Earn your power

HARARE - Power training enables an athlete to apply the greatest amount of their maximal strength in the shortest period of time and this is crucial for many sports men and women who require power as a component of fitness to perform their associated sport.

Most athletic activities involve far faster movements and far higher power outputs than are found in maximal strength exercises.

An athlete can be exceptionally strong but lack significant explosive power if they are unable to apply their strength rapidly and efficiently.

In the most simplest of scientific explanations Power = Work/Time. Therefore, the quicker you move the same load over the same distance, the greater your power output!

It is at this stage that I must highlight the necessity of strength development. You cannot achieve sufficient levels of power output without having developed a base of strength.

Strength should be considered one of the foundational elements required for the development of power, and this is based upon the contemporary literature where stronger athletes are reported to express higher power outputs.

One explanation for this relationship relates to the fact that stronger individuals are able to generate forces significantly faster than their weaker counterparts. As long as they apply their strength rapidly and efficiently.

These abilities are considered to be among the most important sports performance characteristics, especially in activities that rely on jumping, change of direction, and/or sprinting performance such as track and field, rugby, soccer, hockey, tennis and squash which are all mainstay sports in Zimbabwe.

The arguments challenge the bare facts of performance which often show athletes experiencing a decrease in power output when they are in a strength training phase that requires near maximal efforts and loads.

Generally, there seem to be three main schools of thought when attempting to maximise power output.

The first school suggests that using lower-intensity efforts (<50% of 1 repetition maximum [RM]) are optimal for the development of power generating capacity, whereas the second school proposes that higher loads (50–70% RM) are required.

The third school of thought suggests a mixed methods approach in which a variety of loads and exercise types are used in a periodised fashion to optimise power output.

As mentioned in last week’s article it is important to understand that everyone’s genetic blueprint is different and rates of development can be different too, despite two athletes following the same programme in the gym.

So, for those of you who are eager to know what the Training Loads should be then consider the following:

If your training goal is to lift a higher load (80-90% of your 1RM) then I suggest performing 1-2 repetitions for 3-5 sets with a recovery period of 3-5 mins between sets.

If your training goal is to lift a lighter load (75-85% of your 1RM) then I suggest performing 3-5 repetitions for 3-5 sets with a recovery period of 3-5 minutes between sets.

Of everything, the most important component to note here is the rest period.

Many athletes train by rushing the programme.

This is pointless as it takes two to five minutes for the neural system to recover from what has just been done.

Power training and speed training depends greatly on optimal neural recruitment for maximal performance.

Therefore you would train maximally by working according to the recovery time.

If you rest less than the two minutes the session will become just another endurance or hypertrophy session and little power gains will be made.

Training for power means taxing the neuromuscular system, and with the prescribed rest, the system will have recovered sufficiently to perform another fast action.

Remember, it important to have a fast action. Therefore, make sure the weights that you choose allow you to move it fast and efficiently.

*Ex-Zimbabwe rugby international Grant Mitchell is High Performance Director at Innovate High Performance Centre in Harare and a top strength and conditioning coach. Twitter: @InnovateHPC, website: www.innovate.co.zw.

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