I have never met an athlete from any sport at any level who did not want to improve their power output. More specifically, baseball and softball players want to get faster on the base-paths and hit more home runs. Tennis players want to improve their serve velocity and their ability to repeatedly get to a ball anywhere on the court. Golfers want to hit longer off the tee. Even endurance athletes can benefit from an extra “push” at the beginning or end of a race. Football, basketball, etc.—we can agree that all sports have some type of power demand needed to excel at the sport and reduce injury risk.
When I ask sport coaches what I can do to help their athletes perform better on the field or court, I often hear “we need to get stronger and faster”. As a performance coach, we can substitute “faster” for “more powerful” in our programming thought process. Traditionally, coaches train for power with unloaded, explosive body-weight movements such as plyometrics or SAQ (Speed-Agility-Quickness) training. Another traditional option is to use a relatively lower load such as a med-ball (MB) or kettlebell (KB) and attempt to move it as quickly as possible with movements such as a MB throw or a KB swing, snatch, or press. Finally, you will see a lot of traditional Olympic lifting variations with barbells. All of these are relevant and should have their place in a performance training program. I have used all of these modalities depending on the athlete’s needs and available equipment.
What I want to touch on in this series are some types of power training we may be overlooking, missing, or implementing incorrectly due to traditional dogma or lack of education. At the Movement Guild, these are the types of power training we tend to emphasize in order to “fill the gaps” that traditional models do not fully cover:
- Part I: Rotational Power
- Part II: Multi-Directional Plyometric Training
- Part III: Multi-Directional Quickness or Reactive Training
- Part IV: “Loaded Movement Training” (LMT) for Power
We also need to assess which type of power training needs to be emphasized for each athlete or client based on individual strengths & weaknesses with specific testing:
- Part V: Power Performance Testing
Note: For the purposes of this article series we are exclusively focusing on power training independent of mobility, stability, & strength. All of these movement qualities are interdependent & need to be programmed and trained appropriately to maximize power output.
See below and read part I to learn the basic rationale & some ways we train for rotational power at the Movement Guild, click here.
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Training for Power: What’s Missing?
Brian Lyons, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Performance Training Specialist, The Movement Guild
Part I: Training for Rotational Power
Power is defined as energy (work) divided by time, with the output measured in watts. In practice, if two athletes move the same load and athlete “A” moves the load in less time than athlete “B”, athlete “A” produced more power. Laws of motion will dictate that a lighter object will accelerate faster than a heavier object when the same force is applied. As the athlete fatigues, power output decreases.
In my 19 years in the performance/fitness world, athletes and sport coaches often tell me they want to improve power, but when looking at their training program, there is often an abundance of:
- Strength training mixed in with a few traditional Olympic lifts
- Plyometrics in the form of endless amounts of “box jumps”
- High volumes of SAQ training for “conditioning” or “work capacity”
While none of the above are inherently incorrect, we need to consider what may be missing depending on the individual athlete needs and the demands of their sport.
A simple needs analysis of most sports would show the random, intermittent, and dynamic (RIDS) nature of the movements needed to be successful. Sports such as baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, etc. are all classified as RIDS that involve a high amount of rotational power for success. Golf, track & field, and distance running are sports that come to mind that are less random, but still need varying degrees of repeated or sustained rotational power output for success. Looking internally at the the alignment of the muscular and fascial systems of the body show strong evidence we are built to rotate powerfully.
Rotational power movements are performed at maximal effort and speeds until quality of movement starts to break down or the power output significantly declines. Perhaps one of the more important advantages of adding rotational power training is it “feels” more like sport in the mind of the athlete, which decreases the movement learning curve. As a coach, I have found that I can spend more time cueing rotational movements for power output vs. overburdening the athlete with technique for a more technical vertical & mass-based lifts.
Below are some samples of rotational power movements we use with Keiser pneumatic cables. This equipment gives us two distinct advantages:
- Peak power output is measured on each repetition. This is critical for several reasons:
- The athlete can stop the set when peak power significantly decreases
- We can record power output for ensuing sessions for progressions.
- This also gives objective feedback on athlete fatigue over a period of sessions. For example, if there is a significant decrease in power output at the same load from one session to the next, we may need to reduce training volume or add in more recovery in and out of the gym. I have found this to be a much more practical and objective method in monitoring fatigue than heart rate monitoring or subjective questionnaires.
- For new athletes, we can assess rotational power output, along with asymmetries in power on unilateral rotational pushes and pulls in the first session. This sets a great baseline for individualized programming (along with other assessments).
- Improves mental focus on power production vs. the traditional “how much can I lift” which measures strength only. This is especially beneficial for working in small groups as it levels the playing field for smaller athletes vs. larger athletes.
- Keiser cables use pneumatic resistance instead of mass. There is nothing wrong with mass-based cable training, but the resistance profile varies with pneumatic cables.
- This offers variability for the body due to the minimal inertia to overcome at the start of the lift compared to mass, therefore making resistance more consistent for the entire movement.
- Based on the resistance profile along my experience using the equipment with athletes/clients for almost 15 years, I have found this to be more “joint friendly” for those in rehab and post-rehab (I would also include high quality elastic bands in this “joint friendly” category but beyond the scope of this article).
Keiser Unilateral Rotational Pull w/Pivot
Keiser Rotational Stick Push
Keiser Rotational Push/Pull
For mass based rotational power training, we use VIPR “shifts” and MB throws extensively:
MB Rotational Throw @ Hip w/Pivot (Starting Strength)
MB Rotational Throw @ Shoulder w/Pivot (Continuous)
Rotational Shift w/VIPR Pro Knee to Overhead (Starting Rotational Power)
Rotational Shift w/VIPR Pro Knee to Overhead (Rotational Power: Continuous)
As you can see, at the Movement Guild, we train for rotational power using a variety of equipment to feed variability into the body. There are hundreds of variations we could do with all of these movements.
While this is not meant to be a series on programming variables, I want to note that the volume and intensity all vary depending on sport needs, athlete needs, training load, etc. Do you need to move a lighter object very fast (speed-strength) or a heavier object moderately fast (strength-speed)? The answer is usually both to some degree based on sport and position.
We use the “4Q” programming model form the Institute of Motion (IOM) as a macro template for post-rehab programming (to learn more: www.instituteofmotion.com). Individual sessions typically follow a “Mixed Method” of training rather than a traditional linear periodization model, as there are multiple training qualities such as power, strength, mobility, stability, speed, and endurance that usually need to be addressed in each session for every athlete, client, or patient.
Questions? Feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn more? Join our newly formed Movement Mastery Community of movement professionals from all backgrounds. We have live workshops and will be adding online content in the coming months. Click here to learn more.
Stay tuned for Part II: Multi-Directional Plyometric Training