In looking to answer this most basic of questions I researched the ideas of some of the preeminent trainers in athletic development and performance enhancement. Here you will find pertinent observations & suggestions from a Who’s Who including Gambetta, Versteegan, Waterbury, Vermeil, Gentilcore, Horne, Anderson, Patel, Cressey, Mahler, & Thibaudeau.
“I prefer the term athletic development rather than strength and conditioning because it clearly denotes an integrated system to develop the athlete. It sends a clear message that what is being developed is the complete athlete, not one component. All components of physical performance: strength, power, speed, agility, endurance and flexibility must be developed in a systematic, sequential and progressive manner to prepare the athlete. Athletic development coaches enhance athletic performance by developing athletes that are completely adaptable and prepared to handle the psychological, physical, technical and tactical demands required to compete”
“Perhaps a more practical way of describing power is explosiveness. Tiger Woods has an explosive swing off the tee. Average golfers have a swing speed of 50-90 miles per hour. Most professional golfers have a clubhead (swing) velocity in excess of 115 miles per hour. Tiger’s is about 130 mph. His strength plus speed combine to produce power.
In other sports, a powerful running back is one who explodes through a hole—he has strong core and lower body muscles, and he can make those muscles move rapidly to eat up yards and blast through or past defenders. World-class boxers may be strong, but unless they can get off a punch or series of punches in fractions of seconds, they aren’t necessarily powerful. Power is either a prerequisite or an advantage in almost every sport. Cross-country and distance running may be the only exceptions.
You can be strong without being powerful (because you can’t get that strength into motion quickly), but you can’t be powerful without having underlying strength of muscles and muscle groups.”
Mark Versteegan & Athletes’ Performance
A) SCIENCE-BASED TRAINING AIMED AT MAKING
ATHLETES MORE POWERFUL
“How do I recruit all my motor units?…
There are two ways: lift as heavy as possible, and lift as fast as possible. Now, keep in mind that heavy weights won’t move quickly, no matter how hard you try. But they don’t need to. When the weight is heavy enough to only allow three or four reps, you’re recruiting all your motor units because it takes every ounce of effort to get the weight moving.
Science of Motor Recruitment – Part 3
“Where many people screw up, however, is with submaximal weights….It’s not the load of the weight that’s important – it’s the effort and intensity that will make or break your results. ”
According to Chad you have bursts of less than 10 seconds to train a person at their maximum output. It is in this high adrenaline state – “Fight or Flight” that we can increase a person’s peak performance. Clearly, high motivation is a pre-requisite!
When discussing this approach with Chad he told me, “Rate of Force Development is developed most effectively with submax loads. For instance, start with a load a guy can lift 10 times but only do 3 explosive reps for 8-10 sets. This is explosive strength training.”
“If your athlete lacks the “burst” in their initial acceleration, strength deficits should be looked at as a possible contributor.
a. Males should be able to squat 150-200% their body weight
b. Females should be able to squat 140-180% of their body weight
c. ** remember you can’t get to third gear if you can’t get out of first gear.
Strength and starting strength are absolute prerequisites before other, more advanced training modalities.”
“Power simply refers to the ability to apply a lot of force in a minimum amount of time (Power = Force x Velocity). In order to improve power, you need to increase force and/or velocity.”
“Interesting to note, from a velocity standpoint, it’s been shown that power output increases as the weight lifted decreases from 100% of 1RM to 90% of 1RM. In fact, for the back squat and deadlift, power output for a load at 90% 1RM may be twice as high as the 1RM load due to the large decrease in the time required to complete the exercise with the lighter load (1).
This obviously shows how velocity plays an important role and why using the dynamic effort method is a great way to improve strength. Optimal speed and power can only be maintained for approximately six seconds. ”
1. Baechle, T., Earle, R., and Wathen, D. Resistance Training.. In: Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (2nd Ed.) Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W.., ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000.
B) EXAMPLES OF RECOMMENDED EXERCISES
Brijesh Patel commented to BSMG,
“I look at 2 different vertical jumps to decide the course of training:
1. Vertical Jump with countermovement
2. Vertical Jump with approach
If there is a greater than 4 inch difference b/w the 2, I will focus more on developing strength (they are more elastic). If there is less than a 4 inch difference, the athlete can spend more time devoted to developing power (strength-speed, speed-strength methods).”
The related link Can Speed Be Trained? discusses the strength-speed continuum.
Front Squats from Mike Mahler
“Squats: Learn the front squat that has tremendous carry over to sports and the hack squat that works the calves and glutes with one kettlebell behind your back. You will be amazed by how heavy one kettlebell feels in this position. What is great about various kettlebell squats is that they do not place any strain on the lower back, Moreover, if you get in trouble you can simply let go of the weight. No spotters or squat racks are required.”
10 examples of exercises from Athletes’ Performance to increase power, including some plyometric activities:
- Push Up Plyometric Lateral Medicine Ball (for explosive power in the chest and arms)
- Crossover Drill – Continuous (for power and range in the torso)
- Medicine Ball Overhead Pass – Kneeling (for stability and total body power)
- Squat Jump – Non Countermovement (for power in the hips)
- Rotational Jumps – 90 Degree (for vertical and rotational power)
- Stair Runs – 2 Steps (for speed and power)
- Box Hop – Linear (for improved power on take-off and control on landing)
- Lunge – Forward Dumbbell (for leg power)
- Mini Band Linear Bound (for explosive lower body power)
- Arm Action – Standing Long to Short (for increased power and speed generated by arms while running)