Think about the coaching tips you get every time you lace up your skates, put on your cleats, pick up your bat, step onto the track, jump into the pool, or wherever you go to dominate the opposition. Whether you’re crashing the net or crashing the boards for a rebound, you need to crash and bang, and your coach reminds you every game and every practice that you have to be STRONG. Strong on the ball, strong in the corners, strong in the paint. Being stronger than the person in front of you is the key to getting the extra yard for a first down, the extra inches to snatch a home run away, the extra drive to get to the finish line first. Very simply, strength is the foundation for success in every sport: from powerlifting to golf, increasing your strength will translate into improved levels of performance.

Strength is simple: it’s the amount of force that you can produce. In technical terms, Newton’s second law of motion teaches us that force is created when you accelerate a mass (Force = Mass x Acceleration (F=ma)). Strength is all about the force your muscles can produce, creating movement. When your muscles produce enough force, they allow you to accelerate (a) your body mass (m), or if you’re a big defenceman, you can accelerate the body mass of some poor forward with his head down. However, that’s getting into high-load speed strength or Power, which we will talk about shortly.

Force production is the foundation of all movement, and most other physical capacities rely on Force production to some degree. Let’s look at that formula one more time: F=ma. If we can train our muscles to produce a greater amount of force in a given movement, that means one of two things: we can move our bodies or an external object of a given mass faster than before, or we can accelerate something heavier than we were able to move previously.

The ultimate goal of such training is to be able to run, skate, start, stop, and change direction faster than your opponent. Sufficient levels of strength will enable you to stiff-arm a linebacker, box out a centre for a rebound, or take down an opponent who might be heavier than you.  Increased strength is one of the essential elements that will enable you to throw a baseball harder, shot put farther, jump higher, and generally perform better than you could before.

For those of you who are more experienced with weight training, you are  probably thinking, “many of those qualities are affected by different training stimuli,” and you are definitely right. Training for Explosive Strength (or Power) and Reactive Strength helps to fine tune your neuromuscular abilities by focusing the Maximum Strength you have just built or teaching your muscles how to generate force quickly. One way to think about this is that increasing Maximum Strength is like increasing the size of the engine in a car, or increasing its horsepower, while Explosive Strength and Reactive Strength are like optimizing the transmission, enabling you to reach top speed as quickly as possible.

Explosive Strength focuses on increasing Rate of Force Development (RFD), or how fast your muscles are able to produce force. Power = Force / Time. This type of strength is especially important for Olympic lifting, shot putting and all other throwing events, and even baseball pitchers, as these sports are expressions of maximal explosiveness. It is also essential for most team sport athletes. If you can create the same maximal force that you have developed through your Maximal Strength phase faster, this will translate into improved performance. This is expressed through high-load speed strength (moving heavier loads, like a Power Clean or a Snatch) and low-load speed strength (moving your body weight, or lighter loads such as in discus or javelin).

Reactive Strength qualities are beneficial to athletes who are dynamic in their sport. This applies to most team sports and many individual sports, including hockey, rugby, football, baseball, golf, tennis, squash, and the various throwing events. Reactive Strength is the muscle’s ability to apply force quickly after completing a Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC).

The SSC is the transition from a muscle moving from its resting length (or “stretched”) to being shortened during the eccentric (or lowering) phase of a movement. During the eccentric phase of such movements, the working muscles and tendons shorten and collect elastic energy, which is then used to assist the muscles to return to the starting position with extra force during the concentric phase. Plyometrics, or the use of various forms of jumps in training, helps to make the SSC more efficient and powerful.

If you are a soccer player running in one direction and the ball zips by to your left, you want to get there as quickly as possible. Instead of stopping, turning left, and starting to run, we simply crossover and push off with our right foot, propelling our body to the left. We don’t do a full squat, pause, and jump to the left. We plant and push off, wasting no time at all. And if your SSC is faster and produces greater force than the defender, guess who gets to the ball first?

The combination of Explosive Strength and Reactive Strength is also key when it comes to improving key performance tests such as the Vertical Jump, Standing Broad Jump, medicine ball toss, and even the 40 yard dash.

Whatever your sport is, strength training is the foundation for success. It certainly does not take the place of practicing your sport, but if you hope to reach the elite levels in many sports an adequate level strength is simply a REQUIREMENT.  The required level of strength varies significantly from sport to sport and from one position to the next, but the bottom line is your fancy footwork, impressive stick-handling, and excellent hand-eye coordination will not matter at all if you have been knocked on your ass and the other guy has the puck or the ball.



Hales, M (2011) Evaluating Common Weight Training Concepts Associated With Developing Muscular Strength: Truths or Myths? Strength and Conditioning Journal; February; 33 (1); pp. 91- 95.

Hori, N; Newton, R; Nosaka, K; Stone, M (2005). Weightlifting Exercises Enhance Athletic Performance That Requires High-Load Speed Strength. Strength and Conditioning Journal; August; 24 (4); pp. 50 – 55.