The Secret to Reactive Strength

When you hear someone say an athlete is strong most people envision a big, muscular guy that can lift a ton of weight. While maximal strength, or how much weight you can lift one time, is important it pales in comparison to speed strength when it comes to becoming a better athlete.

Speed strength, or reactive strength, is one aspect of strength that is often under-developed in athletes. When you improve your speed strength you will become faster, more explosive, more powerful and less injury-prone! Here are three keys to instantly improving reactive strength:

Bar Speed

Instead of using 75, 85 or even 90% of your one- rep max when performing weight room exercises, drop the weight to between 40-65% of your one- rep max and focus on bar speed.

This does not mean the exercise will be easy. It is extremely difficult to move a light weight very fast and maintain control. Start by moving a bit faster than you are used to and try to move that bar (or medicine ball, dumbbell, etc) faster each and every workout.

Very rarely in sports are you moving a very heavy load. Most sports require you to use your body and a ball or implement that is relatively light in comparison to your body weight (i.e. baseball or baseball bat). And you have to be able to control that object, while generating a large amount of force.

If you are lifting heavy weight slowly you are not developing this aspect of strength. Now, I am not saying you should never lift loads in the 75-90% range. Chances are you need to focus more on speed strength training, which will develop those always desirable fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Train Movements, not Muscles

Does your workout resemble a bodybuilding workout? If you break your parts up by training chest one day, back the next and then legs, you are not developing athletic ability.

You should train large movements (squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, presses, rows, pull-ups) as you work the body as one cohesive unit. This was the way it was meant to function. You dont break the body down when you play, so why would you do it when you train?

Always Focus on Posture

As soon as you lose your posture you lose a large amount of your power. So always focus on proper posture when weight training and in your skill training. As soon as it starts to go, its time to end your set. If you arent developing proper movement patterns (or habits) you are developing bad ones.

Jon Doyle, MA, CSCS is an internationally published strength & conditioning specialist. His cutting-edge methods are used by Professional athletes from all major sports, as well as youth sports participants from around the globe. His brand-new website,, is a portal to connect, you, the athlete, coach or parent, to the cutting-edge training information you want.

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