A common misconception in the strength and conditioning industry is the perception of power being correlated with strength. The formula for power is work/time. The amount of work you do is determined by the force and the distance. For example, a medicine ball slam. If you attempt to slam a 20 pound medicine ball as hard as you can compared to a 30 pound medicine ball, the force produced may be less, but the output of power may be greater depending on the amount of time it takes the ball to hit the floor from its top position.
The same concept can be used for any of your core lifts. There’s a huge range of power based movements you can do. The trick here is to choose wisely based on your goal. Very dynamic movements such as a power clean (or even a back squat with chains!) increases factors happening on the musculoskeletal level such as:
- Motor Unit Recruitment. Our nervous system has a systematic approach to the efferent (the outward conduction of a nerve impulse from the spinal cord) deployment of motor units to muscle fibers. Smaller ones first then the larger follow. The faster you perform a movement, the higher recruitment of motor units. Think about this: a low force task such as walking does very little to increase the fitness level of an athlete mainly due to a lack of recruitment. Now, think of jumping or sprinting. Sprinting can induce massive amounts of motor unit recruitment. Don’t believe me? Look at the musculature of a 100m sprinter compared to a hair stylist. (Except for this one insane exception!)
- Rate Coding. This allows your muscles to produce more force by enhancing the frequency at which your motor units fire. During a movement in which you’re giving very high efforts, motor units are continuously firing and relaxing at a very high frequency. When doing a power exercise, the rate at which your muscles can contract and relax determines whether or not the 1 RM of your deadlift is 315 or 345.
This is where I believe power and strength can work synergistically with one another. Incorporating both strength and power into your program will boost any kind of performance based goals. By developing power, you are teaching your body to utilize the larger motor units first, and the smaller can follow. Think about an offensive linemen. What are his goals? It cannot be just strength. Why? Going heavy will make you strong, but not powerful. Remember, power is the quotient of force and time and lifting 90% of your 1RM comes up faster (and produces more force) than your actual 1RM. So instead, program the two together so that your linemen are absolute freaks that can move buildings.
Be careful with your programming. Doing a power clean for as many reps possible in a period of 5 minutes will NOT accomplish the goals of that offensive linemen. Instead, to produce the most amount of power, use 3-5 reps and more sets. However, if you see any type of fatigue, cut it there. Going past the point of fatigue when training for power shifts from the phosphagen and fast glycolytic energy system to the slow glycolytic and oxidative system. If you decide to take the chance and develop some kind of power, not only will you become an absolute animal (and look better), performance goals will go through the roof. Hell, even high intensity treadmill sprints will develop some kind of power if you do it right. Hit me with any questions on Twitter: @jroswell3
by Jake Roswell
Jake Roswell is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Jake successfully completed NAVY Seal trials, but subsequently chose a career path focused on his primary passion, working with a variety of clients and athletes and honing his has craft as a coach at Halevy Life.
After graduating from Castleton State College, where he earned a degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Kinesiology (while a star athlete on the school’s soccer team), he remained at Castleton to serve as one of the school’s top strength coaches.
Jake is a multi-sport athlete and has medaled in powerlifting with the USAPL.