The Made 2 Move team tries to reduce as many barriers as possible that keep people from moving, exercising, and realizing their full potential. Training for power can be kind of trendy and popular. It definitely is something that instagram fitness professionals throw around all the time. But what does it mean? Is training for power right for me? Let’s dive in!
Sprinting, jumping, skipping, lateral and backwards movement: all components of an athlete’s skillset that we did in our youth, yet movements we rarely carry into adulthood. Power is a crucial component of an athlete’s program, but is there any reason to train for power if you aren’t an in-season athlete?
As with any athletic ability, power follows the paradigm “use it or lose it.” Every decade after age 40, strength declines by roughly 10%. Power declines at about twice the rate of strength, at 17% each decade,
So what is power? Why does it matter? How do we train for power and explosiveness?
What is Power?
If we want to break it down into its mathematical equation, Power=Work/Change in Time. Essentially, power is generating as much force as you can, as quickly as you can. Power is also involved in coordinating movement.
Why Does Power Matter?
Power matters because power is involved in many activities of daily living. A 2019 study researching the correlation between muscle power and longevity notes that, “Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depend more on muscle power than muscle strength.” The same goes for falling: the muscles that are going to react and catch you when you fall are the same muscles that hold explosive abilities in sport.
Power involves our Type II muscle fibers. These are the “fast twitch” muscle fibers. Sprinters, olympic lifters, and other power sport athletes tend to have a greater percentage of these Type II muscles while marathon runners and endurance sport athletes tend to have a greater percentage of Type I muscles or “slow twitch” muscle fibers.
While Type II muscle fibers are obviously important for explosiveness in movements like the shot put, a baseball pitch, or acceleration on the track, court, or field, they are also the same muscle fibers that help us catch ourselves if we fall. This becomes important as we age and the risk of fall increases.
Dr. Pavlovic in his article Power Training is for Everyone notes that, “While many attributes of power such as speed, acceleration, and deceleration come to mind when thinking about sports, they are equally as important in activities of daily living such as standing up, stopping a fall, jumping, pushing a door, etc.” So why are we not training our muscles for power? What are some ways to incorporate power training into your workout routine?
Training for POWER
Power training does not mean you have to enter into a weightlifting competition or go buy a pair of spikes to start sprinting on your local track. While these are two great ways to build power, there are many ways you can incorporate this type of training into your already established gym routine.
Skipping, Jumping, Moving Backwards
Skipping for height or distance: focusing on putting as much force into the ground to propel your body up into the air or forwards
Jumping: broad jumps or vertical jumps
Running or skipping backwards: at speed, putting as much force into the ground as possible. This helps to develop both power and coordination.
Moving lighter weights faster.
This could be done with almost any movement in the gym. For example, let’s look at the back squat. Choose a weight that is challenging, but not something you feel you could only lift for 1 rep. Do 6-10 reps, focusing on moving the weight as quickly as possible when you stand the weight up from the bottom of your squat.
Medicine ball movements
Medicine balls are a common piece of equipment in most gyms. Slams, throws, and rotational throws are all great ways to improve power with limited equipment. Make sure to incorporate movements in all planes and directions:
Laterally: Start with the ball at one hip and use the power in your hips to twist and throw it.
Vertically: Start with the ball overhead and slam it as hard as possible into the ground. Or reverse the movement and start with the ball in between your legs, using your legs to power you upwards as you throw the ball as high as you can overhead.
Horizontally: Start with the ball in between your legs and either throw the ball backwards overhead or forward as far as you can.
Olympic lifts and their derivatives
The snatch, clean, and jerk are all very technical movements that require a high amount of skill, practice, and mobility. Many Crossfit gyms incorporate olympic lifts into their programs and many strength coaches (like Jordan Wigger) can coach you through them if you express an interest in it.
For those new to olympic lifting (and also utilized for elite and in-season athletes), derivatives of the lifts can be used, meaning breaking down the movement into smaller pieces. For example, just doing the “pulling” portion of the snatch and clean are great movements for improving power. Just focusing on the pulling component eliminates the “catch” in both positions that may be hindered by strength or mobility limitations in beginners.
Here at Made2Move, we recognize that a training program should be highly individualized and strategically tailored to meet each patient’s needs. Bearing in mind age, fitness background, and injury, we believe power training can be a beneficial part of a rehab program, as it aids in developing Type II muscle fibers, athletic ability, and overall injury prevention. Power training can be beneficial whether you are a high school football player returning to sport after an injury or a 50 year old with nagging shoulder pain. Looking to incorporate power training into your program or wondering if it could be right for you? We are here to help! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an initial consultation.