11 Ways To Develop Explosive Speed and Power Without The Olympic Lifts


At Rugby Renegade we love the Olympic lifts.

The Snatch and Clean & Jerk are great tools to develop power and explosive strength. They teach you to lift heavy loads explosively because, heck if you didn’t, you would miss the lift!

But the Olympic lifts aren’t for everyone and they do have limitations.

Not everyone has access to bumper plates and lifting platforms and more importantly good coaching. The Olympic lifts are highly technical movements but that shouldn't stop you from reaching new levels of speed and power.


Also if your training time is limited, which most rugby players are, learning the Olympic lifts should take a back seat to more time appropriate methods.

It is also worth mentioning that with the injury profile of rugby players you will find some portion of your career where you physically can’t perform the Olympic lifts. Even minor wrist, elbow and shoulder niggles can stop even the keenest lifter.

So, can we still develop power and explosive strength without the Olympic lifts? You bet!

Read on for some great alternatives to the snatch and clean and jerk:

Dynamic Effort

The dynamic effort method was popularised by the Westside Barbell Club power lifters.

It involves lifting a moderate weight (usually 50-60% 1RM) as explosively as possible for low reps and high sets with relatively short rest periods. For squats they usually perform 10-12 sets of 2 reps with 45 seconds rest. Bench press they do 8 sets of 3 reps with 45 seconds rest. Bands and chains can be added to increase the acceleration throughout the lift too.

1. Speed Squat


2. Speed Bench



Ballistic exercises involve actually jumping or releasing the bar in the case of upper body exercises. You will use a lighter load but will be able to move even more explosively. 20-40% of 1RM is best for jump squats, bench throws and Trap Bar Dead Jumps.

3. Jump Squat


4. Bench Throw



It should be no surprise that jump training will develop power and explosive strength. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps are a good starting point but begin cautiously and progress slowly (especially bigger athletes). Remember you’re training power so you don’t want to be fatiguing too much. Ensure there is enough recovery that you can perform them with good technique and speed. Here are a few of our favourites:

5. Seated Box Jump


6. Kneeling Jump


7. Banded Broad Jump





Prowler and sled work is an excellent tool for developing explosive strength and power for rugby, because it builds strength in a low body position. This is ideal for acceleration and similar to many contact positions you will find yourself in during rugby. It is also unilateral and creates full body tension. When training to increase power make sure you rest fully and allow maximum speed save your conditioning for another time.


Medballs offer another unique way of developing of power and there are unlimited ways to use them. They challenge the whole body and some exercises can challenge you in movements and ranges that other conventional exercises just don’t reach.  Our favourite drills include; slams, rotational slams, scoop throws, overhead throws, shot put throws, chest throw into broad jump and there are many more!

8. Med Ball Slams


9. Rotational Med Ball Slams


10. Jammer

The Jerk is a great exercise but don’t worry there are other great explosive full body lifts to challenge the upper body. If you have access to a Jammer it is a perfect fit for rugby. You can perform double or single arm… another twist on it is to hold a rugby ball in the non-lifting arm to tie in nicely with rugby.


11. Landmine Press

Now we know not every gym will have a Jammer but there is a simple and effective alternative. Chuck one end of a barbell in a corner and you have a landmine press!! A challenging way to perform it is to release the bar, re-catch it and throw again. You should be able to see why some coaches call it a barbell hand off!! To increase difficulty again, alternate arms on each rep! It’s also a great rehab tool for players with shoulder injuries who still have difficulty overhead pressing.


Wrap Up!

I hope we have given you some good examples of how to develop explosive speed and power for rugby without using the Olympic lifts. We know that they are not for everyone and have found these methods do a great job! If you want to find out more about us checkout our website rugbyrenegade.com or join our team here at TrainHeroic.  #BuildingMachines

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About The Author

Jamie Bain is the Head of Strength & Conditioning at Rugby Renegade. He has nearly a decades experience working in professional rugby and is currently working in the Aviva Premiership with Gloucester Rugby. His goal at Rugby Renegade is to make elite S&C advice and training programs available to any player who wants to improve performance and dominate the opposition! #buildingmachines