Power Cubed

Jun 22, 2022


This article was originally posted on the site in 2009, but we are posting it again as a StrengthCoach Classic to serve as a refresher and so newer members can see it.


Once again social media has produced an article idea. What would I do without Facebook?

Recently my twelve year old daughter published a YouTube clip of herself doing a set of hang cleans. Not only did the clip produce a technical discussion about Olympic lifts, it produced a theoretical discussion about training for power. One topic that came up was "how do we train for power?". I realized that although I knew the answer I don't think I have ever really written it down.

At Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning power development is generally a three-part process. In a perfect world, with a healthy client, power training is done with in three different ways.

Method 1 -- Light Implement Power Development- Light implement power is basically medicine ball throwing. Light implements (usually under 5K) are used to develop power in a number of patterns. The key here is that the weight of the implement can be chosen based on athlete or clients strengths and or needs.

For us, light implement power is generally divided into overhead throws, chest throws, slams, and rotational patterns. For overhead work we rarely exceed 3 KG or 6 lbs. For chest throws we use 8-10 lb Dynamax type balls. We generally use the same 8-10 lb Dynamax balls for rotational power. The Dynamax balls are great as they emphasize the concentric part of the throw. With light implement power the load is actually released from the hands. Everyone we train throws med balls.

Young or old, everyone throws. In this method light implements are thrown at high velocity. With medicine balls we can more easily access the velocity end of the force velocity curve as the load is light and easy to accelerate. Light implements like the medicine ball can also be used for lower body power although we rarely do it at MBSC.

Method 2- Body weight power- Body weight power is basically lower body plyometrics. In bodyweight power training we are dealing with a wide continuum, from the highly elastic athlete to the overweight personal training. With bodyweight power training coaches and trainers must be far more careful than with medicine ball training.

In bodyweight power training the bodyweight becomes a difficult, but not impossible, constant that must be accounted for. As I said previously everyone throws medicine balls in our programs. In a perfect world everyone will also be doing bodyweight lower body power work. Unfortunately the clients bodyweight is a constant force that can be greatly magnified by gravity. Bodyweight power work will develop the power production of the hips and legs but, proper progressions are essential.

It is important to note that what constitutes warm-up in an athletes program might be considered bodyweight power work for an adult client. Bodyweight power (basically jumping and hopping exercises) must be used with great care. The MVP Shuttle is an excellent tool to work on power development for adult clients as The Shuttle allows power development work at gradually increasing percentages of the bodyweight. A Pilates Reformer or Total Gym can also be used for these purposes.

The big keys here are again the speed component and the eccentric response to gravity.

Method 3 -- Heavy Implement Power- In heavy implement power work the implement used generally falls into two categories. Athletes or clients will use external loads in the form of kettlebells or Olympic bars.

Again the the vast majority of our clients will use this third method. The exclusion might be some of our older clients or, those clients with chronic back pain. In general, older non-competitive athlete clients will not perform Olympic lifts. I think Olympic lifting for adults is a poor choice on the risk-reward or risk-benefit scale. Our healthy adult clients will use kettlebell swings for external load power development. There is a much smaller learning curve and lower loads with the kettlebell.

Power development is essential for both athletes and non-athletes. Athletes obviously need power work to improve performance while adults need power work to offset the aging related loss of fast twitch capability. A case could be made for adults have greater needs for power work as science has shown us that adults lose power faster than strength. However, the process must proceed logically. As we so often mention the key is to choose the right tool for the right job. As coaches we often force square pegs into round holes in our desire to use a lift or exercise. What is good for a twenty year old athlete may be a potential disaster for a 40 year old businessman.

As I have said many times, the question is not should we train for power but, how do we train for power.