Power Development, Part II: Lower Your Percentages

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To specifically train power, strength-speed and speed-strength, you can't train heavy all the time. To ensure that a lift's velocity [how fast you move a load] is training you for speed, you need to lower the amount of weight.

Two different methods can be used for this type of training:

  • Percentage-Based: If you have an accurate estimate of your one rep maximum [1 RM] on a certain lift, you can use percentages.
  • Tendo Unit: This is a device that measures average velocity, average power, peak velocity and peak power; you can use any device that measures power output.

Percentage-Based Training
To estimate your 1 RM, you can either perform a One Rep Max Test or use a Rep Test. The One Rep Max Test is relatively easy—after warming up, you find how much weight you can lift for just one rep.

For the Rep Test, start with a weight and build up to a set number. For example, instead of doing one rep, do five. If you can handle the weight, move up and do a heavier set at five reps. Keep working until you can't get five reps. Plug those numbers into this formula:

[[Weight x Reps] x 0.0333] + Weight = Estimated Max

For example, on your last set of Rep Test, you lifted 200 pounds for four reps.

Step 1: [[200 x 4] x 0.0333] + 200
Step 2: [800 x 0.0333] + 200
Step 3: 26.64 + 200 = 226.64

Your estimated 1 RM is 226.64 pounds, so use approximately 225 when setting up a training program.

When you are looking to develop power, strength-speed and speed-strength through traditional lifts [Bench, Squat, Deadlift], you should be in the range of 40 to 60 percent of your 1 RM. A good coach can help you figure out the exact percentage to use.

You must move the weight quickly and smoothly through the entire range of motion, with no pause, sticking or failure. Sets and reps will vary, but generally use three sets for upper body lifts and two sets for lower body lifts. Your current season will determine the volume. Use high volume in the off-season and low volume during in-season. See the example below.

Back Squat
Off-Season: 10x2 @ 40-60%
In-Season: 5x2 @ 40-60%
*Start at 40 percent; add weight until the weight moves too slowly. Do not exceed 60 percent.

Tendo Unit
This device is extremely helpful for developing strength and power. You might not have access to one now [they are quite expensive], but if and when you do, it will benefit your training. Its uses include:

  • Objective Feedback: Shows how much power you generate on each lift
  • Adaptation Desired Training: Provides target numbers to hit when training with a specific goal
  • Prevention of Failure: Warns you of training stress and fatigue
  • Autoregulation: Ensures you perform at your best on a given day
  • Competition Intensity: Allows you to work at your highest level

Objective Feedback
Lowering the percentages to develop power might be tough for some athletes to understand. Most of us focus too much on Bench or Squat numbers. But the Tendo can help solve this problem. After you complete a set, the Tendo can give you a reading of how fast you moved the weight in meters per second [m/s]. You can stop focusing on the weight and focus more on the speed of the lift.

Training Specific to Adaptation Desired
Each lift has a specific velocity that should be met to achieve a desirable training effect. The following velocities can be found in Bryan Mann's e-book, Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of the Tendo FitroDyne Unit in Training Athletes.

Hang Snatch: 1.35 to 1.96 m/s
Hang Clean: 1.3 to 1.4 m/s
Bench Press: 0.8 to 1.0 m/s
Squat: 0.8 to 1.0 m/s
Speed-Strength: 0.7 to 0.85 m/s
Absolute Strength: 0.3 to 0.35 m/s

Prevention of Failure
This is one of the most important benefits of the Tendo Unit. Failure is very taxing on the central nervous system. It stresses the muscle and adds time to recovery. On any lift, if you are hitting velocities below 0.3 m/s, you typically have only one or two reps left. Stopping the lift at this point will preserve the central nervous system and enable you to recover faster.

This allows you to perform your best on a given day by performing pre-session assessments. You can compare the velocity of your current lifts to previous days, which will help you determine whether to stick to your original training plan, adjust the percentages or volume, or prescribe active or complete recovery for that day of training. This will help you get the most out of your workouts every day. See the example below.

Pre-Session Assessment: Hang Cleans 1x5 [40% 1RM]
Target Velocity: 1.3 to 1.4 m/s

1.24 to 1.4 m/s [95-100%] = Do the sets and reps at the weight prescribed
1.17 to 1.23 m/s [90-94%] = Slight adjustment on percentage or volume; lower the weight used or drop the number of reps and/or sets
1.04 to 1.16 m/s [80-89%] = Active recovery [cardio, circuits, etc.]
<1.04 m/s [<80%] = Complete recovery; stretch or foam roll but refrain from resistance training

These velocities are very close, so knowing your body and being truthful are important. If you hit 90 percent but feel great, then you are probably okay to stick to the game plan.

Competition Intensity
During training, we always look for ways to mimic the intensity of competition. Programs that use the Tendo have seen intensity in the weight room rise to a whole new level. Having specific numbers to work toward brings a more competitive atmosphere into the workout. They force you to use maximal effort on lighter weights, which will in turn produce power.

Since the Tendo is a tool that measures speed of movements, it is essential to perform technically sound lifts. Focus first on mechanics, then on consistency and finally on intensity.

Read up on the importance of training at different speeds in Part I of this series.

Kiel Holman is the executive director of Church of Iron in Indianapolis, where he also serves as throws coach for Lawrence Central High School. Certified by the CSCS, USAW, CrossFit L1, and USATF L1, he has worked with NFL defensive back Rashad Barksdale and UFC fighters Chris Lytle, Matt Mitrione and Jake O'Brien; and he has been a speaker at several coaching events, including USA Track and Field Elite Coach's Camp, IATCCC State Clinic, National Throws Conference and Anderson University. Holman graduated from Ball State University, where he played four years of Division I baseball.

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