Use Ballistic Training for More Explosive Movement Workouts

Here’s your quick training tip, giving you the chance to learn how to work smarter in minutes so you can start exercising.

If you’re used to working out in a large gym, walking into an athletic training facility can feel like stepping into another world. For starters, there’s a wider variety of equipment—everything from weight sleds and Olympic lifts to truck tires, steel rods and a veritable jungle of suspension trainers, and plenty of green turf. But as striking as the exercise tool is the way athletes train: During most workouts, their feet don’t stick to the floor.

Sure, they lift weights, but they also shuffle, jump, crawl, drag, throw, toss, slam, and generally train for explosiveness and agility as well as strength and cardiovascular fitness. If you want similar results, you’ll follow in their footsteps — especially when it comes to weightlifting or what coaches call “ballistic training.”

What is ballistic training?

If you’ve ever seen someone lift, lift, or throw a medicine ball, you’ve seen ballistic training firsthand. The defining feature of this type of exercise is that, rather than slowing down at the end of the movement to bring the weight to a complete stop (think: top bicep curl or bench press), you can accelerate through it to project the weight into the “flight phase” (whether you whether to let go).

Repeatedly throwing a medicine ball against a wall is the most obvious example of ballistic motion. Other examples include Olympic lifts (i.e. snatch, clean and jerk), squat jumps (with or without weights), and even kettlebell swings. By focusing on accelerating loads — whether barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or your own body weight — you trigger neural adaptations such as increased muscle fiber activation, enhanced strength development, and better muscle coordination, all of which add up to the jackpot : Greater explosive power.

Ballistics and plyometrics

If ballistic training sounds similar to plyometric training, it is. Both involve generating enough force with your legs or arms (for example, jumping with your legs or pushing off the ground with your hands) to temporarily defy gravity. Therefore, both plyometrics and ballistics are key to building explosiveness. But the difference between them is: ground contact time.

When you do plyometric exercises (think: tucks, skate jumps, clap push-ups, jump rope, even sprints), the amount of time either foot remains on the ground is limited to a fraction of a second to take advantage of “Stretch shortening cycles,” or the rubber-band-like tendency of muscles and their tendons to store elastic energy when stretched. Doing such exercises can help build the same tendencies, which in turn improve explosiveness.

Ballistic exercises, on the other hand, focus entirely on accelerating loads (whether external weights or bodyweight). Simply put, they’re all about the concentric phase of each repetition — or more specifically, contracting the muscle as quickly and forcefully as possible, no matter how long the associated appendage remains in contact with the ground or weight.

How to do ballistic training

To be clear, ballistics and augmentation surveying are not an “either-or” situation. Both should have a place in your training program, as each person develops unique aspects of explosiveness. Incorporate both into your weekly routine — but not until you build a solid foundation of strength first.

Neither Plyometrics nor Ballistics are training strategies for beginners. They are also not recommended if you are currently overweight, as they are both high impact and increase the risk of injury if you perform them before your body is in better shape to handle the stress. But once you do, incorporating them into your weekly routine can help you build up your explosiveness and make you stronger in the weight room, on the playing field, and in everyday life.

Starting with ballistic exercises, choose a weight that will allow you to perform at least 15 repetitions of each set of the chosen exercise. However, once you get used to this style of training, you can start combining various loads (light, medium and heavy), alternating between them each week for a given exercise to optimize your results. Need some inspiration? Build strength from head to toe, starting with these six sets of ballistic exercises.

You might also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *