Going Ballistic

Just finished another whirlwind week complete with two games, 3 midterms, and lots of chaos in between.  Sorry for the lapse in posts BUT no one can be mad at me because I also finally achieved 10 neutral grip pull ups in a row after programming massive amounts of them into my lifting days.  Best feeling ever. I’m really just trying to force my lats to help me fly. To be continued…

Anyway, it is officially SPRING BREAK, so you know what that means…..

party party party

Actually, no. It just means I’ll have a little extra time to write.  Since I live in Miami, sunshine blogging is a 24/7 thing 😉

This week’s topic is actually inspired by one of my recent midterms – get excited.  But really, it has become one of my favorite types of training.  In my grad program, a lot of our philosophy on strength & conditioning is based on ballistic training.  If used appropriately, this serves as a key element in improving athletic performance.  I want to go over briefly what it is, how to use it, and offer a sample workout that includes some ballistic drills.

Most people, even fitness professionals, shy away from the term “ballistic”, because it has a bit of a negative connotation associated with it.  Traditionally, you hear people get all up in arms about slow and controlled movements – and they say that the WORST thing you can do is bounce around.  If you are static stretching, then yes, bouncing through movements is counterproductive because you will change the neuromuscular response.  [Enter the image of the middle aged guy with or without 80’s style sweatband at the track bouncing through all of his stretches because he has zero range of motion – YUM] But in terms of training, a ballistic movement can bridge the gap between strength & power like nothing else.

Ballistic training is a form of training that involves acceleration and speed of movement. Similar to max power training, the muscle is forced to remain stable, but also produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time.  In order to be effective, the lift should propel you through the fullest range of motion before releasing (aka: no partial rep nonsense or “pulses” in short range – we’re talking dynamic ROM).  Ballistic training also takes advantage of the stretch shortening cycle, (the eccentric contraction of a muscle followed by an immediate concentric contraction of the same muscle) which is extremely important in terms of power output.  This is all crucial when considering the dynamic effort that goes into playing sports.  The pace at which athletes have to generate force and the dynamic stabilization and energy transfer required to perform ballistic movements go hand in hand.  When it comes to training, this is sport specificity at its finest.

So what’s the difference between ballistics & plyometrics?  Ground contact time.  Traditional plyometrics involve a VERY short amortization (landing) phase – and the quicker you’re able to overcome it, the more improved the reflex becomes.  Ballistics have a longer amortization phase and are more about dynamic stability, energy transfer, and force output.

Normally, the best time to add these into a training program is with a more advanced lifter transitioning from a strength phase to sport specific or power phase.  I say “advanced” because you always want to ensure that technique is sound and muscular imbalances are corrected before attempting to accelerate movements – even if you’re only using body weight.  Including ballistics, even if they’re only in a dynamic warm up, will help ease the transition from strength to power by keeping a lot of the traditional moves while simultaneously adding elements of force output (rebounds, hops, skips,).  This sets up a great base for max power efforts later on.  Adding ballistics is also a great way to maintain total body power while limiting intensity.  Despite the fact that plyometrics aren’t apparently fatiguing, they are very demanding on the neuromuscular system and therefore can only be used so often in a training session.  Ballistics help to bridge the gap and keep an athlete/lifter neuromuscularly conditioned for their sport.

Here is an example of a traditional workout:


Bulgarian Front Squat

DB Box step ups


Glute ham raise

Kneeling plate raise

Plate trunk rotation


Here is the same workout made more “ballistic” for a transition from strength to power training

Deadlift (or Clean pulls, High pulls from the floor, Trap bar DL’s with shrug, etc)

Front loaded bulgarian power skips (essentially a bulgarian with a hop)

DB box step ups w/ rebound (step ups with speed)

Plate blocks (video here:  )

^ Enjoy the amazing narration, it kills me every time.

Dips to knee raise (knee raise for energy transfer & trunk connectivity)

MB lateral swing to jump (energy transfer w/ hops)

Kneeling plate raises

Plate trunk rotation

Essentially all we did was add some kind of speed component to a few of the lifts while keeping the base of the workout very similar.  When adding ballistics to my workouts I’ve noticed that not only have I had some improvement in the bigger lifts (squats, deadlifts, etc) – I’ve also improved my speed.  The other awesome thing about adding these into a program is it helps periodize sessions & control volume.  I’ve been able to maintain strength with fewer workouts, which enables my body to recover better and therefore continue to improve when I go heavy.

Anyone else familiar with this type of training?


About sten06

Master's in Kinesiology: Strength & Conditioning BSed in Exercise physiology -NSCA CSCS -NASM CPT, PES -Varsity Lacrosse Coach Saving the world one workout at a time ;)

Posted on March 12, 2012, in Fitness, Lacrosse, Strength & Conditioning, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. 10 Pull ups! That’s awesome. Next goal 20?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: