What if your goal is to run faster, jump higher... leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Open just about any fitness magazine and you’ll find plenty of information (and mis-information) on how to loose weight, get shredded abs, ditch the belly fat, and so on.
What about those of us more interested in improved athletic performance over appearance? What if your goal is to run faster, jump higher... leap tall buildings in a single bound!
I've distilled some of my most effective training tips below, to improve your strength and explosiveness for better results in the gym and on the athletic field.
What’s the difference between strength and power?
In one word: speed
Strength is the ability of a muscle group to exert a maximal force for a single exertion (or repetition). In other words, what is your one rep maximum (1RM).
Traditionally, a strength program consists of a variety of exercises performed for 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions. We build strength by subjecting our muscles to force with incremental increases over time. Traditional multi-joint exercises such as the bench press, pull up or squat are ideal for building strength.
To build power, we must take it to another level...
Power = ( Force x Distance)/ Time
In gym speak, that’s the WEIGHT lifted multiplied by HOW FAR, divided by the TIME it took to lift.
The faster you’re able to move weight over distance, the more power you’ve generated.
With strength training, the speed of the exercises doesn't matter. Training for power and explosiveness requires that you now take that strength you’ve built and make it faster.
Portable Kettlebells are ideal for improving power with exercises such as the single arm snatch or power clean.
Strength and explosiveness training can compliment one another. You may choose to incorporate a single power movement at the beginning of a workout with the goal of developing both strength and explosiveness, followed by several strength exercises for a particular body part that day.
The combinations are truly endless. To help you structure your training, here are my “Four R’s” for developing strength and power:
Resistance: In contrast to training for fat loss discussed in last week’s blog post, you’ll be using heavier weight for building strength and power. You’ll be resting longer and completing less repetitions, with the goal of:
Reps: As mentioned before, reps are lower than with fat loss training, around 8-12 repetitions for strength and 1-3 repetitions for power.
How many sets to perform will vary greatly from person to person depending on length of training, skill level, and training phase if in competition.
Rate: When training for strength, the movements will be slow and controlled, focusing on contracting the muscle, whereas power movements are performed as quickly and explosively as possible (without sacrificing form). Rest periods will also differ, with up to 2 minutes for strength and up to 5 minutes for power movements.
Recovery: I cannot stress the need for adequate recovery! Gains are made while you’re resting, not during training. Prioritize sleep and active recovery with stretching, foam rolling, and other tissue work.
Portable Kettlebells are easy to adjust weight, use at home or on the road.
Get the most out of your strength and power program:
Training Frequency: Be aware that lifting heavier loads and prioritizing multi joint exercises may cause a need for longer rest periods between sessions. For example, a pure power workout may be performed only a few times per week. When training for strength you may choose to perform 1-3 workouts in a row while alternating body parts, with 1-2 rest days spaced throughout the week as needed.
Nutrition: Proper nutrition is an important part of the repair and recovery process. Be sure to consume plenty of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats along with plenty of water. Supplement with a protein shake or other meal replacement as necessary to ensure adequate calories.
A frequently asked question I get is: can fat loss and muscle gain could occur simultaneously?
While there is emerging evidence to support this, remember that adequate nutrition, especially protein, is required to build new muscle tissue and perform at optimal levels.
You shouldn’t expect to see significant gains in power and strength while eating in a caloric deficit. In fact, after extended periods of dieting, athletic performance can certainly suffer.
For this reason, consider planning your training in “cycles” for the year to prioritize strength and power when needed, and then leanness when needed. Switch up your training goals according to your athletic season, schedule, work and family obligations, etc.
Finally, above all else, don’t lift with your ego! Always prioritize proper form above heavier weights.
You won’t be building strength OR power if you’re injured. If you feel you need more help developing a program for strength and power and are concerned about performing all movements correctly, consult a qualified fitness professional. No two athletes are created alike, and the investment in a customized training plan can save you a lot of time (and perhaps a bit of agony).
Mix it up, push yourself, and enjoy your training! Oh, and please leave the building-leaping to the professional super hero ;)
With nearly two decades of experience as a fitness trainer and coach, Jacqui Blazier has helped hundreds of clients from ages 8-80 lose weight, gain strength, and improve athletic performance. She recently launched her flexible dieting mastery course to help men and women lose weight while still enjoying a balanced life. Jacqui offers her coaching and consulting services worldwide via her website at www.jacquifit.com