Developing Explosive Power

Emily and I just got back from an awesome road trip out west, where we spent Canada Day in Vancouver, drove down to Seattle, out to Cannon Beach, and then over to Portland. I left my laptop charger at home, which was a blessing in disguise! It was great to get away for 8 days and recharge a bit.

Right before we left, I wrote a post digging into the “Bilateral Deficit” idea a bit, and explaining some of the discrepancies we see between unilateral and bilateral lifts and how they may or may not be explained through a neural lens. This has a lot of application into how we design programs on a daily basis, so if you missed it be sure to check it out here: Understanding the Bilateral Deficit

One of the training goals a lot of players have for their off-season training is to improve their explosive power and speed. I hear words like “quicker first step” a lot. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is A LOT of considerations in how to improve an on-ice ability such as acceleration, speed, or shooting power. From an off-ice perspective, understanding the underlying energy systems and physical qualities (e.g. strength, mobility, stability, etc.) that enable a player to develop or express a certain skill is important. We’re at a point in our off-season programs where many players have completed a couple of phases of strength work and are transitioning more into power training at various points on the high load/low velocity (think heavy hang cleans) to low load/high velocity spectrum (think med ball throws).

One method that can be effective in maintaining or continuing to improve maximum strength while also developing power is known as “contrast” training, where a heavy strength exercise is paired with a movement-specific power exercise. There are several examples of this, including:

  1. Squat -> Vertical Jump
  2. Deadlift -> Broad Jump
  3. Bench Press -> Explosive Push-Up or Med Ball Chest Pass
  4. Chin-Up -> Overhead Med Ball Slam

I talked about this concept in more detail in a previous post: Post-Activation Potentiation

Another application of this concept is known as “French Contrast Training”, which is a method I first learned about from University of Minnesota Strength & Conditioning Coach Cal Dietz. With this method, you pair 4 exercises, all performed continuously, followed by a 3-5 minute break. The exercises should be performed in this order:

  1. Compound Exercise: 1-3 reps at 80-90% load
  2. Plyometric: 3-5 reps
  3. Weighted Explosive Exercise: 3-5 reps
  4. Accelerated/Unloaded Plyometric: 4-6 reps

We’re currently using a few variations of this method in some of our players’ programs:

Lower Body French Contrast Circuit

  1. DB Reverse Lunge (Day 1), DB RFE Split Squat (Day 2): 2-3/side
  2. Lateral Bound (Continuous): 3/side
  3. Vertimax Jump (Continuous): 5x
  4. Unloaded Squat Jump: 5x

A video from a couple Summers ago of hometown hero Johnny Gaudreau doing Unloaded Squat Jumps

Apparently this exercise also gives you silky mitts!

And just for the USA Hockey fans out there…

Upper Body French Contrast Circuit

  1. Bench Press: 2-3
  2. Explosive Push-Up: 5x
  3. DB Push Press: 5x
  4. Unloaded Explosive Push-Up: 5x

Unloaded Explosive Push-Ups being demonstrated by future Maine Black Bear Andrew Tegeler

This is only one piece of the power development puzzle, but the players that have started this type of training have enjoyed the focus on being explosive and the variety in exercise selection. While I would never recommend doing something stupid in the interest of appeasing your clientele, finding effective exercises/methods that the athletes also enjoy is ideal. In this case, the unloaded exercises are a blast for the players, and they also help improve power and contraction velocity, all good stuff if the goal is to improve quickness, speed, shooting power, etc.

In a couple days, I’m going to post a video of one of my new favorite integrative core exercises, so be sure to check back soon!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. The Ultimate Hockey Training Database will be updated soon with even MORE videos. If you’re interested in getting access to over 800+ videos of hockey training exercises, check out Ultimate Hockey Training for more information on becoming an Insider.

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