Should You Train for Absolute or Explosive Strength?

Comparing the differences between absolute strength and explosive strength can help you know which training is best for you.

There are two major ways to measure strength—"absolute strength," which measures how much you can lift, usually at slow speeds, and "explosive strength," which is the ability to produce force quickly or at fast speeds.

In the past few decades, strength training has become mainstream even for sports where absolute strength is not the most important factor in success. For that reason, you may need to decide whether it's better for you to focus on getting stronger or more explosive.

Generally, if your strength levels are high and you are not explosive, you should make explosive training a priority. If you are explosive and not strong, you would probably benefit more from strength training.

Comparing the differences between strength output (think Squatting strength) and power output (think Vertical Jump) can help you and your coach determine which attribute is more important for you to train. If you don't have high levels of strength, it will be difficult for you to generate explosive strength, also called power. Having high levels of strength and minimal explosive power isn't really helpful either.

Athlete A vs. Athlete B

All other things being equal, Athlete A, who can Squat 400 pounds, probably doesn't need a squatting program, compared to Athlete B, who can Squat 200 pounds.

Athlete A probably needs to focus on the Vertical Jump within an explosive program of rapid lifting, where velocity is high and the weight is relatively low.

Athlete B, who is already as explosive as his current strength levels allow, would probably benefit more from absolute strength training to increase Squat strength. For absolute strength, high intensities should be used (80 to 90 percent). For explosive training, intensities can be as high as 70 percent but also as low as 30 percent. An example of a 70-percent exercise would be a Speed Squat, where the athlete tries to lift the bar with a high velocity. An example of a 30-percent exercise would be a Loaded Jump Squat, where the athlete puts a low load on the bar and jumps off the ground.

You really do need both. It takes around .4 milliseconds to generate maximal force, but athletic movements happen in half that time. Thus, the ability to produce large amounts of force in a small window of time is important.

RELATED: Explosive Strength and Power: The Keys to Jumping Higher and Running Faster

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