One of the most common arguments or sources of opposition on the part of athletes to high intensity training is the fact that the movements are slow and controlled. The question is asked: how can one develop explosiveness by training in a slow and controlled manner?

Well, it’s quite simple really, when you consider the recruitment of muscle fibers during an exercise. Everyday, sub-maximal movements use one’s slow-twitch or type I muscle fibers. These are the fibers that are used at the beginning of an exercise before fatigue has been achieved. As you begin to fatigue during an exercise, your body naturally begins to recruit more and more muscle fibers. Once the type I fibers are fatigued, you begin to recruit your type II A and type II B muscle fibers, which are also known as your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is how you can become more explosive even when training is slow and controlled. Even though the movements are slow, taking the muscle tissue to momentary muscle failure allows you to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers (Kenney, Wilmore, Costill, 42).

When people believe that you have to move resistance quickly to become more explosive, they are thinking backwards. Most often when you move weight quickly, you are eliciting the help of momentum to move the resistance.  Therefore, your muscles don’t have to work as hard and you fail to bring your muscles to a deep-enough fatigue to effectively train your fast-twitch muscle fibers (Asanovich, Jacksonville Jaguars strength and conditioning manual). By training in a slow and controlled fashion, you are minimizing the use of momentum and training the targeted muscle at every point in the range of motion because there is constant tension on the muscle (Brzycki, 23).

Finally, one of the common arguments of those in favor of ballistic movements is that training explosively will somehow carry over into explosive movements in your sport. However, there is absolutely no evidence of this in any literature in the field. Even though these movements are fast when compared to a slow and controlled lift, the movements are much slower than those actually used in a competitive sport (Brzycki, 23). Therefore, the movements couldn’t possibly transfer to one’s sport. The only way to become more explosive in your sport is to train your muscles in a way that causes them to gain strength and to practice the specific movements that you are going to be asked to perform in your sport (specificity of training) (Brzycki, 30).

As you can see, the most effective way to become more explosive is by training your muscles in a slow and controlled manner and by practicing your sport-specific movements explosively. An explosive lift will not carry over to more explosive performance on the field.  If you would like to train your muscles in a safe and effective fashion, high intensity training is the way to go.

Asonovich, Mark. Jacksonville Jaguars Strength and Conditioning Program. 2006.
Bryzcki, Matt. A Practical Approach to Strength Training. 3 ed. Lincolnwood: Masters Press, 1995. Print.
Wilmore, Jack H., David L. Costill, and Larry W. Kenney. “Structure and Function of Exercising Muscle.” Physiology of sport and exercise. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2012. 27-47. Print.