To know how to train for power, you first need to understand just what poweris! Power is a word that is thrown around in the sporting world by everyone - it is often used to say just how well a movement is performed; "so much power in that stroke" or "wow, they have lots of power with each foot strike". But, whatexactlydoes it mean?
The meaning of power
In simple terms – Force x Velocity= Power. Meaning, if you increase strength (force) OR speed (velocity), then power will increase. However, when you start lifting heavier (strength aspect) then the speed of that lift goes down. So how do you determine where your best power is? Well… it is a combination of the two.
Each lift will vary with what weight you use to achieve the greatest power output. Determining this has been a difficult task, one that researchers do not agree on. What they do agree on, is the relationship between force and velocity. To better understand how they contribute to power, we use the force-velocity relationship curve.
Notice how at one end, the Force is high, while the velocity is low (maximal strength). Then at the other end of the curve, the force is low while the velocity is high (speed). The in between parts of the curve show a gradual transition between the high and low values of both force and velocity and showing their input to certain stages. Power can be seen in the middle with a near equal input from both force and velocity. This can inform us as to how we may vary the loads of our exercises depending on what our aim is.
The one rep max
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) suggest using 75-90% of your 1RM (maximum strength per repetition) depending on how many repetitions. The theory behind this is that by increasing strength with single reps, you will therefore increase power. To an extent, this is true… but that will taper off. So when should you start training the speed aspect? Simple. Using the big lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press) you should reach a certain level of strength before the need for weighted speed training is necessary, they are as follows:
Squat: 2 x bodyweight
Deadlift: 2 x bodyweight
Bench Press: 1.5 x bodyweight
Until these relative loads have been achieved, your "power" will increase much fasterratherthan the speed aspect. That's not to say that faster exercises such as the hang clean, snatch and jump squats will not have an effect as well, just that strength training will elicit a greater, more noticeable change.
However, (Yes, there is always a but in these cases), you can get some of the greatest strength gains by utilising both an explosive (speed) and forceful (strength) exercise. For example, performing squats (Left) followed by performing box jumps (Right) or vice versa, you begin training for strength, by using speed. This is known as pre/post-potentiation. This means that the strength of nerve impulses (signals) is increased, allowing for a greater contraction. The issue with this type of training, is that you are expected to be an intermediate lifter. So if you have only been lifting for a short while (less than a year), with no guidance from a strength coach or personal trainer, avoid this until you have been told from a qualified source that your technical performance is up to scratch. Beginner lifters focusing on strength by simply using weights will find great achievements in strength gains anyway, so there is no need to introduce this type of training initially.
A beginner's guide to increasing your power
Beginners should aim to improve their proficiency in the big lifts before moving on. Improvement in lifting technique can elicit great changes to how much they can lift. The adaptations the body goes through as a beginnger can show huge increases in strength in the early stages. By not introducing more advanced techniques during the beginner stages, they will have a greater impact later in training.
Basically, get good at lifting first!
An intermediate – advanced guide to increasing your power
You can start using special methodology to develop more strength, at the same time as developing the speed aspect of power. An example of a standard day is below, it shows a standard number of sets, repetitions and rest that may be used.
A2: Squat Jump
B1: Bench Press
B2: explosive press ups
Our final thoughts
Now, this may not look pretty or exciting... or even "difficult". But the aim is to recover enough so that you can perform each set and rep maximally without becoming too fatigued. You can improve every session, every week, even if it is adding just one rep to the next session, adding 0.5kg… whatever the increase.
We hope you benefited and enjoyed reading this article, any questions feel free to get in touch, and let us know how you get on!