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Plyometrics: Building Explosive Strength
Part 1: Secret exercises of Olympic athletes can help you jump, kick, and punch with explosive power.
Plyometric exercises often involve propelling a heavy medicine ball--in this case, to develop a more powerful kick.
Graphic from the book Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports, copyright T. Starzynski, H. Sozanski, and T. Kurz 1999, used with permission from Stadion Publishing.
 More of this Feature
• Part 2: Lower-body Exercises
• Part 3: Upper-body Exercises
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"Sparring gives you a sense of distance and timing. Endless jumping and drilling make you fit. This combination of mechanics, fighting sense, and fitness leads to really effective power kicking."

Want explosive power? More height on your jumping kicks? Consider adding plyometric exercises to your workouts. Discovered decades ago by Olympic coaches from eastern bloc countries, plyometrics develop your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Your muscles learn to exert maximum force over a short interval of time--like the push-off of a vertical jump, or when throwing a punch. The result is higher jumps and more powerful strikes and kicks.

Plyometrics have long been popular with track and field athletes seeking to run faster or jump higher. Most plyometric exercises develop the legs' ability to exert maximum force over a really short time interval--like when starting a foot race or pushing off for a high jump. However, some experts have developed exercises specifically for combat sports.

Donald Chu, Ph. D., is a professor at Ohlone College in California and a well-known strength and conditioning consultant, having assisted the Golden State Warriors and Chicago White Sox professional teams and several Olympic athletes. Chu is best known for bringing plyometrics to the mainstream through numerous books, articles, and demonstrations. "Plyometric training has proven to be a major benefit for those involved in the martial arts," said Chu in a recent email. "Balance, quickness and explosive power are such an integral part of the sport, so it is imperative that these qualities be developed to the maximum."

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