Train for Explosive Power With This Simple Dumbbell Exercise

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If you start talking about building explosiveness with weights, someone always chirps about Olympic weightlifting movements. Learning Olympic lifts, though, is a slower and more arduous process than anyone who’s never tried it would think. There are more setbacks than breakthroughs. I should know, I dedicated a decade of my life to Olympic weightlifting.


If you have the time and energy to devote to it, it can be rewarding and mentally engaging. But if you’re looking to train explosive ability now, there are better ways. The dumbbell power shrug is one of your best options.



To train explosiveness, stick to fundamental movements, and learn to train these remarkably well.


If you want to learn more about the principles that set a foundation for all movement, see my two-week, in-depth online course teaching the unchanging principles behind all barbell lifts. How to restore resiliency and control of your body starts soon.


You won’t need a lot of equipment or coaching on an exercise like a dumbbell power shrug, and you can tailor it to your needs and make it more difficult over time.


You can build a base for athleticism, coordination, and explosive potential in the gym for whatever other physical hobbies you enjoy, but you need first to understand how.


The Benefits of the Dumbbell Shrug Does

The dumbbell power shrug builds athletic strength.



There are not many exercises that train these qualities in the gym outside of throwing or slamming heavy med balls.


The Benefits of Training for Explosive Power

If you don’t play a sport where you need to move explosively, you may not be interested in doing an exercise that develops this ability.


The ability to move quickly, to move or catch yourself when you stumble, or to change direction, is an explosive movement. It is a physical ability we often overlook. It’s vital, though, and not just for younger people trying to compete in some athletic practice.



As you age, explosive ability declines before other physical traits such as strength, flexibility, and even muscle mass. If you aren’t very explosive to start with, this decline will be an even bigger issue.


One of the most significant risks to injury as we age is losing this explosive reflex.


If we trip, and you can’t move your feet fast enough to catch yourself or put your hands out, you will get hurt. Knee, hip, and back injuries from falling can all be reduced as you age by adding some explosive training into the mix.


If you’re younger and looking to be more powerful, this is a great tool that doesn’t require you to learn a new or complicated skill. If you want to start training this hard, all you need to know how to do is squat properly, and remember how to jump.


The best part about this exercise is that it involves a forceful contact from just about every muscle starting in the lower body and moving up the chain.



The sequence of the movement teaches coordination that generally wouldn’t be learned in weight training unless you dedicated yourself to Olympic weightlifting.


A group of coaches close to me calls this coordination the chain of command.



Train for Explosive Power With This Simple Dumbbell Exercise - Fitness, Kettlebell, flexibility, dumbbell, explosive strength, eccentric training, quads, upper traps, hip mobility, rep tempo, resiliency, overhead medicine ball slam, shrugs


The idea is that big muscles should fire before smaller ones during complex explosive movement. For the power shrug, when you squat and start extending upward, the biggest most powerful muscles of the lower body fire.


Train for Explosive Power With This Simple Dumbbell Exercise - Fitness, Kettlebell, flexibility, dumbbell, explosive strength, eccentric training, quads, upper traps, hip mobility, rep tempo, resiliency, overhead medicine ball slam, shrugs


As you reach the top of the movement and extend, the traps should shrug at the same time as the ankles extend. These smaller muscles act only after the bigger muscles have initiated the movement, though.


How To Do The Dumbell Power Shrug


You’ll need a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.


  • Grab them, and stand up. Then hinge over and squat down so that the dumbbells are at a height somewhere between your knee caps and ankles.
  • Push hard against the ground, as if you were trying to drive your ankles through the floor. (This will make you keep contact with the ground longer and not come up on your toes prematurely as many do when they think of doing a jumping action)
  • As you extend, keep pushing hard through your feet and think about stretching your body long as if you were trying to jump and reach your head to the ceiling.
  • Keep your arms long and elbows relaxed.
  • Push even harder through the ankles at the very top and think of shrugging your shoulders to your ears. If you focus on pushing hard through the ankles, you’ll come upon the balls of your feet, but your toes won’t lose contact with the ground.
  • Time your shrug with the exact moment when the heels come off the ground.
  • As soon as you fully extend, immediately drop your heels back down and go back down in a squat.
  • Try to make this a continuous, fluid movement with no pause for the set number of reps.



Once you get comfortable, change it up by starting from the floor. Touch the dumbbells to the ground every rep.


This deeper squat is more challenging than you think. It would help if you had plenty of hip mobility to squat that low with good posture and so it trains the hip musculature differently.


Mistakes to Avoid

A big mistake is to let your entire foot leave the ground and hop. Use light weights, and it’s not a big deal, but start grabbing heavier bells, and it could get you hurt.


If you extend hard, as you should, the heels leave the floor but always keep ground contact with part of your foot.


One off-balanced landing after an actual jump, and you’re looking at a foot or ankle injury.


A More Advanced Dumbbell Power Shrug

Once you’ve trained the movement and have gradually added weight, you can challenge yourself with some different tempos.


You could do a 6-count eccentric (lowering) of the weight into your squat position before extending as fast as possible. Or you could do something like a 3-count eccentric, with a pause at the bottom for another 3-counts.


A basic movement like the power shrug makes it easy to modify and make more challenging so you can keep training it hard.

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