Power training is a vital piece of the functional training puzzle for both competitive athletes & general population clients. Progressive exposure to high-velocity movements trains the nervous system to recruit high-threshold motor units, reflexively stabilize joints and develop the local tissue resiliency necessary to withstand the demands of high-velocity sports, making it a valuable tool for both performance enhancement and injury reduction.
Throwing low/moderate weight medicine balls with intent and at high-velocity promotes the high-threshold motor unit recruitment necessary to develop power in the torso & upper body. Additionally, overhead and shotput-focused medicine ball throwing can be especially valuable to condition the shoulder for the eccentric stresses that occur during the deceleration phase of throwing.
General population clientele can benefit greatly from power-focused training and should prioritize it in their training program. As we age, our nervous system naturally loses the ability to coordinate powerful, high-threshold motor unit contractions. Research shows that the inability to express lower limb extensor power leads to a reduction in walking speed & increases the risk for tripping & accidental falls. With this in mind, power exercises like skips, hops, jumps & bounds should be included in programs for the general population to maintain neuromuscular efficiency as they age.
All power training exists on a continuum from absolute strength to absolute speed. A well-rounded program should address the entire spectrum of the strength-power curve including elements of absolute strength, heavy implement power, light implement power, and absolute speed work. I should note that “power” training is relative to the client and should be scaled according to their capacity.
Explosive, powerful, fast, nimble, there can be many ways to describe someone or something that seems to move very fast. Maybe it is someone throwing a baseball, jumping over a fence, or maybe it is as simple as getting up and down of the ground. From athletes to weekend warriors, to kids and the aging population, we all need to have some type of power output.
For athletes, it primarily will be to improve performance for a sport better. For the aging adult, it is necessary just to perform daily functions well.
The body seems to lose the ability to lose power almost 3 times faster than strength. But somehow we forget to train for it. LINK STUDY FOR REFERENCE
At State of Fitness, power development is generally a three-part process. In a perfect world, with a healthy client, power training is done in three different ways.
Method 1- Light Implement Power Development
Light implement power is basically medicine ball throwing. Light implements (usually under 5K) are used to develop power in a number of patterns. The key here is that the weight of the implement can be chosen based on an athlete or client’s strengths and or needs.
For us, light implement power is generally divided into overhead throws, chest throws, slams, and rotational patterns. For overhead work, we rarely exceed 3 KG or 6 lbs. For chest throws we use 8-10 lb. large Perform Better type balls. We generally use the same 8-10 lb. PB balls for rotational power. The PB balls are great as they emphasize the concentric part of the throw. With light implement power the load is actually released from the hands. Everyone we train throws med balls.
Young or old, everyone throws. In this method, light implements are thrown at high velocity. With medicine balls, we can more easily access the velocity end of the force-velocity curve, as the load is light and easy to accelerate. Light implements like the medicine ball can also be used for lower body power although we rarely do it at SOF.
Method 2- Bodyweight power
Bodyweight power is basically lower-body plyometrics. In bodyweight power training we are dealing with a wide continuum, from the highly elastic athlete to the overweight personal training. With bodyweight power, training coaches and trainers must be far more careful than with medicine ball training.
In bodyweight power training the bodyweight becomes a difficult, but not impossible, constant that must be accounted for. As I stated earlier everyone throws medicine balls in our programs. In a perfect world, everyone will also be doing bodyweight lower body power work. Unfortunately, the client’s body weight is a constant force that can be greatly magnified by gravity. Bodyweight power work will develop the power production of the hips and legs but proper progressions are essential.
It is important to note that what constitutes warm-up in an athlete’s program might be considered bodyweight power work for an adult client. Bodyweight power (basically jumping and hopping exercises) must be used with great care. The TRX strap is an excellent tool to work on power development for adult clients as hanging onto the strap allows power development work at gradually increasing percentages of the bodyweight.
The big keys here are again the speed component and the eccentric response to gravity.
Method 3 — Heavy Implement Power
In heavy implement power work, the implement used generally falls into two categories. Athletes or clients will use external loads in the form of kettlebells or Olympic bars.
Again the vast majority of our clients will use this third method. The exclusion might be some of our older clients or, those clients with chronic back pain. In general, older non-competitive athlete clients will not perform Olympic lifts. I think Olympic lifting for adults is a poor choice on the risk-reward or risk-benefit scale. Our healthy adult clients will use kettlebell swings for external load power development. There is a much smaller learning curve and lower loads with the kettlebell.
Power development is essential for both athletes and non-athletes. Athletes obviously need power work to improve performance while adults need power work to offset the aging-related loss of fast-twitch capability. A case could be made for adults have greater needs for power work as science has shown us that adults lose power faster than strength. However, the process must proceed logically. As we so often mention the key is to choose the right tool for the right job. As coaches, we often force square pegs into round holes in our desire to use a lift or exercise. What is good for a twenty-year-old athlete may be a potential disaster for a 40-year-old businessman.
Everyone needs to develop power it just may look a little different for each person.