What is Power based Training?
Power is the explosive strength which refers to an individual’s ability to exert a maximal amount of force in the shortest possible time interval. Power based training is a specific type of training which focuses on enhancing this component of the athlete by increasing the volume and functionality of fast twitch muscle fibers that are responsible for performing explosive movements.
Think of a sprinter forcefully driving into the starting blocks, a high-jumper propelling himself off of the ground, a football player exploding off the line, or a weight lifter squatting a near maximal load. While each of these movements are markedly different from one another, both in form and speed of movement, they all require explosive strength.
Power (which results from explosive strength) can be represented as:
Power (P) = Force (F) x Velocity (V)
So how do we achieve greater F and V?
- Get Stronger, and/or
- Get Faster
For a majority of beginner and intermediate trainees, initially improving one’s maximal strength will be far more important than speed. However, as an individual progresses and exhibits sufficient maximal strength, targeted training to improve speed becomes an essential component to improving explosive strength and power as well.
Who Needs Explosive Strength?
Based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, individual strengths and weaknesses, the specific athletic event, and phase of the training cycle, the degree of emphasis which should be placed on explosive strength development will vary among athletes. Athletes who need to display large amounts of force in relatively short periods of time would do well to incorporate explosive based strength training within their regimen.
Sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, boxing, wrestling, golf, track & field, and weightlifting require a strong foundation of power based training as they incorporate explosive movements such as throwing, swinging, sprinting and vertical jumps.
The Different Types of Power Training
A prerequisite to starting one of these routines is the development of a solid base of functional strength. Power training, particularly plyometrics and ballistics, becomes less effective and the risk of injury is increased if a phase of anatomical adaptation has not already been completed.
- Heavy Explosive Strength Training
Strength training alone can increase explosive power by positively affecting the top half of the power equation or the peak force production. Most athletic movements also start from a stationary position and it is this early phase of moving a resistance that requires the most effort. Therefore the greater an athlete’s strength is, the more explosive this initial phase of motion will be.
Lifting weights of 70-100% 1-RM with a focus on completing the movements as fast as possible is the best way to develop power and increase the recruitment rate and volume of fast twitch fibers. For an athlete who already has a solid base of strength training (+6 months) gains in power are minimal with further weight training. Sets are not performed to exhaustion as the quality and speed of each lift is the most important factor. Rest intervals are also kept high for the same reason.
Ballistics is training in which an athlete lifts, accelerates, and then releases the weight, rather than slowly lowering it as in other forms of weight training. During a ballistic action, the force far outweighs the resistance so movement is of a high velocity. The resistance is accelerated and projected. Examples include a medicine ball throw and a jump squat. The aim is to reach peak acceleration at the moment of release projecting the object or body as far as possible.
The ideal load of 30-35% 1-RM should be used for exercises that include free weights such as jump squats. For many ballistic exercises the weight of the objects themselves dictate the load such as medicine balls ranging from 2-6kg (4.4-13lbs) and kettle bells ranging from 10-32kg (22-70lbs).
Repetitions can be reasonably high as the nature of some exercises means there can be up to 20 seconds between efforts – for example when a medicine ball has to be retrieved. A set should stop however, the moment the speed and quality of movement can no longer be maintained.
Ballistics can place considerable eccentric forces on joints, ligaments and tendons when landing from a jump squat for example. Athletes should always progress gradually from unloaded to loaded exercises and must not be fatigued before starting a ballistic power training session.
A plyometric movement is quick, powerful move that starts with an eccentric (muscle lengthening) action and is immediately followed by a concentric (muscle shortening) action. Performing plyometrics movements increases muscular power, which translates to higher jumps and faster sprint times.
Plyometrics is a suitable form of power training for many team and individual sports. While many might see it simply as jumping up and down, there are important guidelines and program design protocols that need to be followed if plyometrics is to be as safe and effective as possible.
Which is The Best Form of Power Training?
The type of power training employed must be the most specific to the sport or event. Olympic lifts, such as power cleans, may be suitable for sports such as football and rugby. Some plyometric exercises are suitable for soccer and hockey. Ballistic exercises with medicine balls fit well with basketball and volleyball.
But many sports would benefit from a combination of power training methods. Take basketball for example – explosive strength training such as power cleans, plyometric exercises such as depth jumps and ballistics such as jump squats and overhead medicine ball throws would all be suitable choices.
Hope this was of help to you. Thanks for reading!