Understanding the concepts of power and strength are the cornerstones of athletic performance. Power is the #1 predictor of talent for almost all sports. Unless you are a marathon runner, power is vital for success. This is why athletes with the best vertical jump and most speed always seem to fare better in their respective sport.
Let’s start with a clear illustration. Two athletes who max out on their squat at 400 pounds demonstrate the same strength because they move the same weight over the same distance. However, if you take a closer look, one athlete may show excellent technique and quick movement that takes 2 to 3 seconds to perform the lift from start to finish while the other athlete may exhibit poor form, taking 10 to 15 seconds to perform the exact same squat. From a work standpoint, both athletes demonstrate the same strength, but the athlete who takes less time exhibits greater power. Sport movements require quick, explosive exertions of force.
Javair Gillett, the strength and conditioning coach for MLB’s Detroit Tigers, puts it this way: “Strength is the ability to move a resistance or load. Power is the ability to move that same resistance or load very quickly. So strength is just the precursor to improved power. It is absolutely necessary if you want to improve your power.”
Power = Force x Distance / Time
Power = Force x Velocity
It is important to understand that baseline strength must be established. Untrained athletes should spend time building up their strength and learning proper technique before addressing power concerns. Initial strength deficits can lead to joint injury or ineffective power training. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends the following guidelines:
Lower Body Prerequisite:
Athlete’s 1 RM Squat = 1.5x Athlete’s Body Weight
Upper Body Prerequisite:
1 RM Bench Press = 1.0x BW for athletes weighing 220+lbs
1 RM Bench Press = 1.5x BW for athletes weighing less than 220 lbs
** RM = Repetition Maximum (The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted for 1 repetition) **
Once baseline strength is achieved, begin looking to build power. This can be done in several ways. Olympic lifting, or power lifting, is generally considered the most effective but is also the most difficult. It takes a great deal of time, often years, to become proficient and needs to be under the supervision of a specialist or strength coach. Cleans, Jerks, Snatches, and Power Presses fall under this category. Please see the Stack TV instructional video streaming on this article.
Another method is to utilize resistance training tools, such as rubber bands and medicine balls. While performing bench presses and squats quicker, i.e. “speed reps”, can slightly help increase power – the bar can not be released and achieves zero velocity at arm or legs length. Throwing an object, like a medicine ball, allows for the momentum of the object not to decelerate and become inhibited. This allows for a greater power output and decreased antagonist activation.
The simplest method is to add plyometric exercise into your training regimen. Plyometrics are quick, powerful movements like jumping or bounding. They utilize a countermovement and involve the stretch-shortening cycle, explained in Strategy #4. This form of power training mimics the movements used in sports the best.
Top Upper-Body and Rotational Power Plyometric Exercises
- Medicine Ball Rotational Overhead Slams – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Chest Pass – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Overhead Throw – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Swings – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Rotator Cuff Dribble – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Plyometric Push-Up – Click Here ** Plyometric Push-Up: Click Here (Modified: Click Here)
- Medicine Ball Perpendicular/Parallel Throw – ** Perpendicular: Click Here Parallel: Click Here
Top Lower-Body Plyometric Exercises
- Vertical Power Skip – Click Here
- Non-Countermovement Squat Jump – Click Here
- Countermovement Rotational Jump – Click Here
- Continuous Box Blast – Click Here
- Medicine Ball Granny Toss – Click Here
- Mini-Band Lateral Bound (Heidens) – Click Here
- Non-Countermovement Lateral Box Hop w/ Stabilization – Click Here
Daily Tips and Strategies for Incorporating Plyometric Exercise:
- Don’t Overdo it! These exercises may feel simple but in all actuality, they put a great deal of stress on the joints of the body. Try and choose 1-2 exercises and only perform 3 sets of each exercise for 4 – 8 repetitions. Plyometric training should only be done a maximum of 2x per week.
- Try to choose exercises that utilize most of the entire body (multi-joint exercises). Plyometric exercises should mimic the movements that are utilized in your respective sport.
- Work on improving core strength. Try incorporating planks into your strength training days. You do not want your core to be your weakest link.
- Countermovement/Stretch-Shortening Cycle – You can’t just casually get into a squat position and expect a high power output. It is important to quickly transition from the lowering position to your ascent upward. The longer you are in the squat position, the less your body utilizes the elastic component of your muscle (stretch-shortening cycle).
- If you perform “speed reps”, choose a weight that is 30 – 45% of your 1 RM range. This has been proven to provide peak mechanical power.
- REST!!! If you perform 20 seconds of plyometric exercise, you should rest 5x that amount. Generally speaking, rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds between each bout or set.
- Become familiar with your Foam Roller. Connective tissue surrounds your muscle and must also be able to meet the demands of this strenuous activity. Foam roll before and after your workout session.
Try incorporating the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s recommendation for implementing power training.
Monday – Heavy Power
Tuesday – Light Strength
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Light Power
Friday – Heavy Strength
If you can follow these guidelines, you will find yourself significantly increasing your strength and overall power. Your performance on the field should markedly get better with less injury potential. Incorporating plyometric exercise is not easy and will leave you exhausted. However, in the words of the great Michael Jordan, “I just feel that physically I’ve got to be in the best shape possible to be able to do my job.”