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Plyometrics: Building Explosive Strength
Part 3: Upper-body exercises build power punches and throws.
Ballistic pushups build explosive punches--this version incorporates lateral movement as well.
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 1: Introduction
• Part 2: Lower-body Exercises
• Part 3: Upper-body Exercises

 Related Resources
• Abs Every Day
• Getting that Kung Fu Grip
• Martial Arts: Fitness
• Martial Arts: Stretching
 From Other Guides
• Volleyball and Plyometrics
• Waterskiing and Plyometrics
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Don Chu, PhD
• Man In Pink: Gene LeBell
 Purchase Books Mentioned in this Article
• Martial Arts Bookstore

Plyometrics aren't just for the lower body. Upper body movements, such as the grasp and pull involved in a judo throw, or a simple straight punch, can benefit from plyometric training as well. Try the following sample exercises to develop your upper body's explosive strength:

  • medicine ball chest pass: Hold the medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Push-pass it to a partner, as in performing a chest pass in basketball. Your partner should immediately pass the medicine ball back to you upon catching the ball. Try to pass the ball back as quickly as you can.
  • ballistic pushups: ballistic pushups are simply pushups where you launch yourself off the ground with each rep. Upon landing, immediately launch yourself back up. Variations of this exercise include clapping your hands in mid-air after you push yourself off the ground, or launching yourself with enough force that both your hands and your feet are airborne. Another variation involves a slight lateral movement with each rep, so that your body traverses a circle with your feet at the center (see figure above). Try to spend as little time as possible in contact with the ground.
  • tire throw: The tire throw was judo legend Gene LeBell's favorite exercise for many years. LeBell, a former judo and professional wrestling champion, trained greats like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the art of grappling. LeBell used to run around the local high school track carrying a car tire. He would toss the tire 15-20 yards ahead of where he stood, sprint to the tire, then pick it up and throw it again, making laps around the track a few throws at a time. LeBell would vary his throws to mimic different judo moves.

    For additional exercises, consult the books mentioned in this article.

Plyometrics provide intense training for your muscles' fast-twitch fibers. Combined with dedicated martial arts workouts and weight training, plyometric exercises can make your good techniques into great techniques. Start jumping!

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All content copyright © 1999-2016 James Hom