Power training has become increasingly popular among the general training population.
Power is defined as work divided by time, or the speed at which you can do a particular task. In contrast, strength is the amount of force you can generate at a specific force, and power is how fast you can generate that force. A very heavy deadlift is an example for max strength; a heavy load moving slowly. Throwing a baseball is more of a power exercise; moving something relative light very fast. Both are important for athletic performance and daily living.
For athletes, the need for speed and power is arguably more important than max strength, and is so for the general population as well. It is even more important as people age.
As people age, they lose muscle mass and strength; however, people lose power at a higher rate. This is problematic because many daily activities, such as climbing up stairs and jumping over a puddle, require power. In fact, most of my clients are amazed by how difficult power training can be sometimes. Activities like simply jumping with both feet can be quite challenging, as many people haven't tried to jump in years, if not longer. If you don't use it, you lose it.
An effective way to increase power and add some fun and variety into your training program is to add plyometrics. Plyometric exercise is defined as a quick powerful movement that rapidly stretches then shortens a muscle group. Jumping up and down with minimal ground contact time is an example.
Plyometrics work by using the body's energy like a spring. When a person lands from a jump they store some energy in the muscle, like a spring being coiled together. If the person can then jump up again with minimal ground contact time, they can get an extra jolt of energy, like a spring being uncoiled rapidly.
Plyometrics are more of an advanced example of power training and are not for everyone. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the athlete should possess basic levels of strength, speed and balance before adding plyometrics to their training program. Athletes should have a maximum squat of a least 1.5 times his or her body weight and bench press at least their body weight. They should be able to squat and bench press 60 percent of their body weight in five seconds or less. Finally, the athlete must be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds without falling. People weighing over 220 pounds should be careful as they may be at an increased risk of injury attempting plyometrics. Many people are not used to this type of training and it should be incorporated gradually to avoid injures.
A basic power move I like to have my clients perform is a medicine ball toss. It is easy to teach, the risk of injury is rather low, and most importantly it is kind of fun. If you have the space and a medicine ball, one can chest-pass the ball to work on upper body power, jump over it, for lower body power and then slam it into the group, to work the anger out.
- Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS is a personal fitness coach at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more info.