6 Ways to Build Explosive Strength & Power Out of the Hole

The hole is the dark place at the bottom of the movement during different variations of Squats & Cleans. If you are a Crossfitter, or a lifter of any kind, you will know it, and you need to know how to get out of it!


You move into the hole when you squat down to full depth, before you drive the weight back upwards again. Think about when you catch a Snatch at the lowest position, or reach full depth on a front Squat for example, that is the hole.

It is at this point, that you

MUST HAVE explosive power and strength in order to control the weight, stand up again, and complete the movement. These 6 ways will help you build explosive strength and power out of the hole, and are highly beneficial for improving any of the following exercises:

  • Clean
  • Clean & Jerk
  • Squat Clean
  • Front Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Overhead Squat
Squatting back up out of the hole
Squatting back up out of the hole

ACCESSORY WORK:

1. DEAD SQUATS

With Dead Squats, you begin the movement already in the hole, and then explode upwards to finish the Squat and complete the exercise. Here, your body is instantly placed in a physically stressful position – fully loaded and already in the hole – and forces you to activate your core, legs and body.

  • Positioning is vital: take the time to position your feet correctly; as once you take the weight of the bar and control it with your own body, you will have little opportunity to correct your form.
  • The primary objective here is speed and power. Stand up quickly and explode back up to a standing position. Start this with the empty barbell whilst you get the hang of the movement and how it feels to load the bar from this position.

2. PAUSE SQUATS

Simple to explain, you pause and remain in the hole at the bottom of the movement for the allocated time period, before firing back up to a standing position. This can, of course, be performed with Cleans and Overhead Squats as well.

Make sure to pause when you are BELOW parallel

Use a lighter weight than you normally would because the exercise completely eliminates any potential for bouncing back up out of the hole. This makes it harder, and is also exactly why it is a highly effective movement for generating power and speed.

Pause Squats force you to spend uncomfortable time in the hole, and you will gain that wisdom of the flesh that comes from repeating an exercise over and over. Generally, in workouts, we are used to driving our way upwards and out of the hole as quickly as possible, so pausing and staying tight at this bottom position conditions our body into getting used to this uncomfortable place.

You can experiment will pausing for different intervals of time, from 1, 5, 10 seconds. Speak to your coach and work out a way to implement these into your training.

3. DUCK WALKS

These are great when you fancy trying something fun, but also very useful.

  • You will need to bring the bar into the caught Snatch Position.
  • Flex those hips, push the knees out
  • Walk slowly across the Box whilst maintaining as low a position as possible
  • These are almost impossible without a decent mobility warm up

4. ‘TREAT YOUR LIGHT LIFTS AS HEAVY LIFTS, SO YOUR HEAVY LIFTS FEEL LIGHT’

This quote is from Andy Bolton, the English Power lifting legend, who works a great deal on power and speed in his accessory work, in order to generate much more power out of the hole on his heavier lifts.

He performs all his accessory lifts with great speed, and sets up, breathes, and applies as much force as if he were attempting to accelerate the bar on a much heavier lift. Our bodies are intelligent machines, and will naturally apply the appropriate amount of force and energy needed to shift an object, in this case a barbell. This means that as we warm up with lighter weights and gradually progress to our working weights, our body simply recalibrates the amount of effort we apply each time.

For Andy, he explodes the bar out of the hole even on his lightest warm up lifts! He builds force and power, because as the weight increases, the same amount of force is used; only the weight moves slower. This teaches a mentality of explosive power as well, that will translate into how you approach heavier lifts, and get you in the habit of using and generating as much explosive force as you can.

This is also known as CAT training (Compulsory Acceleration Training).

5. WHEN YOU’RE IN THE HOLE, STAY TIGHT ALL THE TIME!

Never, ever, relax. Stay as tight as you possibly can at ALL times when you are in the hole. If you lose tightness and relax, you will either fail (if the weight is challenging for you) or find it incredibly difficult to reengage, and then stand up out of the hole position again. In short STAY TIGHT!

6. MOBILITY

If you struggle to get into or out of the hole, then mobility could be a factor. It doesn’t matter if you are incredibly strong, without being able to get low enough, it will become difficult to access and apply that strength and use it to generate the necessary power and speed to complete the movement.

Try this mobility warm up routine to activate your:

  • Inner thighs
  • Glutes
  • Hips

Featured image & Squat © NERO @ RX’d Photography

Dead Squat © Brian Casad

Dmitry Klokov © Pause Squats Dmitry Klokov

Duck Walk © Kevin Bani Youtube

Mobility Exercises © Range of Motion

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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