(First appeared in Full Contact Fighter magazine, 07-08/02)
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Periodization Part-5: Explosive Power and Q&A

by Mark Ginther
If you’ve completed the previous phases, and have taken a week of after the last phase, you are now ready for the final phase of the series, which will focus on developing the explosive power necessary for delivering punishing punches, kicks, throws and takedowns.  The focus of this program will be on a method of complex training where a maximal strength exercise like the squat is paired with a ballistic or plyometric exercise like the depth jump (sometimes called Maxex training). 

To capitalize on the muscles utmost potential to gain strength and speed, one must first recruit those bundles of muscle fibers most difficult to voluntarily contract (high-threshold motor units) by performing a heavy maximal strength exercise.  Once the motoneurons are activated, it is time to teach them to function at the highest possible speeds, by employing a plyometric/ballistic exercise complimentary to the resistance exercise. 

Like the previous phase, this phase will employ modified Olympic lifts, which are highly technical and should not be performed without proper instruction.  The Weightlifting Encyclopedia, and companion video by Arthur Drechsler can be purchased from: www.wlinfo.com

Following is a sample routine to improve Explosive Power.  For the maximal strength exercises use a weight that you can handle for about 5-reps, but only perform three.  The point is to arouse the nervous system, but not fatigue the muscles, which would impair speed.  It should be performed on three non-consecutive days, increasing the weight by about 2.5% each week.

After 3-4 weeks, take a week off before resuming training. 
Some explanation of the exercises not previously covered:

Pike Jump: Jump up and bring your feet in front of your body.  Attempt to touch your toes at the peak of the jump.

King Deadlift: Basically a one-legged deadlift.  Balance on one leg, step back and bend the base leg until the shin of the raised leg lightly touched the floor.  Bend forward as much as you need to complete the movement. 

Drop Push-up: Start in push-up position with hands on 6-inch blocks.  Push off blocks, catching yourself on the floor and pushing explosively back onto blocks.  Those who are more advanced can do it between two benches, with feet on a block.

Superman Passes: Lie on stomach facing partner, extend arms and legs so that they are not touching the ground.  While keeping limbs extended pass a medicine ball from about chin level to partner.

Medicine Ball Scoop: With legs wide apart, use both hands to swing the medicine ball. Start with ball held about eye level, and then bring it through the legs and beyond, gathering momentum, and then explode upwards and out to throw the ball as far and as high as possible in back of you.

Reverse Hyper Extensions: Lie on your stomach with your legs hanging off the edge of a table (or ring), raise your legs, holding them straight until they are just above parallel to floor, lower and repeat.

I’ve received several questions about this program, and there are admittedly a number of points that need clarification, so I’ll use this space to address some of these.

Q: After finishing the program, what should I do next, repeat it?

A: You could repeat it, but that would not be optimal.  Your needs and goals would not necessarily be the same from cycle to cycle.  You must first decide what your greatest area of weakness is, and prioritize your training to address it.  Training would still be divided into phases based on your determined needs. Set and rep schemes designed to bring forth these required biomechanical adaptations would be employed.  

Q: Why is the program only three days a week, I usually train five days a week?

A: 5-day routines are mainly appropriate for bodybuilders, who don’t engage in other forms of training.  Fighters must include several hours of technical/tactical training, and conditioning work in addition to strength training.  Some individuals may be able to tolerate up to four days per week, while others may only require two.  Whenever one form of training is increased other forms must be reduced accordingly, or overtraining will result.  The amount of time devoted to a particular type of training will be dictated by needs of the individual at a given time. 

There is no exact formula to determine the optimal amount of training for an individual, and what is optimal may change depending on a multiplicity of internal and external variables.  Determining optimum training volume can be approximated with time and experience, however it’s my experience that more fighters are overtrained than under-trained and overtime can cause more problems than under training.

Q: Shouldn’t I also periodize endurance training as well?

A: Yes, absolutely.  All training should be periodized: Strength, conditioning, technical, and tactical.  In early phases training will be more general in nature, focusing on the development of biomotor abilities, and improving basic technique.  For endurance, one might perform sprint/jog intervals in the early preparatory period, progressing to bag/pad work, high-volume/short-rest-interval weight routines, and finally sparring.  These forms of training would not necessarily be exclusive, but would be given a greater or lesser priority depending on the phase.  I’ll cover this in greater detail in an upcoming article.

Q: Why are there so few exercises in the final phase?

A:  The final phase is meant to develop explosive power.  The more volume performed in a workout, the more explosiveness will deteriorate.  Moreover, this phase is meant to coincide with the period prior to a competition.  At this time technical and tactical training should be given priority, and should be as specific as possible.  Other forms of training must be scaled back accordingly.  Those who don’t need to taper training for an immanent competition, could do an optional 1-2 sets of a maximal strength exercise at the end of the workout for maintenance of maximal strength.

Q: Why didn’t you include a phase for endurance training?

A: One program cannot cover every possible training need, and is at best a compromise.  That is one reason why variety in training is important.  The program I outlined is hypothetical, for a fighter with typical recovery ability, and whose training priority is maximal strength/explosive power.  In a future article I’ll outline a weight-training routine for power endurance. 

Q: When should I do my strength training, before or after my skill training?

A: Generally (and this would depend on the your priority), strength training should follow skill training by at least 4-6 hours.  On the other hand, (provided the session is not too exhaustive), a strength training session 4-6 hours prior, may enhance a skill training session by exciting high-threshold motor units.  For amateur fighters with a full-time job, it would be advisable to do strength and skill training on different days altogether.  If, however, you must do skill and strength training in the same session, do strength training following skill training.  Unfortunately, many gyms and dojos have this order reversed. 

This 4-phased program detailed over the previous months has been an example of a Linear Periodization model.  Though still widely used, it has certain limitations and these days is often replaced with Alternating, or Non-linear periodization models.  Despite the limitations of linear periodization, it is the least complicated and often best suited for novices and those unaccustomed to periodized training.  In future articles I’ll discuss other periodization models in greater detail.


Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M., Science and Practice of Strength Training, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1995
Fleck S. & Kraemer W., Designing Resistance Training Programs Second Edition, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1997
Bompa, Tudor O., Periodization Training for Sports, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1999
King I, How to Write Strength Training Programs: A Practical Guide, Toowong, Qld, KSI, 1999
King I, Get Buffed, Toowong, Qld, KSI, 2000
Chu, Donald A., Explosive Power & Strength, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1996

About the author: Mark Ginther has over 20 years experience in sports, martial arts, and strength training.  He has worked with numerous athletes including Michael Hawkins (formerly of the Boston Celtics), as well as several pro and amateur boxers.  In 1999 he became the Strength & Conditioning Coach for AMC Kickboxing & Pankration. 

He's recently returned from 6 years in Tokyo, where he was highly respected in both the fitness and martial arts industries.  He trained K-1 Champion Nicholas Pettas for his comeback, and has written for, or been featured in several of the industry’s top publications.  His monthly strength & conditioning column has appeared in Full Contact Fighter for 4 years, and ran for 2 years in IRONMAN Japan. He was featured in a cover story in Tokyo city magazine, Metropolis, and interviewed for the Japanese bodybuilding magazine, BODYPOWER.  His fitness column ran in Tokyo’s Player for 6 months.


Power Snatch w/ Pike Jump: First warm-up starting with just the bar, increasing until about 10 lbs. below the first work set: 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 1 with progressively higher jumps in between.  Then perform a set of snatch for 3 reps, rest 1 minute, and perform 2-4 pike jumps as high and explosively as possible.  Rest 4 minutes, and repeat for 1-2 more sets.

King Deadlift w/ Single Leg Hopping: Perform one set of single leg squats on each leg, rest one minute, and hop on each leg 10-15 times.

Rope Drill: Perform the forward/backward, side-to-side, and over/under rope drill for 6-10 reps for each segment.


Incline Bench Press w/ Drop Push-ups & Medicine Ball Passes: First warm-up with sets of Incline bench press: 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 5.  Then perform a set of inclines for 3-reps, rest 1-minute and perform 2-4 drop push-ups followed immediately by 6 medicine ball passes.  Rest 4 minutes, and repeat for 1-2 more sets.  Between sets throw light, alternating left/right punches on focus mitts or bag as quickly as possible.  Cease drill before a noticeable drop in speed.

Bent Rows w/ Superman Passes: First warm-up with sets of bent row: 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 5.  Then perform a set of rows for 3-reps, rest 1-minute and perform 6-10 Superman passes.

Power Clean w/ Medicine Ball Scoop: First warm-up with sets of power cleans: 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 5.  Then perform a set of cleans for 3-reps, rest 1-minute and perform 6-10 overhead throws.

Stiff-legged Deadlift w/ Reverse Hyperextension: Perform one warm-up set of stiff-legged deadlifts followed by a work set of six reps, rest one minute and then perform a set of reverse hypers for one set of 6-10.

Throwing Drill: Practice throwing a heavy bag or dummy for 6-10 throws.  Stop before a noticeable loss in speed or power.  Rest 1 minute; repeat.
Power Snatch
Pike Jump