power development

WHAT IS POWER DEVELOPMENT AND WHY EVERYONE NEEDS IT

Power development is not just for the athletes, everybody in some capacity displays power. To keep it simple, power is strength and speed, or to put in a physics equation, Force x Velocity. It is the ability to recruit a lot of motor units into movement, and being able to do it quickly. A great example of the display of power in everyday life is when you trip and instead of falling you can quickly catch yourself. In this situation you are having to create force quickly to catch yourself from falling. This situation of falling is a great example of why everyone needs to train for power. The expression of power declines as we age, it is the first thing to go along with strength. You know the expression, Use it or lose it? This is definitely true with power, which is why your training needs some sort of power development. 

    Exercises for power can be very different based on a person’s age, training age, strength capabilities, mobility, lifestyle, and sport specific. There are many ways to implement power development into a training program that is specific to the individual. A great example is a 60 year old woman who is new to training. She could use a 4lb medicine ball and slam it against the wall or the floor. It can be that simple, it is not a complex movement to learn and very easy on the joints. On the other side of the spectrum is a young athlete who wants to build power for their sport. They could learn a variety of plyometrics into their program or learn how to do some kettlebell work for power. It all depends on the individual and their goals, but there is something for everybody. 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TRAINING POWER?

    No matter the goal, developing the skill to display power can benefit you. Obviously developing power can be very beneficial for sport athletes, everyone knows that, but what about everyone else? The benefits become more and more relevant as we age, because like I said before, power is the first to decline as we age. Here is a short list of what you can expect from power development:

  • Increase strength
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase Functional Independency & improve quality of life
  • Increase walking speed
  • Lower risk of injury (especially from falls)
  • Stronger bones and its connective tissues
  • Better Balance and proprioception

As you can see there are many benefits to include power training in your program. We are all getting older, so this applies to everyone at some point. Every year millions of older adults fall and 1 out of 5 is a serious injury to the head or of  broken bones. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of falling is to get stronger, build some muscle, and develop the skill to display power. Train power and maintain the skill before you lose it. Stay independent as you age, not sure about you, but I do not want someone to help me get on and off the toilet. 

If your goal is strength, then adding power training into your routine will assist you. Look at the equation of power, Power = Force x Velocity. If you improve your ability to display power, then force and velocity increases. Generating force is strength training, so if you are not incorporating power development in your program, you are leaving gains behind. 

    HOW TO IMPROVE POWER

    When it comes to power development, you will want to add it to the beginning of your workout right after the warmup. Power training should be high quality and not about quantity. Go back to the equation of power, Power=Force x Velocity, for you to generate force quickly you need to be fresh. The central nervous system (CNS) is highly involved with power, it is trying to utilize as many motor neurons as quickly as it can. With this kind of training, you do not go to fatigue, when you perform power exercise to fatigue, form breaks down and your risk of injury becomes very high. This is dependent on the exercise itself but typically you do not need to go any higher than 5 reps, and you want to rest between sets for full recovery. Power is a skill, and like any skill you have to practice it. While practicing for any skill, you are very technical and any hint of fatigue you stop. Same thing goes for power development and movement in general, when you are fatigued your ability to perform declines. 

  1. Power Development Exercise in the front of your workout
  2. Keep Reps Low
  3. Rest for Full Recovery
  4. Load doesn’t matter, quality>quantity
  5. Move quickly with good form 

    The exercises you choose don’t really matter too much, unless you have a specific sport you are in or goal. You can use a variety of tools for your exercise selection. Some of my favorites that are low risk and not demanding on the body are medicine balls. It can be as simple as throwing it against the wall as hard as you can or on the floor. You can go bodyweight and work on lateral hops, or work on coordination and with skipping. You can also go complex and use kettlebells and barbells, but this requires more skill than throwing a ball but gives you a chance to load more. Many exercises to choose from, just be careful, start slow if you are new and think about risk to benefit ratio. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Example, Barbell snatch vs kettlebell snatch, the barbell snatch is a highly skilled movement. The risk is much higher if you were to attempt this exercise with bad form compared to the kettlebell version. The benefits for the kettlebell snatch is a safer alternative and easier to teach. You can think about this with every exercise. This is based on individuals and the risk for one exercise can be low for one person and high for another based on training history, mobility restrictions, and more. Something for you to think about and consider, especially with your power development. 

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