Power Development, Part I: Train at Different Speeds to Build Power

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The ability to move quicker, jump higher and run faster than opponents will give any athlete more opportunities to achieve success. In this five-part series, we will discuss how to train and develop power in ways that will carry over to the field. Today's post focuses on training at different speeds.

Plain and simple—strength gains are specific to the speed at which you lift. Although it's a common weight room philosophy to progressively add more weight on the bar to develop strength and power, this works only for strength—not for power.

For power development, it's vital to focus on speed. When lifting, most people forget about velocity, which is speed of movement. Velocity is defined as distance over time, or moving something over a set distance as fast as you can. The important variable to focus on it time. If you always lift heavy and slow, not only do you run the risk of overuse injuries, you also miss developing the central nervous system—how well the brain communicates with the muscles—to a level that is essential for developing explosive speed and power.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you always train at maximum speed and don't lift heavy enough, you risk injury caused by lack of strength. Maximum strength helps activate and recruit muscle, which is essential for developing power.

Another element to consider is deceleration, which is slowing down a movement. When your goal is to increase strength, you should typically be lifting 80 percent of your one-rep maximum [1 RM] and above. However, the problem with using such percentages to develop power is the time spent decelerating. With a 1 RM lift, up to 24 percent of the concentric movement [when a muscle contracts, like coming up in a Squat] is spent decelerating. Too much deceleration can impede power development.

To truly develop power and become a better athlete, you must train the entire spectrum, from heavy and slow to light and fast. Look to expand your training by:

  • Lowering percentages on traditional lifts to between 40 and 60 percent
  • Performing concentric-only lifts to develop raw power
  • Doing plyometrics to train the stretch-shortening cycle
  • Using ballistic training to limit the amount of deceleration

In future posts, I will expand on these topics. For now, to build explosive power in your program, remember that velocity—adding speed to your weight training—is a key factor.

Photo:  naplesnews.com

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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