Speed Development Using Reactive Strength and Explosive Strength

>> July 06, 2017

In many sports, not only you need a high level of maximal strength but you need to also ensure the strength that you have can be utilized as effectively as possible, and this is even crucial when it comes to track sprinting.

No matter how strong you're, if you can't apply it to your sports, that does not count. The most important is whether it can help you to become a better athlete.

We have consistently observed a wide majority of sprinters that considered maximal strength as a way to go, use it to develop the fundamental to sprint faster. This is certainly true since higher force production is important in any high-speed and power events. Given that there are basically two general ways to improve your force production (increase mass lifted, and increase the ability to move it), strength development is a must.

Certainly, strength is the vehicle for sprinting. But fast sprinting needs more than maximal strength. The actions that occur during sprinting is not slow nor normal, but very fast one and also repetitive. Fast movement requires reflexive ground contact, rapid stretching and shortening of muscles (stretch-shortening cycle), well-coordinated movements, and stability of the action itself. This can ensure a good and consistent execution of sprint movements. Therefore reactive strength and explosive strength comes to mind. Hence, a more specific strength development is necessary.

The primary difference between reactive strength and explosive strength is how the movement is performed.
  • Reactive strength - exercises which specifically involve brief contact with the ground such as bounding, ankle hops, and jump over hurdles.
  • Explosive strength - exercise that implemented with vigorous actions such as during jump exercises. For example, box jump. The rapid extension of joints such as the knees and hips during box jump is the element of explosiveness. Power clean, snatch, and medicine ball slams are among others.
In one complete movement, the reactive component may precede the explosive component. As a whole, both contribute significantly to a fast movement such as sprinting.

Vertical and horizontal forces
The movement that you choose can play a significant role in how the forces are oriented and developed. The vertical and horizontal force production can determine how fast and how far the body is moved and propelled. A greater force applied on the ground (say within the 0.10s contact phase) propels the body to a greater distance while spending less time in the air through an effective utilization of the cyclic coordinated movement. Considering these can help optimize the sprinting specific skills. Forward jump is an example of horizontal force development and any vertical jumps or tasks should develop the vertical forces. Both are required in sprint running.

So the principle of fast sprinting is not limited to this, but for this time around we will try to address both reactive strength and explosive strength, therefore, here are some important points in coaching: 
  • High power output during the contact phase
  • Spend less time on the ground
  • Better use of strength shortening cycle 
Strength programming for speed
This is not a complicated task to do but the challenge is how do we incorporate them into a structured training program, which incorporates the technical (track workout) and physical development. We will see how the program can be implemented. We will use only some selected but appropriate exercises for linear sprints (but none are hamstring specific exercise). 

Maximal strength
Back squat, 4 sets x 4-6 reps x 85-90% 1RM
Bench press, 4 sets x 4-6 reps x 85-90% 1RM
Bulgarian squat, 4 sets x 4-6 reps ES x 40-45% 1RM

Reactive strength
Pogo jump (lightweight), 5 sets x 8 reps, 1-min rest between set
30-40cm drop jump, 3 sets x 6-10 reps, 10s rest between rep, 1-3 mins rest between sets
12" 6 mini-hurdle jumps, 4 sets, 1-min rest between sets

Explosive strength
1A Clean pull, 4 sets x 3-6 reps x 80% 1RM
1B Jump squat, 4 sets x 3-6 reps x 20kg
2A Split snatch, 4 x 3-6 reps x 50% 1RM
2B Standing long jump, 3 sets x 6 reps
3A Accentuated box jump, 3 sets x 6 reps
Rest between reps = 30 secs, rest between sets = 3-min

Choice of exercises for weekly program (microcycle)

Day 1 Speed Strength session
Number of exercises = 6-8
Sets = 3-5
Reps = 3-8
Load intensity = bodyweight - 40% 1RM
*Can use high load for the first exercise for potentiation purpose (e.g. 70-80% 1RM)
  • Clean Pulls
  • KB swing
  • Snatch 
  • Box jump
  • Step Ups
  • Lunge jump
Day 2 Strength Speed session

Number of exercises = 5-8
Sets = 3-5
Reps = 3-6
Load intensity = 60-80% 1RM
*Can be alternated with a short, high-speed exercise to stimulate speed contraction
  • Power clean
  • Power push-ups
  • Bulgarian squat
  • Ravers
  • Bench pulls
  • SM calf raise
Day 3 Maximal Strengths session
Number of exercises = 4-6
Sets = 3-6
Reps = 2-6
Load intensity = 85-95% 1RM
  • Back squat
  • Bench press
  • Deadlift
  • Weighted pull-up
Configuration of strength training
How do we organize strength session in weekly or monthly? based on objective or type of strength qualities? There are no hard rules but the following may be applicable:

a) Given 12 strength and power sessions or slots available in a month: 
  • Max strength = 5 sessions
  • Strength-speed = 3 sessions
  • Speed-strength = 4 sessions
Week 1: max strength, speed-strength, max strength 
Week 2: max strength, speed-strength, max strength
Week 3: strength-speed, speed-strength, max-strength
Week 4: strength-speed, speed-strength, strength-speed

b) This can also be arranged this way (objective => speed):
Week 1: max strength, speed-strength, max strength 
Week 2: speed-strength, strength-speed, max strength
Week 3: speed-strength, strength-speed, max strength
Week 4: speed-strength, strength-speed, max strength

c) To be arranged this way when you have only two sessions (competition phase) in a week:
Week 1: speed-strength, max strength
Week 2: speed-strength, strength-speed
Week 3: speed-strength, max strength
Week 4: speed-strength, speed-strength

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