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3 Overlooked Factors in Power Development for Athletes


1 – The brains intent

Most people believe that the only way to increase power is to use light loads and high speed. This is not the case. It has been shown that it is actually the brain’s intent that determines the adaptation to high-speed lifting. So as long as you concentrate on accelerating the bar, no matter how fast the bar actually travels, you will get the same results as high speed lifting at a lighter load.

This is not to say that plyometric exercises such as depth jumps, box jumps, throws etc. don’t have a place in the development of power, they do, I just feel that most people over use these methods without having a solid base of maximal strength, or they tend to neglect the heavier work which in the long run holds back their development in speed.

When training athletes for power I like to keep the reps low (1-5) so that the high threshold motor units are recruited. If you use higher reps than this more slow twitch fibers are recruited even if you concentrate on accelerating the bar.

Purposely training at slow speeds can increase maximal strength levels but leads to less power output. I tend to use slow speed lifts in the early or general preparation phases of an athlete’s program and progress them to higher speed movements as competition becomes closer.

2 – Neglecting maximal strength work

It is important to remember that threshold levels of maximal strength are needed before a fast lift can be improved. I learnt this from Charles Poliquin. An example he uses is that if you want to power snatch 100kg, you won’t be able to do so until you can full squat between 184kg and 194kg. No amount of power snatches will get you to lift 100kg until you have reached the numbers on your full back squat.

This is why we test our athletes in the power snatch, power clean, front squat, and back squat, we use the data gained to determine the amount of time we devote to power or maximal strength development.

3 – Not resting long enough between sets

Rest periods are also an important factor when training for the development of power. When I watch athletes train for power their rest interval is generally far too short to recover between sets to be able to exert maximal force. The nervous system takes five to six times longer to recover than the muscular system. So although your muscles may not feel tired,you still need to take into account the recovery of your nervous system. This could be anywhere between 3-4 minutes, up to 5 minutes, to be able to repeat efforts at these high intensities.

So to develop power in athletes you can still use heavy loads that may travel at what seems to be a slow speed, as long as the athlete focuses on trying to accelerate the bar as fast as possible. Maximal strength levels play a very important role in how effective your power development can be. You need to be able to determine what your limiting factors are and where to orientate your training for

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