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Would you jump in a high performance car and mash the gas pedal down right away? Of course not, you need to warm it up and rev its engine up. So why would you get under the bar and expect maximum performance out of your body (a far more complex machine than a race car) if you haven’t revved up your own engine?
Using plyometrics or other explosive movements to ignite your central nervous system (CNS) could be the key to maximizing your performance in the weightroom. As an elite level shot putter, I understand the critical role of speed and power in athletic performance. The faster you can push the bar, the more muscle fibers you will recruit and the more weight you will lift. Using explosive movements prior to your heavy training will prepare and teach your body to move with maximal velocity and force. This effect is known as postactivation potentiation (PAP) and is the increase in muscle force and rate of force development as a result of previous activation of the muscle.
Once you have performed a proper dynamic warmup, a number of exercises can be used to light up your CNS before your heavy training. Before squatting, seated box jumps, jump squats or kettlebell swings are all excellent options. Prior to deadlifting, perform cleans or snatches from a dead start or beyond the range kettlebell swings (these KB swings will not only light up your CNS, they are also great builders of power off the floor and will improve hip mobility). To prepare yourself for bench training, plyo pushups or medball chest passes will get you ready to explode the bar off of your chest. It is imperative that these exercises are not performed in a manner to fatigue the muscles, rather they should be performed with maximal intensity and in short durations.
For athletes, this idea can also be reversed to benefit them in a high velocity movement like sprinting or jumping. Instead of performing an explosive movement before you perform a heavy lift, you will now execute a high force movement (heavy partial squatting/deadlifting, heavy medball throws, Olympic lifts) before performing a high velocity movement. Heavy quarter squatting to conclude a warmup has been shown to yield increased results in jumping tests. When using this type of PAP, it is especially critical to not fatigue the muscle. This is a method to be used by athletes with high fitness levels.
Before your next bench workout, try performing 3×5 clapping pushups, 3×3 box jumps before your next heavy squatting session and try doing 3×5 kettlebell or dumbbell snatches before you try to pull your next deadlift PR. The increased CNS activation from these activities will have you breaking PRs right away.
Chad Smith is an elite level shot putter. This two-time collegiate national champion is also the owner of Juggernaut Training Systems in Laguna Hills, CA, where he trains serious athletes from junior high to the professional ranks in all sports. Learn more about Chad and Juggernaut Training at Juggernaut Training Systems