History never forgets great power. Your body, on the other hand, can forget your own physical power if you fail to train for it.
Power is an important subject. It encompasses the influences people have on each other, and also their varying degrees of leverage. You could say the world runs on Power. You could also say that Power starts with the Sun.
There have been many books written on the subject; countless movies and television shows built entirely on the concept, and even one with the word as its title.
Power makes our home appliances work, our cars turn on and go, and our legs move. Power is responsible for production of all types of energy.
In humans, physical Power is responsible for gold-medals and tournament-winning performances, collegiate scholarships, multi-million-dollar contracts and how soon athletes from team sports get taken in drafts.
At any stage of life, but especially in the later years, Power is significantly responsible for independence - the difference between being able to take care of your daily activities, and physically being incapable, therefore needing others to do them for you. Power and strength can significantly improve your chances of keeping muscle mass, preventing falls and making things easier on yourself.
Even small things, like carrying groceries or doing laundry, become easier when you increase your strength and power. Coordination also can improve as a result of power training; the greater your power demands and output, the greater motor unit recruitment and rate coding required to complete the task.
***In other words, improvements via intentional power training can improve the communication in the neurons throughout those motor pathways, making you more "physically intelligent."
The above link is to an article in the latest issue of NSCA's Strength and Conditioning Journal. Lim and Barley tackle the subject of Power Development.
One way of increasing Power in athletes is through employment of Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP), or Complex Training. The increase in Power from PAP has been shown to lead to increases in both acceleration and velocity. These two variables are not just important for athletes, though. They are crucial to all of us.
Athletes and Aspiring Athletes, read here:
According to Lim and Barley, this a type of training for PAP involves maximal or high-intensity, dynamic exercises followed by a lighter-resistance ballistic movement with similar biomechanical (movement) traits.
*In other words, two exercises in a sequence. First, going heavy on an exercise, then doing something similar in motion, but much lighter. For example, a heavy squat followed by a box jump.
There are factors worth controlling for in this scenario, however:
The optimal intracomplex recovery - time between the two exercises in the sequence, which could be as long as 3 or 4 minutes
The load on the squat
The rest period between sets of the sequence
All are important to successfully increasing your power.
Planning and timing are crucial. You do want to increase your power, don't you?
Now, obviously we don't just employ a succession of heavy squats and box jumps with anyone who walks into a gym. We first need to assess. Training status and strength levels are important.
When training for specific goals, it is essential to understand where you are currently, both objectively and subjectively.
A tasty little nugget in this article by Lim and Barley could have slipped through our fingers, if we were not careful. Lim and Barley cite a systematic review, also written in 2016, by Seitz and Haff.
Side note: Reviews are important in summarizing the relevant literature on any given subject to-date. Reviews are used in order to deduce both what has already been learned on a topic, as well as future implications for the subject area. Before any new research is pursued, the researchers must first know what has already been studied on the subject.
Anyway, Seitz and Haff's review article shows that a plyometric exercise, like a drop jump, may produce less fatigue than a loaded traditional resistance exercise, like a squat, when used as a PAP conditioning stimulus. Seems fairly obvious, right? We are just trying to wake up our nervous system, not overuse or fry the circuits too soon. This approach may work better for less well-trained individuals.
So, for the first exercise of a two-exercise sequence for increasing power, you would likely be less fatigued doing a drop jump than a heavy squat. The requisite recovery period between that first exercise and the next in the sequence (the Intracomplex Recovery) would also be much lower.
**In short, doing a drop jump followed by a brief rest period, then maybe a box jump, may increase power greater than a heavy squat followed by a box jump for people who are not well trained in the strength training department. Again, we are just trying to wake up the nervous system, heighten the communication of those motor pathways.
Two side notes here:
1. For the more scientifically inclined or training-savvy, we are not discussing here the stretch-shortening cycle as seen in drop-jump-directly-to-box-jump or countermovement jumps (CMJ). While this sequence can quickly excite the nervous system to increase power, many who are not power trained cannot physically handle the demands of this at first.
2. For a longer PAP Intracomplex Recovery period such as 3-4 minutes, the authors mention opportunities for improving mobility or strength in other areas of your body during this rest interval in order to maximize the efficiency of your time spent working out. This is where careful planning and prioritizing within your program really matter.
*For the more well-trained individuals, this period of time can be cut down, depending on
A. How heavy you go in your first exercise, and
B. How maximal your effort will be in the second exercise
It is all about managing that fine line between motor neuron excitability and fatigue.
Regardless, both sequences can increase power. But because fatigue is a factor when utilizing PAP to increase power (even with a rest period), a body-weight exercise might be better for increasing power for non-strength trained people, or for those with little weight lifting experience.
Does this mean that, for those of us in need of an easy way to increase our power, we immediately dive into back-to-back plyometrics? Absolutely not. There is a chance that, because you are not strength trained, your joints will bear much of the brunt of your jumping around, instead of your muscles (not a good thing).
This is where the decision-making becomes tricky. You want to find little ways to move forward in your fitness without taking a big step backwards. Like investing in index funds, mutual funds or the S&P 500 for long-term success in the stock market. If you want more specific results, or need to learn how to balance an array of goals, then either it is up to you and your education, or seeking the help of a professional.
There are safe ways to employ plyometrics for increasing power when either strength training is not an option for you, or simply not preferred. How to implement requires answers to specific questions.
If you wish to learn how to incorporate power training into your fitness regimen, or simply have further interest on this topic, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us through our website.
Consider this article a mental warm-up before we get into next week's topic - your physical warm-up.
Have a Powerful, Happy and Healthy start to your 2017!!!