Weight Training for Speed and Power

One of the most common questions I get and see on a regular basis is “What exercises do I need to be doing in the weight room in order to get faster and more explosive?” Maybe not exactly those words, but you get the idea…

This is not very complicated, as most of the time (I say most of the time meaning 9 out of 10) the average athlete will simply get faster and jump higher/further just by getting stronger.

I still don’t understand why more athletes and coaches won’t invest in the general physical preparedness of their athletes, but would rather shell out their hard-earned cash on “sport-specific” gadgets and gizmos that won’t do anything to get them stronger and moving better. I’ll take it a step further and say that the younger the athlete, the further away they should stay away from specialized “sport-specific” training centers and spend more of their time training with a competent strength coach or trainer to help get them stronger, resistant to injury, increase body awareness, etc.

Instead of focusing solely on 1 sport, year-round, I would like to see more young athletes participating in 2-3 sports while being involved in a properly designed strength and conditioning program. It used to be normal and encouraged that athletes participate in different sports each season, especially at a younger age. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see athletes specializing in 1 sport in high school, or even worse, in middle school. Playing multiple sports is a form of “cross-training” and helps to create athleticism, spatial/body awareness, and more importantly, prevent boredom and burnout.

OK, back to the topic at hand. Weight training for speed and power is pretty simple and needs to be focused on large, multi-joint movements first. Think about training movements and movements in multiple angles and planes, not just training muscles. To keep things very simple, you should devote each weight training session to training the entire body. Once you get stronger and more mature, you can start to break up the training into upper and lower body workouts, but for now, most athletes would do just fine performing full-body sessions. You’ll break the sessions down by movements (I got some of these basic principles and guidelines from Jason Ferruggia, owner of Renegade Strength and Conditioning in NJ):

  1. Power/Speed Development movement (i.e. medicine ball throw or some sort of jumping exercise; if you’re technique is solid, you can also perform a clean, snatch, or jerk variation. 3-10 sets of 1-5, focusing on speed of the movement, not the load lifted.
  2. Primary Barbell Lift (squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press) These have many variations, so get creative. 3-5 sets of 1-10 repetitions depending on time of year, athlete, age, etc. This is the time to push yourself and get stronger!
  3. Upper Body Assistance Work: You can get pretty creative with this, but normally I will pair 1-3 exercises and rotate through each one of them until the desired number of sets and repetitions are achieved. Use your own bodyweight, dumbbells, or bands for this type of work; I like stuff like chin ups, dips, push ups, handstand push ups, dumbbell presses/rows, band pull aparts, etc.. 2-5 sets of 8-15 repetitions is a good range to stay within.
  4. Lower Body/Trunk Assistance Work: Roughly the same guidelines as above, but this time you’ll want to pick a single leg exercise (optional), an abdominal movement, and a posterior chain movement (one that hits the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings). Again you can pair them to save time and make it more efficient; I like split squats, step ups, lunges, 45-degree hypers, back extension, reverse hyperextensions, planks, sit-ups, hanging leg raise, etc. 1-3 sets of 6-20 repetitions here is a good range (keep the single leg volume low starting out).
  5. Finish with some sort of conditioning or finisher whether that be sled drags, medicine ball slams, sandbag loading, farmer walk, etc. Don’t go crazy on this though; if you’re after speed and strength, do just enough to maintain and challenge yourself, don’t do so much where it takes away from your goals.


1.) Clean 5 x 3

2.) Squat 5 x 5

3a.) DB Bench Press 3-5 x 10

3b.) DB Rows 3-5 x 10-12

3c.) Band Pull Aparts 3-5 x 15-20

4a.) 45-Degree Back/GHD Sit Up 2-3 x 15-20 each

5.) Battle Rope 3-5 x 30 seconds

Combine this with simple sprint work and you should be on your way to improved athletic performance. Get strong and you will more than likely get faster and jump higher/further.

PS- Don’t forget about your warm-up and mobility! Gotta be able to move, too!

Train hard,
John Cortese