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Speed strength is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible impulse in the shortest possible time.[1] It is defined in work divided by time, where work is defined as force x distance. Therefore, speed strength is defined as force x distance, divided by time (power). Speed Strength is characterized by three distinct components: starting strength, explosive strength, and reactive strength. [2]

Types of Exercise

Olympic lifts (snatch and clean) and their derivatives have potential for power outputs higher than "power" lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift).[1] They are the most common excercises used to develop speed strength. Other exercises such as bench press throws (using Smith machine) and multiple repetition jump squats may provide an alternative or supplement to the traditional Olympic weightlifting style movements for the development of speed strength and for athletes of lower strength levels. The power produced during jump squats or bench press throws can actually exceed that of the Olympic lifts.[1]

Starting Strength

Starting strength is defined as the ability to recruit as many motor units (MU’s) as possible instantaneously at the start of a movement. Common examples include the lunge in fencing, coming off the line in football, and the start in short sprints. [2]

Explosive Strength

Explosive strength refers to acceleration or rate of force development. Charles Staley puts it as, "once you’ve recruited a maximal number of MU’s, how long can you keep them recruited?"[2]

Reactive Strength

Stretch Shortening Cycle (Reactive Strength) involves the storage of potential kinetic energy during the eccentric portion of a movement, which is then converted to actual kinetic energy during the subsequent concentric phase— much like stretching and releasing an elastic band.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Knowles, Dennis (n.d.). TRAINING FOR SPEED STRENGTH. Retrieved on 2008-10-04.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Staley, Charles (n.d.). Quality Strength for Human Athletic Performance: A Guide to Speed Strength Training. Retrieved on 2008-08-03.

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