The pursuit of sustainable strength training is one that will always require meticulous planning, systematic progressions, and long-term consistency. For the majority of people, this process can look logistically very linear. Build a strong foundation through high volume, low intensity training, and slowly progress toward lower volume and higher intensity. This simple formula has been proven time after time in strength and conditioning research since the field began its research.
There is also the thought that since force = mass x acceleration, acceleration must be trained in order to express maximal force. Acceleration, in this example, is the physical characteristic of power. Power is the quotient of work divided by time; simply put, how fast one can travel through time and space. The faster something can move through space, the more power it can express. The more power it can express, the more force will be able to be generated into a muscular contraction. With this, power is a characteristic of performance that can be trained and expressed according to a specific person’s genetic ability, if it aligns with their goals.
Power can be trained, but must be earned. Training power is all about intent, because most power training is not just about moving one’s body or external load, but rather about HOW it is moved. A detrained, or low-skilled athlete should not progress to power training until they have a consistent 1 to 2 years of consistent strength training as a prerequisite. This will ensure that the person’s musculoskeletal system has the foundation and ability to contract musculature in a very forceful manner. This will also ensure that the athlete has had an accumulation of training experiences to understand different training techniques and intentions. Again, this is vital because power is all about intention, and usually requires advanced training techniques.
So, how does one start to train for power? First is understanding the different types of training techniques based on the power time curve. As stated earlier, every client should start with absolute strength work as it has the slowest contraction rate. While a slow contraction rate doesn’t directly improve power, slower contractions have a host of hypertrophic and strength benefits that are prerequisites for faster, more intense contractions. Next is strength-speed. Strength speed is characterized by the moving of a load faster, in relation to absolute strength. Some examples of strength speed are the olympic lifts and some of their variations—like power cleans, snatch high pulls, etc., wherein the speed of the lift is faster, but are usually done with relatively heavier implements like barbells and kettlebells. Third is speed-strength. Speed strength moves further down the continuum in terms of contraction speed. For speed-strength, exercises are performed at even lower loads at even faster speeds. Often, this includes the implementation of medicine balls, slam balls, light kettlebells, and even lighter barbells still. Last, the fast contraction is absolute speed. Absolute speed is usually done with no implements and focuses solely on moving one’s body through time and space. Some examples of this are plyometrics and sprinting.
When progressing through power, it is important to move through the strength continuum appropriately and systematically. Clients need to spend a significant amount of time in each category before moving to the next in order to drive the desired adaptations that will prepare them for the next phase, as well as time to adequately learn the techniques required to express the greatest amount of force.
Because training for power is usually part of a more advanced training style, it is very important to ensure not only that the whole program is designed intelligently to incorporate the new training techniques, but also balanced enough so that the risk for injury stays low, fitness stays high, and success stays optimized. Power training is not for everyone, and earning the required prerequisites will ensure that the client mitigates the chance of musculoskeletal injury. If you’re curious about training to increase your power, or any other physical characteristic, reach out to one of our professional coaches for a FREE strategy session to take your training, nutrition, and lifestyle to the next level.