Ballistic Strength: Adding Velocity to Muscle
Over the years, I’ve tested many different types of training modalities. I’ve introduced elements of bodybuilding, powerlifting, circuit training, and many forms of interval training to stress various energy systems in the body. Despite all of this experience, there’s one ingredient that I’m glad I’ve kept in my own recipe for performance.
Ballistic movements are those that require muscular contractions that produce maximum velocity and acceleration in a short period of time. They are great for keeping the blade (our body) sharp by enhancing our ability to produce force for a given lift, or for other athletic movements. Ballistic movements challenge us to adequately produce force for real-life situational fitness.
The good news is that such movements can be integrated into our strength and conditioning program to transform us into more athletic machines. The better news is that they don’t require anything too complex, or too burdensome in order to make it happen.
The Ballistic Power Squat
I suggest incorporating ballistic movements after you have first built a solid foundation of strength. Once this foundation is in place, then you can ramp up the intensity by introducing movement that challenges you to exhibit more force and control. Once you are proficient in moving with a high level of quality and have a solid foundation of strength, I have a simple bodyweight drill to ease you into more ballistic movements to step up your training program.
The following drill is designed to perform the standard bodyweight squat with greater velocity. This is what I refer to as a power squat, and is a great prerequisite for squat jumps or other similar loaded ballistic hinge movements such as kettlebell swings.
As you can see in the video, the key component of the power squat is to create a solid counter-movement by swinging the arms back while rapidly descending the hips into the hinge. The key to executing this with a respectable level of skill is to make sure that we can perform the standard bodyweight squat with quality and stable movement.
Plyo Box Jumps
Once you have mastered the power squat, you can build further off of what you’ve already learned. The next ballistic movement in this progression is the squat jump, or to be more joint-friendly, the plyometric box jump. Once again, this doesn’t require a great deal of space or equipment in order to incorporate it into your strength and conditioning program.
If you have a plyo-box available, I recommend the box jump over the squat jump to reduce compressive forces on the ankles, knees, and hips. After all, protecting the joints is always a good priority.
As you can see in the video, the key is to make sure to perform the movement without banging up your shins, or bounding the jumps. The standard plyometric box jump is designed to potentiate the nervous system by being performed in a controlled, athletic manner and not merely thrown into a workout as another rushed and sloppy conditioning drill.
Ballistic Strength for Better Athletes
Ballistic strength movements are incredibly advantageous for helping us acquire and maintain a high level of focus, control, and athletic function with our bodies by enabling us to perform certain strength movements with speed and precision.
Besides acquiring the physical benefits of ballistic strength movements, many of these can be performed with little to no equipment and only a small investment of space. What type of ballistic movements do you incorporate to keep your blade sharp?