How To Train For Power
I’ll start by saying that all workouts are not created equally, and what I mean by that is training for various sports and/or purposes requires a specific type of workout and exercises. For example, the majority of people you see in your average, everyday commercial gym are training for either weight loss (cardio, generally) or muscular hypertrophy; therefore, most of the people in the gym will be doing the same type of workout (i.e. moderate amount of reps with 3-4 sets). But what if your goal is not necessarily to build muscle but to exert more power? That requires a different set of “rules” for training than workouts typically used to build muscle.
Many sports require a high power output to perform at the highest level and to improve one’s efforts in their sport. Sports such as football, basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, lacrosse, etc. all require power in order to proficiently participate in the sport and to excel. These types of athletes not only have to practice on a near daily basis but they should perform exercises that will increase their power output to improve their game, and they should do these exercises in a specific manner.
Not only are there exercises performed while using standard gym equipment that may be manipulated to enhance power (e.g. bench press and squat), but there are also specific exercises geared toward training for power. Plyometrics (aka plyo’s) are a type of exercise geared toward enhancing one’s power output. Of course, they will generally assist in enhancing muscle hypertrophy as well, and they may be used as a high-intensity form of exercise to burn calories, but the main purpose is power.
Plyo’s are exercises which incorporate jumps. Contrary to popular belief, they are not simply body weight exercises. In order to be a plyometric workout, one must perform some sort of jump whilst doing the exercise. Plyometrics’ purpose is to exert one’s maximal force production over a short period of time with the main goal of increasing power. There are many different types of plyometric exercises ranging from the basics (e.g. squat jump and medicine ball slam) to the more advanced (e.g. burpee pull-up and superman push-up). The level of difficulty you choose to engage in may depend on upon your level of training and/or the intensity with which you choose to train on that day. While plyometrics are generally used to increase strength and power, particularly for short periods of time, they are extremely beneficial in improving sports performance in a variety of tasks ranging from faster sprints to higher jumps and quicker bursts from the line of scrimmage. Even greater improvements in such tasks may be seen while combining plyometric and resistance training.
Just like with any other form of training, there are certain parameters to consider. Overtraining and injuries are always negative connotations to exercise that we want to avoid and in order to do so, there are a few basic guidelines that should be followed in a plyometric program.
- Intensity: the amount of stress placed on the muscles involved and their subsequent connective tissues and joints
The level of intensity is generally controlled by the type of drill being performed. For example jumping jacks may be considered a low-intensity exercise, while depth jumps are a relatively high-intensity exercise.
- Frequency: the number of training sessions per week
Typically ranges from 1-3 depending on the sport and the time of year (i.e pre-season, in-season, off-season). For example: during the off-season, the plyometric frequency may increase from 1 day/week to 2-3 days/week. The frequency of plyometric training depends on an athlete’s sports schedule including practices, resistance training, and aerobic training.
- Recovery: the time in between repetitions, sets, and days of training
To prevent overtraining, 2-4 days of recovery between workouts is ideal. Drills for any given muscle group should not be performed two successive days. For example: performing heavy resistance training of legs on Monday and following-up on Tuesday with leg dominant plyometrics should not occur. Recovery per exercise for reps and sets depends on the level of intensity. Since plyo’s require maximal bursts of effort, a maximal level of exertion should be applied with each rep; therefore, time in between reps should be adequate enough to successfully perform the next rep (e.g. 5-10 seconds). Time in between sets may be 2-3 minutes in duration.
- Volume: number of reps and sets performed during a training session
The volume is based upon an individual’s level of experience.
- Beginner: 80-100
- Intermediate: 101-120
- Advanced: 121-140
Tracking the volume for lower body is expressed, in general, by the number of times the feet come into contact with the floor or from a distance (how far did the athlete travel during the drill). Upper body volume is expressed as the number of throws or catches.
- Progression: movement toward advancement and/or higher skill level
Progress should be made in succession from low to moderate and from moderate to expert. As intensity increases so, too, should the amount of volume decrease.
- Warm-up: preparation for performance
Low intensity, sport-specific drills, and dynamic stretches.