Being strong is a craved asset in most walks of life, it will put you in good stead when it comes to daily tasks, from doing chores to deadlifting 200kg. Being fast is also a great resource to have in your arsenal, to evade punches in a boxing match and also catch your kids when they decide to take you for granted. But the ultimate is to be powerful. As Force = Strength x Acceleration, being able to utilise both strength and speed can make you quite literally a force to be reckoned with.
In order to be able to increase power you need to be able to understand the rate of force development (ROFD). This is your ability to produce the largest amount of force in the shortest time possible, the greater your ROFD the more powerful and explosive you are.
For example, if Bill and Mark are both Back Squatting 200kg and it takes Bill 4 seconds to get from the bottom position of the squat to completing the lift and Mark 2 seconds, Mark has a greater ROFD, and thus is more powerful in that specific movement.
A method of training for power is through the use of the stretch shortening cycle. This is essentially where the muscles contract eccentrically (Muscle lengthening), which is immediately followed by a concentric contraction (Muscle Shortening). Box Jumps are a prime example of a method utilising the stretch shortening cycle.The eccentric phase is as you load back into a quarter squat before the concentric phase of fully extending and exploding off the floor onto the box. This type of training has been shown in research to significantly improve the concentric phase of a movement, resulting in an increased force production and power output.
Research has also shown that when performing conventional lifts such as a bench press, your body naturally looks to slow the weight down just before full extension to prevent injury. This concept seems baffling, but even when going for a 1 rep max (1RM) lift, it has been shown in research that up to 24% of the lift is spent decelerating the weight. This is where ballistic training comes into play. This type of training involves the use of movements with a goal of moving/lifting a force as quickly as possible. In this case the use of plyometric push ups where you look to project yourself as far off the floor as possible, would be a great example where the deceleration element is taken out completely.
This allows for maximum acceleration, power and in turn full use of the muscle fibres. Another example would be with the use of resistance bands when performing conventional lifts. For example a banded deadlift, when at the start of the lift, there is very little resistance from the bands but as you go into full extension the bands are under a lot of tension thus providing more resistance. This method doesn’t completely eradicate the deceleration phase, but is an effective method in reducing it.
Another very renowned method of developing power is through olympic weight lifting. Olympic lifts include the clean and jerk and the snatch. The clean and jerk begins with the weight on the floor, the athlete must then bring the weight to the shoulders (clean), and then thrust the weight overhead (jerk). The snatch is very similar, but requires the weight to go from the floor straight overhead in one smooth movement. This type of training requires you move a heavy weight fast, meaning you are having to recruit a large amount of muscle fibres, to contract very quickly. This gives you a large bang for your buck when it comes to power development.
When it comes to piecing these elements together and implementing them into your training, you need to note that force and speed have an inverse relationship (See graph below). As you add more weight on to the bar the force goes up, but the speed at which you lift it goes down, and vice versa, as the weight goes down the force goes down, but the speed at which you can lift it goes up.
Maximal Strength - This means training heavy! For example a 1RM deadlift at 90-100% of your 1RM.
Strength Speed - This zone involves moving less weight but at a slightly faster rate. Olympic lifting would be where this sits at 80-100% of you 1RM.
Peak Power - Also where the magic happens. This zone is where you are having to move heavy loads and at a very fast rate. These movements produce the largest peak power output and include olympic lifts, ballistic exercises such as plyometric push ups and medicine ball slams at 30-80% of your 1RM.
Speed Strength - This is where we are training with light weight but at a very fast rate. The aim of this is to move quicker than in previous zones and consists of various movements such as box jumps and weight jump squats at 30-60% of your 1RM.
Maximum Velocity - Here we are looking to move the body as fast as you possibly can. This type can be very specific across movements and sports. For example, by performing pull ups with the assistance of a resistance band, this will decrease the force but allow you to perform the movement at a much faster rate. This zone is aiming to be less than 30% of your 1RM.
Finding the balance between all these zones, will enable you to utilise all elements and optimise your performance. There is no one better than the other or secret formula, each zone has its place in the parcel to explosiveness.
Here's a power rich session for you to get your teeth into:
Power Clean 5x2 (80-100% 1RM)
3 Back Squat (90-100% 1RM)
5 Box Jump
40m Sled Push (80-90% 1RM)