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Power- What Is It & How To Get It

BrotherIron

BrotherIron

TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
10,409
2,626
#1
People usually associate power with the thought of some 300 lb Paul Bunyan looking cat struggling underneath a bar bending load of iron - Or a strongman on ESPN picking up a car on and hauling it across a parking lot - all the while looking like he's going to burst in two. When the average person hears the word power this is what they typically think of.

Actually though, power is just as dependent upon speed as it is force. It is synonymous with speed-strength or explosive strength, the holy grail amongst those who desire athletic greatness. A sprinter displays a lot of power with each foot-strike into the ground as he accelerates down the track. A baseball pitcher displays power when he throws a pitch. A jumper displays a lot of power when he jumps. The list goes on and on. In fact, because sports movements rely on a combination of force as well as speed, they inherently require more power and the athletes engaging in them often display more power then the guy who lifts a huge load of iron.

Now what's so important about all of this? Well if you're interested in explosiveness an increase in your ability to produce power will give it to you!

Let’s jot it down and determine exactly what contributes to power. Power is equal to force multiplied by distance divided by time.

Power = Force x Distance/Time

That's too difficult lets simplify it even more.

Since the terms force and strength are often used interchangeably and distance divided by time is the same thing as speed, power can more simply be defined as strength multiplied by speed. Therefore,

Strength x Speed = POWER

If you draw a line from left to right and write "speed" on one side and "strength" on the other side, power would lie just about smack dab in the middle. Since strength and speed are components of power, increasing one while neglecting the other limits total power development. Unfortunately, many players focus too much on one side or the other while neglecting the other side. Because strength and speed have a multiplicative impact on power, athletes can make greater gains if they develop both components, and faster gains if they figure out which one is the greatest weakness for them and train accordingly.

For example, if a strength score for an athlete was 2, and the athlete's speed score was also 2, his power rating would be:

2(speed) x 2(strength) = 4 (power)

Doubling the athletes speed without altering strength would also double his power:

4(speed) x 2(strength) = 8(power)

If the same athlete made a 50 percent gain in both speed and strength his power rating would be:

3(speed) x 3(strength) = 9 (power)

So it should be obvious an increase in power will result if you either increase speed, strength, or both. An optimal balance is the key because having or training for too much of one (speed or strength) will tend to cause the other one to decline, which you obviously don't want.

Basically there are 3 ways to address power development. You can:

1. Focus on the "speed" side of the line. Examples are: plyometric exercises, loadless (bodyweight) exercises, medicine ball tosses, and weight training using 40% of your max or less performed with great acceleration.

2. Focus on exercises that inherently require both speed and strength. (a mix of speed and strength)These include common exercises like the squat and bench press using loads of around 50-65% of max weight performed with great acceleration, or exercises like the Olympic lifts which inherently require quick execution to perform correctly with loads around 80% of your max. These also can correctly be called "power exercises".

3. Focus on the "strength" side of the line. This could take the form of 2 approaches. They are:

A: Using 80-90% of your max in a given exercise for multiple sets of low repetitions.

B: Using 60-80% of your max for higher reps in an effort to induce muscle growth.

Now with so many options to choose from which approach should you follow? It's really quite simple. The optimal approach requires addressing your weak point, whether it is speed or strength (1 or 3 depending on your weakness) and focusing on your weak area while mixing in optimal amounts of exercises in the #2 middle "power" category that inherently require optimal amounts of both speed and strength.

The goal is to boost power which lies in the middle in between speed and strength. But to do that can require different approaches for different people.

So if you were "speed" deficient your program would best focus on speed training, bodyweight type plyometric exercises, and low load accelerative weight training from group #1 to focus on your speed deficiency; along with performing explosive lifts with 50-70% of your max (group #2 power exercises),while performing enough heavy strength training to maintain your strength.

This would allow you to boost the "speed" side of the speed x strength = power equation while keeping the other side constant or even increasing it, which would result in a dramatic increase in power.

If you were "strength" deficient your program would have you focusing on strength training exercises (group #3),while mixing in optimal amounts of middle ground power exercises from group #2.

This would allow you to boost your strength deficiency and boost the strength side of the speed x strength = power equation, while keeping the other side constant or even increasing it, which would also result in a dramatic increase in power.

The result in either case is that you now have greater amounts of power and thus more explosiveness, speed, jumping ability, throwing ability, or whatever aspect of explosiveness you need.

This is how 2 different athletes with the same sporting goals can improve, or arrive at the same point through different training means. Now is that an earful or what?
 
ajdos

ajdos

MuscleHead
Sep 8, 2010
2,282
388
#2
Good post, a real world example of this is swinging a baseball bat, power is generated by bat speed how fast the head of the bat moves through the zone, after that the physics is supplied by the speed of the ball, and the two combined make a square connection = a long ball.
Look at many major league hitters they are all not big ass bulky strong looking guys, but all have excellent bat speed and hip rotation.
I myself suck at hitting and Im a bigger man, a guy on my old softball team was a skinny little guy and he could crush the ball, he was lightening fast too.
 
SAD

SAD

TID Board Of Directors
Feb 3, 2011
3,083
1,256
#3
Hand and forearm strength play into the power of a ball-player's swing. If the bat gives way when it makes contact with the ball, even the slightest amount, the ball won't travel as far. I've seen guys with marginal bat speed who could hit the ball a mile because of their hand/forearm strength. I've also seen guys who had wicked bat speed who's arms were small and weak and could barely hit a dinger. This all lends to the original post though, because it is all about strength x speed. Gotta have both.
 
BrotherIron

BrotherIron

TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
10,409
2,626
#4
In my opinion, speed is generally the factor which is overlooked.

Glad you liked the thread.
 
W

Wolf

MuscleHead
Dec 25, 2010
274
45
#5
Well, this is going to be a little long winded on my part. Kelly Baggett wrote that article to sell books, so keep that in mind.

I don't think how he represents what power is, is terribly accurate and I think its a bit of an insult to guys like Kirk Karwoski, Ed Coan and Ryan Kennely who have performed feats of pure power that very few humans can even dream of attempting. It's also real flawed thinking to suggest that force and speed are operate in separate realms totally independent of one another. The whole article is presented off of the presumption that "Power = Force x Distance/Time" is too complicated, so a dumbed down version of "Power = Strength x Speed" is much more accurate because "strength is commonly used where force" is used.

Strength is a concept completely devoid of speed. Two people may have the strength to squat 500 pounds, but you can't determine who is more powerful unless you know who can squat it faster. Anyone who has taken highschool physics knows that force = mass X acceleration, and acceleration is just another word for speed. They are mutually inclusive.

His problem solving area, 1 and 2, are basically the same. Using a sub maximal weight with maximal force to train to exert near maximal force without the inherit drop in bar speed that occurs with using high 1rm lifts. I also don't know why the 80 percent for oly lifts are included.

The percentages seem to disagree with eachother through the whole article, he even had sources from other books that it seems he disagrees with but uses them as a source.


Keep in mind, its to sell his books. If you pick up the Science and Practice of Strength Training or one of the West Side books it'll give you much better and accurate information.
 
BrotherIron

BrotherIron

TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
10,409
2,626
#6
I didn't claim to write this. I thought it was a good read and enjoyed it so I posted it for others.

I don't really like Simmon's book b/c it repeats itself a lot and it doesn't flow well either. I do want to read the Science and Practice of Strength Training but no one had read it so I never got around to it. I'll def check it out. Another book I want to check out is Block Periodization.
 
Last edited:
W

Wolf

MuscleHead
Dec 25, 2010
274
45
#7
Oh I know, I'm familar with the site that the article is from. Yes Simmons' book needs a good editor to put it together but a good deal of the information is taken from Science and Practice of Strength Training and its a great book with excellent sourcing.
 
huntlo

huntlo

Member
Apr 9, 2011
46
0
#8
So do one of these factors (power/strength)have
a greater influence on increasing muscle mass?
Some suggest "slower" controlled exercise movements
while other recommend explosive movements.
I can see how controlled movements aid in the develop
of smaller stabilizing muscles because the inertial element
is being taken out of the equation.
The reason I ask is because I don't know how many times
I've heard its not ideal to perform quick, explosive
movements on exercises such as bench, squat, etc, (not
olympics lifts except deads). But by supplementing these
exercises with flyes, leg ext/curls, pullups, etc. wouldn't
you still effectively work the small stabilizing muscles?
This way, you can focus on increasing poundage on your
primary lifts which leads to greater muscle mass.
 
W

Wolf

MuscleHead
Dec 25, 2010
274
45
#10
An important factor in muscle building is tempo, more so how much time is dedicated to the eccentric/lowering portion of the lift. I can look up the studies but eccentric contractions are more effective and pertinent to the muscle building process. As far as strength and power and how they effect mass, it's subjective. There are some small powerful guys and there are some large powerful guys. Being strong and powerful usually equate to a higher level of athletic ability, so generally the stronger and more powerful you are the more muscles you could be. But again its subjective.

At the end of the day strength is just a number you can slap on as a limit but power refers to how quickly you can move that number. I was going to look for two different videos to link but this one shows what I wanted to. YouTube - Spencer Wallace (600 Pound Squats) ( Feb. 2010) His first 4 lifts he completes the lifting portion of his squat in about 1-1.5 seconds on his last rep it takes him a little over 2 seconds. If all the lifts were performed by five different lifters you could easily say they are all strong, having the ability to squat 600 pounds, but you could also say the first lift represents a more powerful lifter than the last lift because it moves 600 pound the quickest.

Explosive movements will still work the stabilization muscles. A benchpress performed correctly is essentially a full body movement. You might hear from body builders that you need to press a weight slowly and controlled to feel the burn or some other form of broscience. But someone performing a quick, explosive movement that has proper form is still under control. Performing a movement explosively will train your body to do just that, push a weight explosively. Without getting too much into it, there is a finite limit of time under tension with regard eccentric and concentric contraction that a body can sustain under a certain period of time. The ability for eccentric contraction is superior to that of concentric contraction, so the more powerful you are the more time you could spend in eccentric contraction, if you chose to.

A good powerlifting routine will utilize accesory work to bring up lagging muscles along a particular chain to help to strengthen a main lift, that's correct.
 
BrotherIron

BrotherIron

TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
10,409
2,626
#12
So do one of these factors (power/strength)have
a greater influence on increasing muscle mass?
Some suggest "slower" controlled exercise movements
while other recommend explosive movements.
I can see how controlled movements aid in the develop
of smaller stabilizing muscles because the inertial element
is being taken out of the equation.
The reason I ask is because I don't know how many times
I've heard its not ideal to perform quick, explosive
movements on exercises such as bench, squat, etc, (not
olympics lifts except deads). But by supplementing these
exercises with flyes, leg ext/curls, pullups, etc. wouldn't
you still effectively work the small stabilizing muscles?
This way, you can focus on increasing poundage on your
primary lifts which leads to greater muscle mass.
Personally and from what I have seen from where I train, speed is a HUGE factor in breaking through plateaus. Even Simmons has his guys/gals perform speed work and I have seen first hand what Olympic lifting can do to other lifts as in carry over. I think speed is necessary if you want to lift the truly "big" weights.

You work stabilizers by just performing movements outside of a machine. Machine work focuses on the muscle individually and takes the stabilizers out of it. Grab a bar and do a suit case deadlift or a snatch high pull and you'll work an array of muscle groups (stabilizers included).
 
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