18 Jan Maximal Strength or Explosive Strength. Which is More Important?

Strength is the one quality that makes you better.

It’s been said that “physical strength is the most important thing in life.

Mark Rippetoe, the founder of Starting Strength said that in his great book.

The question is this.

What type of strength (as there are many qualities)?

In this article, we’ll cover 2 types: maximal and explosive.

Maximal strength is the ability to generate maximum force against a given load.

In other words, how much weight can you lift with a given movement or exercise.

Common lifts are the deadlift, bench press and squat.

Explosive strength, on the other hand, is generating maximum force in minimal time.

Examples are the kettlebell ballistics and Olympic weightlifting.

This can be viewed as moving a heavy weight as fast as possible.

Are people are too focused on maximal strength?

I don’t think so.

What’s important to understand is that maximal strength can significantly impact explosive strength.

The stronger you are, the more likely you’ll be to move heavy weights explosively.

For the athlete, explosive strength is what simulates competition most.

Athletes need to explode and produce force quickly.

Depending on training goals, training for both maximal strength and explosive strength may require careful consideration.

Let’s take fat loss, for example.

Fat loss requires a different type of training approach – and certainly nutrition that is optimized.

Explosive strength training (i.e. the kettlebell swing) could certainly be more specific to the training goal of fat loss, but there are many training variables to consider for that goal.

Maximal strength is a base for explosive strength.

That’s important to understand.

You need a base of general strength before producing force fast.

Make sense?

The stronger your maximal strength level, the better explosive strength you’ll have.

As I’ve mentioned, more explosive strength will be very beneficial for athletes, such as sprinters, football players, martial artists, fighters, golfers, and others.

I’d argue that explosive strength is an important quality in day-to-day living, even if you’re not an athlete.

But, there is a balance of maximal strength and explosive strength that are important for durability, resiliency, and high-performance in life.

The bottom line is that BOTH types of strength are important.

Maximal Strength examples:

  • Kettlebell Press
  • Barbell Press
  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Barbell Back Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Turkish Get-Ups

Explosive Strength examples:

  • Kettebell Swing
  • Kettlebell Clean
  • Kettlebell Snatch
  • (Weightlifting) Clean & Jerk
  • (Weightlifting) Snatch
  • Plyometric training (jumps, explosive push ups, med ball throws, etc)

From the list, you can see there are different types of exercises for each quality of strength.

A common mistake is to focus too much on one and ignore the other.

Both are important, but understand your training goals.

Keep the goal the goal, as Coach Dan John says.

These are powerful words of wisdom.

Knowing exactly what you’re training for is half the battle.


Both maximum strength and explosive strength are important qualities for all of us. Maximum strength can be thought of as the base for explosive strength. Explosive strength is extremely important for the athlete, but it’s also important for the everyday exerciser and aging athlete. We will always want to have the physical quality of being able to produce force fast. A real-world example is if you stumble or trip when you walk, you need the physical capacity to quickly react to prevent a fall. That expression of movement is an example of real-world explosive strength – which means you’re a more durable and resilient human.

Maximal strength is important.

Explosive strength may be the edge for a better life.

Please feel free share this article on twitter, facebook, or anywhere that will benefit other readers. I appreciate it.


Scott’s background as a strength coach, athlete, and former clinician are the basis for his one-of-a-kind approach to teaching strength, human movement, and peak performance. Scott is dedicated to helping serious fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and lifters all over the world, regardless of age, background, or training experience, become the best version of themselves through improved strength and skill development for a lifetime of health, happiness, and high-performance.

Scott is the passionate host of The Rdella Training Podcast, a leading weekly fitness podcast in Apple Podcasts where he interviews the most brilliant minds in the industry. Finally, he is the author of The Edge of Strength, available in Amazon and currently working on his follow-up book. To learn more about Scott, please visit our About Page.

Get stronger, perform better, and evolve into the athlete you were meant to be.

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