to push the barbell upwards as you move down into the squat.
- End with the bar overhead, arms straight, and sitting into a half squat.
- Stand up with the weight overhead.
Pro Tip: A lot of people will cut their upper body pressing phase short as they try to get faster under the bar. To get faster under the bar, you need to focus on pushing the bar as high as you can with your legs and arms, before you move under.
Lower Body Power Exercises
This next section will focus on power exercises for the lower body.
6. Box Jump
The box jump is a lower body plyometric exercise that can build explosiveness in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. When doing box jumps, you want to make sure you jump as high as you can, regardless of the box height.
- Stand 2-3 feet away from a box (make sure it is stable).
- Throw your hands backwards as you sit into a half squat, and then explosively push against the floor extending your knees and hips together.
- Your arms should also get moved forward as you jump up and out onto the box.
- Land softly on the box, step down, and repeat.
Pro Tip: The key here is to get your hips as high as you can in the air when you jump. Don’t just try to land on a tall box however you can, but rather think about jumping as high as you can, and floating above a box for as long as possible.
7. Jump Squat
The jump squat is a loaded jumping movement that can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or bodyweight, or weighted vest. For best results, you will want to use 30-60% of your max squat once you are experienced.
If you are unsure how heavy to go, try using a weight where you are able to feel powerful in your jump, but also heavy enough that the weights are not flying out of control or coming off your back (if using a barbell).
- Stand tall, and the swing your hands back as you squat down into the bottom of the squat
- As you approach the bottom of the squat, throw your hands upwards to gather momentum and jump as high as you can (if you are doing a loaded squat jump, omit this step).
- Land softly in a half squat position.
Pro Tip: Jump as high as you can, and then land under control. If you have issues with the landing, ease into the jumps and work on landing softer from lower heights until you are able to land with control.
8. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is a dynamic movement that trains hip power. To perform this movement, you want to make sure the weight is heavy enough that you have to work hard to move it fast, but not too heavy where your form is poor.
- Stand over a kettlebell and squat down, making sure to keep the back flat.
- Grab the kettlebell with straight arms, and then raise your hips up slightly so that your shins are almost perpendicular to the ground and your heels are down.
- Perform a kettlebell swing by standing up with the legs, and focusing on extending both the hips and the knees, ending in a vertical position (you should not have you upper body leaning backwards).
- As the kettlebell approaches chest height, pull it down into the front of your hips, allowing the hips and knees to flex to absorb the energy and go into the next kettlebell swing cycle.
Pro Tip: Try to be as aggressive as you can on the way up, and then allow the kettlebell to float back to you on the way down as you guide it into the next rep cycle.
9. Broad Jump
The broad jump is a long jump, and targets primarily the glutes and hamstrings. To do this, all you need to do is jump as far outwards as you can, and land into a squat position.
- Stand tall with space in front of you to jump out 5-15 feet.
- With your hands overhead, pull them down and throw them backwards as you sit down into a deadlift position.
- As you approach the half seated position, aggressively change directions and throw your hands out in front of you as you push away from the floor to jump outwards, and land into a squat softly.
Pro Tip: Think about jumping more out than up. This is not about how high you jump, but rather how far out forwards that you can jump.
10. Tuck Jump
The tuck jump is an advanced jump variation, and takes your standard bodyweight squat jump and makes it even harder. When doing a tuck jump, you need to jump higher than you normally would, and also be able to land quickly.
- Perform a bodyweight squat jump, but when you reach the top of the jump (in the air), tuck your knees upwards into your chest, and then extend the legs back downwards quickly so that you land in a squat position.
Pro Tip: You need to pull your knees up into your body quickly every rep.
11. Prowler / Sled Sprint
The prowler / sled sprint is a great lower body explosive exercise when trained with lighter loads and fast speeds.
The key to this exercise is that it should not be too heavy where it changes your running mechanics. For most people, less weight is better when looking to increase power and explosiveness with sleds.
- Stand behind a sled or prowler, and get crouched down into a sprint start position.
- You can also hook a sled harness behind you and drag the sled if you have access to a harness.
- Keep the loading light, and sprint as fast as you can.
- If you notice the weight is too heavy where you cannot run relatively at the same speed as your normal sprint, then it may be too heavy.
Pro Tip: The loading on the sled should not be heavy enough that it affects the way you run or changes your sprint form (to not be correct).
Upper Body Power Exercises
This next section will cover power exercises for the upper body.
12. Plyometric Push Up
The plyometric push up is a push up done explosively, so much that you push your upper torso and hands off the ground, and then land into another push up repetition. Think of this as just a squat, but for the upper body.
- Start at the bottom of a push up.
- Explosively push yourself up, and try to gain speed as you approach the top of the push up.
- Allow the hands to lift as you accelerate yourself upwards away from the ground.
- As you start coming back down to the ground, allow the elbow to bend and go into the next repetition of the plyometric push up.
Pro Tip: Keep your core right and legs pressed together to gain as much body control as you can.
13. Speed Bench Press
The speed bench press is a barbell bench press done with an emphasis on moving the weight explosively off the body on the way up.
The key here is to use loads between 50-70% max, to ensure you are using enough weight to have high amounts of force production, yet still be able to move at fast speeds.
- Set yourself up in a rack with a barbell set up to bench press.
- Lower the weight to the chest like you would a barbell bench press.
- As you approach the bottom of the bench press movement, explosively push the weight upwards once it touches your chest (you can also pause on the chest briefly).
Pro Tip: Lower the weight under control, then change directions aggressively without bouncing the bar off your chest or letting your shoulders round upwards.
14. Medicine Ball Chest Pass
The medicine ball chest press is an upper body chest and triceps explosive exercise.
- Lie on your back with a medicine ball in your hands, resting on your chest.
- With your elbows into the body, push the medical ball upwards towards the sky, getting the ball as high as you can.
- As the ball leaves your hands, make sure you throw it directly upwards so that you can catch it as it comes down.
- You could also have a partner stand over you to catch the ball as it comes down.
Pro Tip: The weight of the medicine ball doesn’t need to be heavy. Most people will benefit from throwing 10-20lbs.
Core Exercises to Increase Explosiveness
15. Medicine Ball Slams
Medicine ball slams are a great way to build explosive core training. When doing these, you want to make sure you are throwing the ball down into the ground with all of your power and strength. The stronger you are, the heavier the ball can be.
- Straddle a medicine ball as you squat down to grab it with both hands.
- With your hips down, chest up, and arms straight, explosively stand up.
- As the ball gets to your hips, use your arms to lift the ball overhead.
- Once the medicine ball is overhead, slam it downwards to the ground, allowing the knees and hips to bend to sit into another squat to repeat the cycle.
Pro Tip: For more power, you can jump upwards as you lift the ball overhead.
16. Landmine Core Rotation
Landmine rotations are a good rotational power exercise that train the obliques.
- Place a barbell in a landmine anchor.
- You can place a small plate on the end of the barbell that you are holding.
- With both hands on the end of the barbell, and your body facing forward, allow the feet to pivot and hips to rotate so that you turn almost 90 degrees to one side.
- As you turn your body and feet, allow the arms to move across your body so that the end of the barbell is on the outside of your outside hip.
- With the arms straight, rotate your body back to the beginning position, making sure to keep the arms straight, creating a wide arcing motion with the end of the barbell.
- Do another rep the other direction, and then repeat.
Pro Tip: The key with the landmine rotation is to keep your arms almost straight, as the farther the arms are out away from you, the harder it is on the core.
Sample Workout Routine for Power and Explosiveness
Below are three different workout routines to help you develop power and explosiveness.
Note: While these exact workouts are not in the Fitbod app, most of the exercises are and you can build your very own explosiveness workout program using the exercises and templates below.
Total Body Power and Explosiveness Workout
- Muscle Snatch: 5 sets of 3 reps at 60-70% max, rest 60-90 seconds between sets
- Push Press: 5 sets of 3 reps at 60-70% max, rest 60-90 seconds between sets
- Plyometric Push Up: 5 sets of 5 reps, rest 45-60 seconds between sets
- Medicine Ball Slams: 5 sets of 5 reps, rest 45-60 seconds between sets
- Speed Band Rows: 5 sets of 10 reps, rest 45-60 seconds between sets
- Prowler Sprint: 5 sets of 8-10 secs sprint, rest 90-120 seconds between sets
Lower Body Power and Explosiveness Workout
- Power Clean: 5 sets of 3 reps at 60-70% max, then go directly into box jumps
- Box Jump: 3 reps, do these directly after power cleans, then rest 2 minutes
- Squat Jump: 5 sets of 5 reps at 50-60% max, rest 60-90 seconds between sets
- Kettlebell Swing: 5 sets of 8-10 reps, with moderate heavy weight that you can do explosively, resting 90 seconds between sets
- Prowler Sprint: 5 sets of 8-10 secs sprint, rest 90-120 seconds between sets
Upper Body Power and Explosiveness Workout
- Power Jerk: 5 sets of 3 reps at 60-70% max, then go directly into box jumps
- Medicine Ball Chest Pass: 5 reps, do these directly after power jerks, then rest 2 minutes
- Speed Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps at 60-70% max, rest 60-90 seconds between sets
- Speed Band Rows: 5 sets of 8-10 reps, with moderate heavy resistance that you can do explosively, resting 90 seconds between sets
- Pull Up: 5 sets of 5 reps, heavy, but still can do quickly
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
Other Power Resources
- Looking to learn more of the weightlifting power movements? Try this 3-day Olympic weightlifting sample program
- Don’t have weights? Try these 9 plyometric exercises to increase your power with only your bodyweight.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.