Building explosive power in your sport


Momdollyo is a powerful kick that you would be wise to keep away from your face

Most sports require power. Power is described in physics to be the rate of which work is done or how force will manipulate an object of body. It is described in simple as Force = mass x acceleration. In sports power is generally referred to as explosive power. Lets look at this practically for coaches and athletes.

When athletes move their bodies or any object with weight they use power. The more weight they move, more power is needed. Also the faster the weight is moved, more power is needed. In taekwondo it is vital to be able to move their bodies with lightning speed as in stepping movement, but also moving their limbs, particularly their legs, in order to kick fast but also in the hands for blocking and punching.

Now we will move into the most common scientific way of progressing through different phases of training to optimize performance. Most types of training will generally have some carryover, meaning that training one element or progression might also benefit the other. That being said this is one of the ways to build the best foundation for the athletes to gain power, minimize injuries and maximize performance. The phases here are not predefined as the time might vary depending on the season, age, experience and such but we will touch on this later.

The progressions of building explosive power is

  1. Hypertrophy
  2. strength
  3. Power
  4. Sport specific power/speed

1. Hypertrophy 

Hypertrophy means building muscle. The more circumference a muscle has, the more contractile elements it has. That means greater potential for fast contraction or fast movements. Here load is generally moderate and the time under tension is great. That could mean doing about 10-12 reps of a load that is about 65-80% of maximum weight (1RM) and at least partially done with a slow tempo.

Contractile cross bridges myosin and actin that contract muscles

2. Strength

Paul Anderson had some strength in him

Strength is related to muscle size but more important than size is the neuromuscular activation. That means how much strength your muscles can create regardless of size. strength is defined as moving external load. The greater the load moved the greater the strength. In strength type lifts the speed of the movement is generally not important but moving the object is. For maximum strength using heavy load for short time under tension is important. That could mean lifting about 1-5 reps with about 80-100% of 1RM.

3. Power

There is some power in those legs

Powerful fast movements to increase the speed of which the athlete can move the weight required. The different between strength and power is the speed. Power movement are done with maximal speed.  In power the loads are generally a bit lighter than in strength or about 70-95% and the reps are from 1-5. All jumping movement and plyometric movements are also power movement if done with maximum power. Power is extremely useful in taekwondo as it will dictate the impact and speed of the kicks.

4. Sport specific power/speed

Resistance bands are popular to build kicking power in taekwondo

After having built up your joints and progressed to this point you can usually safely start to use sport specific power movements, that is all movements that mimic the way you will move in a competition. You should however also be proficient in technical movements and be physically prepared in other attributes such as flexibility and endurance. The reps and load here will vary between exercises and events. In general be careful that too much load might actually hinder your performance. The body will adapt to the load and sometimes it will make new motor patterns because the load is too great. That means that an athlete will move differently with the external load than without it and in such the carryover between the sport specific power drill and the actual sport performance might be low. Using bands, ankle weights, weight west, medicine balls, partner resistance and so forth, is one way of changing the resistance of your techniques to make them more powerful.

Thoughts for taekwondo

It is generally not advised for taekwondo athletes to focus much on hypertrophy training. It might build the athletes’ frame more than necessary for the sport performance as taekwondo is a  sport in which reach and distance control is very important. In such cases when athletes do not want to add to their mass the hypertrophy phase should be very short and also the strength phase much be should be optimized.  Try to incorporate these different phases into your training. Starting with 4 week training regimen for each phase and an easier recovery week in between might be a good strategy to begin with. More on detailed periodization will come in a later post.

To gain access to thousands of exercises, power, strength, hypertrophy, mobility and so on check out the exercise collection.


Jumping is a powerful movement