Can average strength training programs make you more powerful? The answer to this is clearly yes – with a caveat- powerful for what? Power is force multiplied by time. So, if your force output is increased and the time to perform a particular action remains the same, your power output will increase. However, you do not have to be stronger for your power output to be higher, because if your force output remains the same, but you perform the action quicker, your power output will be higher in the second example than it was in the first.
True power training is about the rate of force development. Different sports demand different rates in which force should be developed. For example, in sprinting the athlete is only in contact with the ground for about 90milliseconds in each step. If the athlete needs to generate 100 kilogram of force in that small time frame to maintain their momentum, their ability to do so or not, becomes the limiting factor to their performance.
It doesn’t matter that your current strength training programs has enable you to generate a maximum force of 300 kilograms in the weight room, where maximum force typically requires about 500 milliseconds to fully develop. It is the athlete’s ability to generate 100kg of force in 90 milliseconds that counts in this situation (the rate at which they are able to develop force).
The aim of power training, therefore, is to find a load which enables the athlete to produce the highest force in the shortest time frame. In the weights room this is normally achieved with loads of around 30-70% of the athlete’s 1RM and is done in sets of 3-5 and repetitions of 3-6.
But…there are different types of power training.
If you are a jumper or a sprinter or indeed any explosive type of athlete, the quality known as dynamic strength is also going to be important to you. This is the type of strength or generation of power which has an explosive nature or a suddenness of extension movements to it. Special exercises have been developed to encourage the development of this way of expressing power. Your strength training programs should include exercises such as step-ups with a leap from the box top or squat jumps. These are just some of the exercises jumpers and explosive athletes have utilized with success over the years. Exercises such as split jumps are implemented for sprinters. Outside of the weight room plyometric exercises are used but that’s another discussion.
These special exercises tend to be modified versions of the usual exercises, squat jumps for squats for example. Due to this exercise modification, loads of around 30-50% of the athlete’s 1RM and done in sets of 3-5 and repetitions of 5-6.
Below is an example of a single leg jump squat, an exercise that is perfect for all explosive strength training programs.
Specialized Power Training
The coordination of muscle groups working in a similar fashion to the sport movement under load as well as at speed is another focus of power training. Under these circumstances, power training takes the form of specialized exercises performed in a similar movement pattern as the sport. These types of exercises are limited only by the imagination of the coach. For jumpers it might be that the pattern of movements prior to and into the take-off is mimicked in the weights room or skips along the track with a weighted bar. Sprinters might set up the leg press machine to mimic the start position in a sprint or set up harness or sled runs which mimics the acceleration phase of the sprint.
The training loads cannot be predetermined as the coach or trainer must ensure the athlete is able to perform these complex movement patterns safely while promoting power development. The specialized power development phase, is executed in a way which allows the body to synchronize the use of muscle groups better by allowing joint speed “under load” to come closer to what actually happens in the sporting scenario and so this method very eloquently transfers the quality referred to as power directly to the event or sport.