• Introduction
  • Basics of power training
  • Train specifically for your sport
  • Best training methods to improve power
  • Power training needs full concentration both mentally and physically
  • Rest is vital for power training
  • Physiological effects of power training
  • Sample routines for power training
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Ballistic training: explosive exercises that do not utilize the stretch-shortening cycle.
  • Kinetic chain: interrelated sections of the body working together.
  • Motor unit: a motor neuron and the muscle fibers it innervates.
  • Neuromuscular system: muscles and their connecting nerves.
  • Post-activation potentiation: the body's ability to produce more power after performing an intense exercise.
  • Plyometric training: short explosive exercises that utilize the stretch-shortening cycle (quick jumps etc.)
  • Rate of force development: a measure of explosive strength.
  • Stretch-shortening cycle: an action where a muscle lengthens before contracting to utilize elastic energy.

Introduction

Today’s top-tier sports are the most competitive they has ever been. Every athlete is faster, stronger and technically superior than ever before. However, when all other fitness components are put aside, there is only one thing that separates the best from the rest. That is sports-specific power.

This post gives a science-backed explanation on how to get the most benefits from your power training workouts. You can also jump straight into our section of example routines if you are already itching to take your training to the next level. 

Also, if you have not read our in-depth post about the mechanics and benefits of power in athletic performance, you can do so here.

Basics of power training

Power training is close to muscular strength training, but with a twist. It utilizes relatively heavy loads of 50-90% of your maximum with 1-5 very fast and explosive repetitions in each set. The number of sets range from 4 to 10 according to the muscle group you are working with. Due to using heavier weights, explosive strength training is performed acyclically, or one repetition at a time. This means 20-40s breaks between each repetition and 2-5mins between sets.

In practice, you must perform a single repetition, set the weights down, and take a small break before coming back for your next repetition. Of course, taking breaks between repetitions can be especially difficult for athletes that are used to giving every set their full physical effort. That said, it is scientifically proven to be the best way to train for power and explosiveness.

Another important thing to note is that power training does not train your muscles as much it trains your nervous system. Although power training will make you more explosive, it does not have any significant effects on your muscular strength or muscle mass (hypertrophy). Instead, power training focuses on recruiting as many fast motor units (single motor neuron and the muscle fibers it innervates) as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, it focuses on enhancing muscle recruitment through the central nervous system, making each movement more efficient and powerful.

Train specifically for your sport

Sports-specific explosiveness is needed in different swings, hits, kicks, jumps, dives and even when getting up after losing your balance. That is why explosive strength can be refined in two ways; increasing the actual amount of power you can produce and increasing the power during a specific skill-based movement. So, while explosive power training in the gym requires heavier resistance, it can still be trained in a sport-specific way as well.

Technique-based explosiveness means utilizing the skills learned through your sport and making them faster and more powerful. Often the best way to train this is performing full-body exercises that utilize your muscles’ ability to stretch before contracting. This is also known as the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and it refers to your ability to use elastic energy, almost like a bungee cord, for enhanced power output.

"Utilize the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) during your workouts to improve power and technique." 

One example of this is pitching a baseball, where the arm extends back before following through and releasing the ball. This utilizes the arm’s elastic energy and allows the muscle to produce more power.

So, use the ”stretch” aspect to your advantage when training for your sport. After all, most natural movements in the human body rely on this mechanism. Training with the same muscle groups, intensities, speeds and joint angles as seen in your sport will give you a competitive edge in no time.

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Power Training


Weight at 50 - 90% of your maximum1 - 5 explosive full-body repetitions4 - 10 setsRest for 20 - 40s between repetitions & 2 - 5mins between sets3 times a week during pre-season & 2 times a week during a competitive season

Best training methods to improve power

Explosive power lift exercises such as power cleans, clean-and-jerks and snatches are often regarded as the best movements if you want to train for power. You can also get great results through sprintcalisthenicballisticplyometric and complex training. You just need to keep your own goals in mind and train in a way that supports your personal development.

Power lifts are exercises where the athlete has to lift a certain weight as fast as possible. Often times this sort of training requires lifting a barbell in one fluid motion to be successful. Without utilizing the entire kinetic chain (interrelated sections of the body working together) of your body, you simply would not be able to finish the movement due to sheer resistance. This is why Olympic weightlifters are considered some of the most powerful athletes out there.

Sprint training is often used to increase power production in sports that rely on fast acceleration, agility and speed endurance. In fact, your ability to perform faster and longer can be beneficial in any sport whether you are running, swimming, cycling or skating. This style of training not only increases your power output but enhances your cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance.

Calisthenic training refers to explosive gymnastic exercises that require a great level of coordination, balance, rhythm and speed. This type of training not only improves muscular strength and endurance but also maintains mobility of the joints and muscles.

Ballistic training includes exercises that involve throwing weighted objects or jumping with extra weight to maximize explosive power. For example, medicine ball throws are very common during the power training phase of a season.

Plyometric training refers to explosive jump exercises that rely on the athlete’s ability to produce maximum power as fast as possible. It is often used in sports where athletes need to perform repeated jumps, such as high jumping, basketball, volleyball and football.

Complex training, also known as contrast training, means alternating the amount of resistance during a single workout. For example, performing a single power clean with 95% of your maximum, followed by a plyometric set with 30-60% of your maximum. This utilizes the post-activation potentiation (PAP), which describes your ability to produce more power once you have performed an intense exercise. Using this method is extremely effective for athletes that rely on quick and explosive movements.

Power training needs full concentration both mentally and physically

To get the full benefits of power training, you need a full 100% concentration both mentally and physically. The exercises you do have to be both well-executed and performed with maximum effort. If this type of training is not done properly, you could end up steering more into strength training territory. While this is not exactly a bad thing, it would still be counterintuitive towards your goal of being more powerful.

Some coaches even go as far as saying that power training is more straining mentally than physically. Therefore, you need to rest long enough between sets to make sure you are up for the challenge.

You will also need to be well-rested before each power training session. That is why we suggest you do not train like this first thing in the morning. Just get your eight hours of sleep and start training for power once your body is ready for it. 

Some say that power training is more straining mentally than physically -  give your body some time to recover before the next training session.

Rest is vital for power training

Since power training is done in short but high-effort spurts, it rarely reaches your anaerobic threshold. Basically, it is the intensity that could keep up for hours without getting fatigued. 

Training above your anaerobic threshold results in lactate faster than it can be removed. This results in poor fast muscle cell recruitment, severely lowered performance, and fatigue. In this case, you will no longer be able to focus on power but rather on strength or endurance, which you are not really after.

"You must rest between sets and between training sessions." 

For this reason, power training requires relatively long rest periods of 2-5 minutes in between sets. This is roughly the amount of time your body needs to fully replenish its depleted energy storages after an intense set. And since power training requires a full 100% mental and physical concentration, you will have to be well-rested before picking up where you left off. After all, your goal is to work the nerves and not the muscles.

You also need to rest between training sessions if you want to improve your performance and stay free of injuries. While there are plenty of individual differences between athletes, it is important to remember that it may take up to 48h to recover from a heavyweight training session.

A good basic rule of thumb is to rest between 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups again. However, after 72 hours your power levels will start declining, which is why it should be maintained 2-3 times a week depending on the season. 

Physiological effects of power training

Since power training focuses on better performance through sports-specific exercises, it leads to better coordination and increased efficiency. This means you will be able to utilize the muscles better without the added bulkiness of muscle mass. Therefore, power training merely refines your strength and makes it more specific towards the goals you are after. It can also have other physiological benefits such as lowered risk of injuries, reduced soreness after a workout and improved anaerobic energy production.

This enhanced coordination can be seen in an improved technique as well. Thus, you’ll be able to perform the same task more efficiently and move on to more challenging tasks. You will also be faster, stronger and more powerful.

What might be even better is that improved mechanics and decreased ground reaction forces show a strong link to a lowered risk of injury. You will also experience less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a workout. Thus, you will be able to train more often and with higher intensity.

Power training can also have a positive impact on your lactic acid tolerance, which means that your body learns to fight through higher intensities without fatigue and nauseousness. Furthermore, training for power can also increase resting levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), Creatine Phosphate (CP), free Creatine and glycogen in the muscles, all of which are vital in intense short-term energy production.

Power training is an advanced training method. Make sure your technique strength foundation are up for it.

Sample routines for power training

Do you want to become a more powerful athlete? Well, you’re in luck! Here are a few sample routines to get you started. Just remember to warm up properly and make sure your technique is in order.

Intermediate gym routine 1

1. Overhead medicine ball throws

  • Weight at 20% of your maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 20-40s between repetitions
  • 4 mins between sets

2. Power cleans

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 3 repetitions
  • 5 sets
  • 20-40s between repetitions
  • 4 mins between sets

3. Long box jumps

  • Bodyweight
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 20-40s between repetitions
  • 4 mins between sets

4. Squats

  • Weight at 50% of your maximum
  • 3 repetitions
  • 5 sets
  • 20-40s between repetitions
  • 4 mins between sets

5. Deadlifts

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 3 repetitions
  • 5 sets
  • 20-40s between repetitions
  • 4 mins between sets

6. Sprint

  • Bodyweight
  • 10s sprints
  • 4 sets
  • 4 mins between sets

Intermediate gym routine 2

1. Overhead medicine ball throws

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

2. Medicine ball slams

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

3. Box jumps

  • Bodyweight
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

4. Clap pushups

  • Bodyweight
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

5. Dumbell lunge jump

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

6. Power cleans

  • Weight at 50% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

Medicine ball power routine

1. Backwards medicine ball throws

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Rest 3mins between sets

2. Box jumps

  • Bodyweight
  • 10 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Rest 3mins between sets

3. Sideways medicine ball throws 

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions from both sides, no break in between
  • 3 sets
  • Rest 2mins between sets

4. Medicine ball slams

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • Rest 3mins between sets

Plyometric training routine

1. Box jump

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

2. Jump step up

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

3. Clap push-up

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

4. Single leg deadlift hops

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions on both legs
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

5. Elevated push-ups

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

6. Lateral jumps

  • Bodyweight, no additional resistance
  • 10 repetitions
  • 2 sets
  • 2min rest between sets

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor.

Power training focuses on recruiting muscles and muscle groups in the right order and with split-second accuracy.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Training the neuromuscular system (muscles and their connecting nerves) is incredibly valuable for a developing athlete. As you mature and your body gets taller and heavier, you will also need to have better control of your body. Power training not only improves your coordination but also provides a great basis for future specialization.

It is important to remember that power training can be very straining for your muscles and limbs. This means you need a solid strength foundation, especially in the core and joints to train power safely and effectively. This is due to the fact that a stronger core helps athletes maintain balance and keep a good posture during physical activity. On the other hand, your joint strength is also crucial to absorb impacts and withstand the forces against explosive and heavy resistance training.

If you are not physically matured yet, the focus should be on performing explosive bodyweight exercises that offer the right amount of challenge for you. For example, different squats, push-ups, sprints, box jumps and medicine ball throws from different angles are a great place to start. These exercises also have to be versatile enough and work the body in different ways to maintain strength balance in the body. This means having a variety of different exercises with changing amounts of repetitions, weights and sets to keep your body guessing.

"Power training uses relatively heavy loads so make sure your strength foundation is good enough for it." 

Because explosive power training requires heavier loads, it is not suggested to be used as a part of physical education. However, you can still incorporate explosive full-body exercises that use less weight. This would still provide benefits for younger athletes who aim to become more powerful in their sport.

Note that all of these exercises require professional guidance in technique and intensity to prevent possible injuries and maintain a healthy athletic progression.

Final thoughts

Power can be considered the hidden X-factor that separates the champions from the rest – and for good reason! Being able to use your force and skills as fast and efficiently as possible has a direct correlation to performance on the field. That fact alone should get most athletes on their toes and focus on power training.

That said, you cannot just pick up heavier weights and start swinging them aimlessly. You must plan your workouts accordingly so that you can maintain athletic progress safely. With smart training, good nutrition and rest, you can make sure that you stay on track with your goals.

Did you learn anything about power training? Let us know in the comments below!

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