Leg Workouts for Speed
Think about jumping as high as you can. Before you jump, you dip at the knees to create a slingshot effect. This is called the stretch-shortening cycle.
The following explosive leg exercises target the stretch-shortening cycle to build power. They are intense exercises, and they are taxing on your legs. Do them only once a week and in the off-season. Rest between sets and keep your repetitions to no more than six.
- Stand facing either a 24- or 36-inch box.
- Dip your knees and explode up onto the box, landing with both feet together and your knees soft.
- Lock out your hips on top to stick the landing.
- Use the momentum of your arms to propel you upward.
- For an added challenge, do a Depth Jump: start on one box and drop to the ground before exploding back up to the next box. Remember to land soft.
- Sets/Reps: 3x6 with 2 minutes between sets.
The Clean part of the Olympic lift Clean and Jerk is the most explosive movement you can do in the weight room.
- Stand over a bar with your shins resting against it. Your feet should be pretty narrow, inside your hips, but point your knees out.
- Grip the bar outside of your legs and tighten your back. Visualize squeezing your lats and pulling the bar into your body.
- Take a deep breath in and take the slack out of the bar.
- Slowly raise your hips and shoulders at the same rate until the bar is just above your knees in the power position. At this point, violently extend your hips, knees, and ankles, while shrugging your shoulders upward.
- The bar should feel weightless for a split second while you drop underneath it and catch it in the front rack position. The bar should be resting on your anterior deltoids, and your elbows should be up.
- Extend your hips and knees before bringing the bar back to the ground.
The Snatch is the other Olympic lift. The Clean represents power. The Snatch represents speed.
- The start of the Snatch is exactly like the Clean, except your hands are wider on the bar. This drops your hips lower to the ground and gives you a more vertical torso.
- Remember to push your knees out. Think of a frog about to jump.
- The key to the Snatch is being able to quickly pull yourself beneath the bar and catch the weight with your arms extended as if you were doing an overhead squat.
- During the second pull from the power position, keep the bar as close to your body as possible. Think of the bar taking off your shirt. The straighter the bar path, the more weight you will be able to lift.
- After the catch, extend your hips and stand upright before returning the bar to the ground.
The Push Jerk is the second part of the traditional Olympic Clean and Jerk.
- Start from the rack position. The only difference is that your elbows should be a little more vertical than they would be at the end of the Power Clean. If you have flexibility issues with your wrists, you should hold the bar more in your palms as opposed to your fingers. This allows greater control when you overhead press the weight.
- The counter movement is a dip from the knees followed by a quick extension and an Overhead Press. You should feel as if the bar is weightless very quickly. Your shoulders should not handle the brunt of the weight until the catch position.
- While the bar is weightless, bend your knees and pull yourself under it to catch it with your arms extended.
- Extend your hips to finish the exercise.
Most sports require unilateral explosiveness. Most athletic movements are single-leg in nature. Therefore, you should perform single-leg exercises as much as possible.
- Start in a standard lunge position. Your chest should be upright and in line with your toes. Your back leg should be almost fully extended with your knee just off of the ground.
- Start with a small counter movement and explosively jump up and switch your legs in the air.
- Land with soft knees by catching yourself before your back knee hits the ground. Use your arms to help propel yourself up.