The benefits of a good strength and conditioning program are vast. Regardless of why you train, optimal results cannot be obtained if your program doesn’t match your goals.
Explosive power remains a hot topic as it is a focal point of training for multiple sports. Read below to learn more about the key components of training for power.
What Is Power?
In physics, power is defined as work performed per unit time. It is defined precisely the same in strength and conditioning.
Power lies on a spectrum; at one end speed, at the other strength. This spectrum is based on the Force-Velocity Curve, seen here:
For athletes to maximize power output they must rapidly generate high levels of force. This means that an athlete can poses strength or speed, but not necessarily power. For example, an athlete that can squat 600lbs, but is unable to perform a 20in box jump, is considered strong, but not powerful.
Muscular strength is the ability to exert force to overcome resistance in a single effort. It should be addressed prior performing activities that train for power, as it is a necessary prerequisite.
Strength gains can be achieved by progressively increasing resistance. Ideal loads fall between 80-100% of 1 rep max (1RM) for 5-15 reps. Moving the maximum load, with proper technique for the desired number of reps is key. It is also important to take appropriate rest so maximal effort can be achieved during each set.
Since speed is not a component of strength, it is not a focus of strength training. A stronger athlete can exert forces quicker than a weaker counterpart. Thus, strength development is highly correlated with increased power output.
Speed lies on the end of the spectrum opposite strength. It is the other component (specifically velocity) of power, but to a smaller extent.
The quicker a load is moved; the less force can be generated. The converse is also true. Thus, speed can be trained by moving lighter loads as quickly as possible.
Ideal loads range from 0-60% of the 1RM, for 10-20 reps. Again, rest is important; you cannot increase speed if you are too fatigued to move as quickly as possible.
As stated previously, power is the rate of work performed. It is located on a spectrum between speed and strength.
It is the marriage between speed and strength, thus training for this goal requires generating high force outputs as quickly as possible. Ideal loads range from 30-80% of the 1RM, at 2-5 reps.
Working at the extremes for ideal load is beneficial in that training is accomplished throughout the Force-Velocity curve; less resistance allows for higher velocity, whereas heavier resistance trains for higher force generation.
To maximize explosive power, you must choose optimal exercises. The inability to do this can lead to muscle imbalance/weakness in large muscle groups needed for athletic performance.
Core movements (and all of their variations) like bench press, squats, and deadlifts are ideal to train strength. These lifts can similarly be performed with lighter loads and higher reps to work at the other end of the spectrum. Speed training can also come in the form of activities that emphasize running form.
Power can be achieved with these same activities by utilizing the aforementioned ranges for load and reps. Explosive movements found in Olympic weight lifting can be of further benefit, check out T Nation for more on this.
Lastly, plyometrics can serve to enhance power. They take advantage of the stretch –shortening cycle, and because maximum force is exerted quickly, plyometric training is an ideal supplement to power training. Click here for more on plyometrics.
Take Home Points
- Power is work per unit time, or, generating a maximum force as quickly as possible.
- It lies on a spectrum between speed and strength.
- Strength is a prerequisite for strength training.
- Train strength at loads 80-100% of 1RM
- Train speed at loads 0-60% of 1RM
- Train power at loads 30-80% of 1RM
- Choose core exercises like bench, squat and deadlift. Supplement with variations of these movements, Olympic lifts, and plyos to maximize power
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S.
About Dr. Dugarte
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S. is a Cleveland, Ohio native who has enjoyed success in sports, as well as academics. He accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend Kent State University and graduated, Cum Laude, with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. At Kent, Dr. Dugarte was a member of the Golden Flash Football Team and earned Academic All-American Honors as a defensive lineman.
He is currently the Research Fellow for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Dugarte has 8 years’ experience as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Keywords: power; strength; speed; force; velocity; spectrum; Olympic lifts; plyometric